• A. J. R. Russell-Wood


Burial is always a problem in a tropical climate. Deterioration is rapid and the risk of infection is high. Any visitor to modern Bahia who has seen the bizarre spectacle of a cortège trotting through the streets, in the late afternoon, coffin bouncing on the carriers’ shoulders, is aware of this problem. Nowadays a law decrees that burial must take place on the same day as death, before the cemetery closes at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. In colonial Brazil there were no such laws. Burials were unhygienic and superficial. In 1832 a commission on public health in Rio reported that on premature exhumation ‘the bones would come out with the ligaments and membranes still clinging to them, and the soft and rotting tissues would adhere like mire to the mattocks’.1


Eighteenth Century Royal Decree Bell Tower Mortality Coefficient Total Annual Income 


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  1. 1.
    Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves. A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilisation (English ed., New York, 1946), p. 441, n. 92.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Accioli-Amaral, Memorias historicas, vol. 5, p. 503. Thales de Azevedo examines the difficulties surrounding demographic statistics in colonial Bahia in his Povoamento da cidade do Salvador (2nd ed., São Paulo, 1955), pp. 184–206.Google Scholar
  3. For the later part of the century see Dauril Alden, ‘The Population of Brazil in the Late Eiehteenth Century: a Preliminary Survey’, in Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 43 (1963), pp. 171–205.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. R. Russell-Wood 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.St Antony’s CollegeOxfordUK

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