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Capoeira: Historical Documents Timeline

Our intend is to post reference texts for students of capoeira history and tradition.

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en français
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em português

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Last update:
April 24, 2015.


Síntese, definições -- Synthèse, définitions.
Which texts, explanation of the division in timespans of capoeira history, in Portuguese or French, September 11, 2007.
Comments on capoeira history.
by Pol, 6 march 2001.
Dúvidas sobre a história da capoeira.
Questions about capoeira history, in Portuguese, october 11, 2002.
Histoire d'un mythe.
Historiography of a capoeira myth, in French and Portuguese; a shorter version in English is in Walsh introduction, november 25, 2002 - revised May 17, 2007.

Documents timeline


1789 : First document: a police report..
By Nireu Cavalcanti, translated in English by Pol -- The portuguese original was published in the Jornal do Brasil on november 15 1999. First section of our Capoeira in police reports in Brazil, by Pol, August 21, 2006.


Koster, Travels in Brasil (1816).
Original English text of pp. 223 and 241. Koster did not mention capoeira, but describes the ways of black folk.
Chamberlain, Views of Rio de Janeiro (1821).
"A Market Stall" Lithographic print reproduction and original English text. Chamberlain's album contains the first depiction we know of the berimbau in a Brazilian context.
Capoeira divides government (1821).
Would capoeira negroes have rights too? -- in French, with transcriptions from Brazilian portuguese original government documents. Revised November 12, 2004.
Earle, “Negroes fighting. Brazils”, watercolour, 1821..1823.
Never printed in its time, a watercolour unmistakingly shows a capoeira scene, with a policeman about to interfere. Revised November 12, 2004.
Rugendas, Picturesque Travel in Brazil (1827).
The earliest known unambiguous depiction of the capoeira game, the lithography "JOGAR CAPOEIRA ou danse de la guerre" and its commentary in the original german and french texts, with introductory notes in french -- also the textless lithography "SAN SALVADOR" featuring dance-fighting Negro figures -- Revised feb. 25, 2002.
A research report of Rugendas' trip back to Europe, via Bahia in 1825, previously undocumented: navires --Revised feb. 25, 2002.--
--Notes and source for the above. Mostly in French. Revised feb. 25, 2002.
Reverend Walsh's Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829 (1830)
gives some relevant information, though the word capoeira does not appear). Walsh inquired about the foreign troop insurrection of 1828, at the start of a capoeira legend. --Revised june 21, 2002)--.
Debret, Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Brésil(1834)
Original text in french, describes the singing and dancing of Rio de Janeiro, negroes. There is a berimbau under its old name oricungo, and no mention of capoeira. Debret tells how all negro amusement in the street ended: under the police lashes. Debret is an eyewitness of the foreign troop insurrection of 1828, at the start of a capoeira legend. --Revised june 21, 2002--
--"Debret, l'accomplissement d'une ambition", par Pol Briand -- Article rédigé pour le catalogue de l'exposition Brasiliana organisée par l'Alliance Française et le Musée d'Art de Fribourg (Suisse) en avril 2000.--


Géricault's Boxers (1818)
Earle's and Rugendas' works compare with the famous french painter's lithograph of a white and a Negro boxers. --Revised: pictures jun 14, 2003 - text oct 18, 2004.


Charles Ribeyrolles, Brésil Pittoresque / Brasil Pitoresco (1859).
A french romantic writer and republican political exiles mentions the games and dances of plantation negroes in a Brazilian Government funded book.-- Revised mar 20, 2002.
Charles Expilly, Le Brésil tel qu'il est (1862).
Capoeira is nowhere so frightful in the french industrialist (failed) immigrant to Brazil around 1853 as it is in the Police Chief report. --Revised mar 21, 2003.


Jules Vallès: Les Saltimbanques (1865)
The french writer and journalist describes savate and amusement fair wrestling shows in a long article. Contemporary pictures. -- Original french text. Revised Apr. 4 12, 2002--


