In this article we discuss the role of political economy in the design and implementation of economic and political reforms that occurred in Brazil in the second half of the eighteenth century. Brazil was during this period still a part, the most important part, of the Portuguese empire. The reading of economic texts of this period allows for an interpretation of the role played by the enlightened economic literature to challenge and transform the existing structures of the old colonial regime, as well as to prepare Brazil for its future path of economic and political independence. The new visions and representations of the empire were put forward by authors faithful to enlightened mercantilist and cameralist doctrines supporting the reform of colonial administration. However, the most relevant policy measures were implemented under the shadow of Adam Smith, whose system of political economy also included a new way of looking at both the nature of colonial trade and the need for its reform.

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