Peter M. Beattie is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University. He is the author of
“The Key to the Americas”?
Chapter 2 traces the colony’s colonial origins and evolving role in the larger penal justice system after Brazilians won their independence in 1822 until its closure as a national penal colony in 1898. It examines the colony’s evolution in relation to mainland history. Pernambuco and the army are privileged because they played key roles in the island’s history and most convicts came from Pernambuco and other northeastern provinces. Key moments in the histories of categories of the intractable poor are highlighted to illustrate their interconnection and the phenomena of category drift. This grounds a larger argument that human rights reforms that benefited one category of the intractable poor became more difficult to deny to others. The initial prohibition of women in the colony sets up subsequent analysis of evolving ideas of gender, sexuality, conjugality, and penology.