Emile Allain : Rio de Janeiro: quelques données, etc. (1866)
The book aims at tradespeople; it alerts about Brazilian capoeiras ruffians, also seen in public gatherings to execute their "gymnastics or special dance, also called capoeira". Allain 1866:272 --[our translation]. Original french text.--
Machado de Assis: Bala de Estalo, 14 março de 1885
Why do capoeiras like to rip our bellies? -- Original portuguese text.--
Capoeira in the works of the Azevedo brothers.
The playwright Artur Azevedo took the folk figure of the capoeira to the stage as ealy as 1887 and his writer brother Aluizio centered his O Cortiço, "The slum", on the mestizo capoeira Firmo in 1890. The novel gives a vivid description of the way the capoeira dodges the deadly stick of his opponent. --Article in french, with relevant quotations of the Brazilian Portuguese original and our translation in french; a large part of O cortiço, otherwise easily found on the Internet, with links to parts of interest to capoeira.
Capoeira from the Police Chief Parliamentary report to the Penal Code (1871-1890).
In 1871, the Police chief first claimed that capoeira should be made a specific crime. The social control minded authorities waited until 1890, fighting legalist objection in Parliament, before the military coup which overthrowed the Empire made it. --In French, with reference to and transcriptions from Brazilian portuguese original government documents. Revised November 12, 2004.


Melo Morais Filho: "Capoeira e capoeiragem no Rio" 1893.
The brazilian memorialist's well known text, later collected in Festas e Tradições populares do Brasil (1901). --Original text.--
Lima Campos: "Capoeira" in Kosmos, 1906
A review publishes a paper on capoeira in a series about Rio de Janeiro costums, with drawings by caricaturist Kalixto.
João do Rio, "Presepes",1907
The journalist and writer text, easily found elsewere on the Internet, was collected in A Alma encantadora das ruas, Rio de Janeiro:Garnier, 1908. --Original text, in portuguese.--
Manuel Raimundo Querino: "Capoeira", A Bahia de Outrora (1916).
First known account of Bahia capoeira with berimbau and songs, by the afro-descendant Bahia historian. --Original text. Biographical note in portuguese.--
Monteiro Lobato : "O 22 da Marajó" (1919).
A chronicle of high literary quality, published first in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo then in the collection A Onda Verde (1920). The current (1919) Brazilian enthusiasm for the foot-ball game and its English terms passes the past interest for capoeiragem. -- Portuguese text and notes by Pol Briand. There is also a little text about copyright, in French.--.


Comes the time of plenty, when it gets hard to discriminate between conflicting point of views.

Most quoted:

Edison Carneiro (1912-1972)
Negros Bantus-- notas de etnografia religiosa e de folclore, 1937
Rio de Janeiro:Civilização Brasileira. Copyrighted. Look for it in libraries or ask friends.
A Sabedoria Popular, 1957
Rio de Janeiro:Instituto Nacional do Livro. Copyrighted. Look for it in libraries or ask friends.
Renato Almeida (1895-1981), O Brinquedo da Capoeira, 1941
em Revista do Arquivo Municipal de S. Paulo, vol LXXXIV (1941), pág. 157-162; reeditado em Tablado Folclórico, São Paulo:Record Brasileira, 1961, in-8o p. 125-136. Copyrighted. Exchange information with friends.
Eunice Catunda "Capoeira no terreiro de Waldemar".
Eunice Catunda (ou Katunda), Brazilian musician (1915--1956) visits Mestre Waldemar da Paixão's grounds and describes his capoeira and his music. Not yet in English. Translated in french "La capoeira au terrain de Waldemar" and with notes by P. Briand.
Inezil Penna Marinho
Subsídios para a metodologia do treinamento da capoeiragem, 1945.
Imprensa nacional.Capoeira as a modern sport. Copyrighted. Exchange information with friends.
Subsídios para a História da Capoeiragem no Brasil, 1956.
Copyrighted Exchange information with friends.
Lamartine Pereira da Costa, Capoeira sem mestre, 1961.
Many reprints. The first of a series of practical guides, based on the (imho, false) idea that capoeira is a collection of specific movements.

... and many more ...

Easier to find:

Mestre Pastinha, Capoeira Angola, 1964
Really written by journalist Wilson Lins, who did not stick to Mestre Pastinha's manuscript published much later by Mestre Decanio. He probably got his information from interviews with the master. Reissued several times.
Luis R. de Almeida, "Capoeira e capoeiragem", relatório para a comissão baiana de folclore, (sem data)
Gilberto Freyre added this as a note to his Sobrados e Mocambos. from the second edition, 1950.
Cascudo, Luis da Câmara, Dicionário de Folclore Brasileiro, 1954.
Reprinted in the 2000's

Recordings, films, television

Commercial or scientific music recordings, feature films, documentaries or art films give a feeling of capoeira in their time, beyond explicit account, which is why they are so important to us. We cannot list them here; let us cite the names of photographers Pierre Verger and Marcel Gautherot and the films Pagador de Promessa (fiction, dir. Anselmo Duarte, 1961) and Barravento (fiction, dir. Glauber Rocha, 1961), featuring mestre Canjiquinha.

