The social and economic changes which occurred in Bahia in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries had repercussions on the charitable activities of the Misericórdia. The Misericórdia depended on private charity for its main source of income. Although the brotherhood fulfilled a semi-bureaucratic rôle in providing hospital services, aid for prisoners and care for foundlings, official sources were singularly unreceptive to pleas by boards of guardians for financial assistance to meet the cost of these benefits to the community. Royal protection was little more than nominal. The municipal council was constantly in debt and unable and unwilling to make any financial grant to the brotherhood. It was left to the Bahian public to finance the charitable works of the brotherhood by bequests and gifts. The archives of the Misericórdia provide information on the various benefactors who constituted this general public and enable an assessment to be made of the extent to which different social classes reacted to the need for charity in colonial Bahia.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Social Standing Sugar Plantation Cattle Rancher
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