Lorenzo Turner, 1940-41
North American linguist Lorenzo Turner's are the earliest recordings of capoeira music that we know of. Mestre Bimba and group, Mestre Bimba solo, Mestre Cabecinha and his group Esperança Angola, Luciano-Juvenal-Manoel, capoeira theme in radio music; on 78 rpm acetate discs. updated June 22, 2007.
Alexandre Robatto Filho, Vadiação, 1954
This 7mn art/documentary film by a Bahian dentist documents a capoeira presentation organized by the author on the stage of a local theater.
Mestre Traíra (with Mestre Cobrinha Verde) Capoeira
Read the introductory text by Dias Gomes and our notes on this exceptional LP edited by Roberto Batalin.
Mestre Bimba, Curso de capoeira regional, 1962
Mestre Bimba's direct heritage in a single LP with a folding leaflet showing the layout of his eight training sequences.
Coulisses de l'Exploit, 1963, "Capoera"
5mn 10s newsreel with 3m 25s of capoeira show on the beach by Mestre Pastinha's group. See our description in French or in Portuguese.


Many books were written, published and even read. There is no doubt that the most influencial was Waldeloir Rego, Capoeira Angola - ensaio sócio-etnográfico, Salvador, Itapoã, 1968, of which copyright does not allow us to present more than its conclusion and the table of contents.-- In portuguese.--

Recordings, films, television

Pierre Kast: Carnets Brésiliens n. 3, 1966.
58mn documentary with 6mn about mestre Bimba's school. Read (in French) our description of capoeira in Pierre Kast's Carnets Brésiliens, first color movie with direct sound that we know of.


Mestre Acordeon Capoeira, a Brazilian Art Form -- , 1986
Bira Almeida, Mestre Acordeon teaches in San Francisco, Ca., USA, since 1978. He wrote this book for his American students, insisting on what Brazilian people know or believe, and foreigner mostly don't. Available.
PINTO, Tiago de Oliveira, Capoeira, Samba, Candomblé. Afro-brasilianische Musik im Recôncavo, Bahia, 1991.
Berlin:Dietrich Reimer Verlag -- Based on a research in Santo Amaro (Bahia) in 1985-1988, describes precisely the music which old capoeira masters played in that place and time. With a CD. Available in German. The CD FUNARTE ATR32077 Documento sonoro do folclore brasileiro, Vol. V; Berimbau e Capoeira / BA, 1988, presents the capoeira musics with an introductory text in portuguese.
LEWIS, James Lowell, Ring of Liberation -- Deceptive Discourse in Brazilian Capoeira, 1992
Chicago:University of Chicago Press. -- A really interesting theorical work focused on capoeira.Available in English.
Decanio, Capoeira da Bahia on-line.
If you read portuguese, you really should spend some time on this website featuring Doutor Decanio's wisdom on capoeira, his recollections of Mestre Bimba's sayings, Mestre Pastinha's manuscripts.

Over the last twenty years, capoeira grew worldwide, and has attracted the attention of many students in a number of fields. At the same time, it has become easier to publish. In the resulting huge and immensely redundant bibliography, few documents will be historical landmarks. In capoeira as in so many other fields, young enthusiasts write; when they write well, they may publish. More seasoned practitioner learn the value of silence. They may express themselves a little more, when the end of their path is nearing, and there will be no other way to pass on to others whatever can indeed pass.

We selected the very small number of books about capoeira which really gave us the impression that reading them had furthered our understanding of capoeira. It has also been the case of a number of books focused on other subjects, which lessons, either in a general or in a comparative way, we could apply to the study of our favourite research. This list would be way too long.

Ethical and practical rules

  1. Texts appear without any cuts.
  2. We try to give error free copies, but we deny any legal responsibility in this regard. We thank whoever will take the pains to inquire about any mistake.
  3. Texts are about capoeira as a game, a fighting technique, a social activity, an afro-brasilian ideology.

texts wanted

Our corpus of texts is limited by the time we can reasonably spend on these pages, and unfortunately also by problems of access to books, texts, etc., here in Paris. We thank all persons who will help us.

These pages are building up along with our vision of capoeira history!
Capoeira Palmares Paris English homepage.

Lucia Palmares & Pol Briand
3, rue de la Palestine 75019 Paris
Tel. : (33) 1 4239 6436
Email : polbrian@capoeira-palmares.fr

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