We pick some of our favourite Britons who shaped Brazil over the years…
1. Sir Henry Wickham – The Thief at the End of the World
At the height of the Victorian era, Henry Wickham—a man with no formal education, little funding and limited experience—went adventuring in the darkest jungles of Brazil. He had learned of a particular kind of rubber tree that produced the strong and durable rubber that scientists and entrepreneurs in England craved. After a few near-death experiences, encounters with gigantic insects and the deadly inhabitants of the Amazon River, he emerged exhausted, ragged, and sunburned, with 70,000 illegally obtained rubber tree seeds. It was the first case of massive bio-piracy in the modern era, it would break the Brazilian monopoly on rubber and it would change the world forever.
Read about Sir Henry here
2. Colonel Percy Fawcett – The Real Indiana Jones
Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, the inspiration behind Conan Doyle’s novel ‘The Lost World’ and the Indiana Jones character, was among the last of a legendary breed of British explorers. For years he explored the Amazon and came to believe that its jungle concealed a large, complex civilization, like El Dorado. Obsessed with its discovery, he christened it the City of Z. In 1925, Fawcett headed into the wilderness with his son Jack, vowing to make history. They vanished without a trace. For the next eighty years, hordes of explorers plunged into the jungle, trying to find evidence of Fawcett’s party or Z. Some died from disease and starvation; others simply disappeared. The mystery remains. Benedict Cumberbatch is set to play the doomed Fawcett in a major new film…
Read more about Colonel Percy Fawcett here
3. Charles Miller – The Father of Brazilian Football
Football in Brazil began with Charles Miller, popularly recognised as the ‘father of Brazilian football’, who was born to Scottish railway worker John Miller and a Brazilian mother, Carlota Fox, in Sao Paulo in 1874. Football, having only been played under common rules in England for just over a decade, had not reached Brazil during Miller’s early years. But at the age of ten, Miller – along with many children of British workers who lived in Brazil – moved back to Britain to attend boarding school in Southampton. After finishing school, Miller returned to Brazil in 1894 with two footballs, a set of FA rules and some boots. By the 20th Century Miller had set up Brazil’s first football team within Sao Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC) and would give the name of Corinthians to what is now Brazil’s most-supported club.
Read about Charles Miller here
4. Admiral Thomas Cochrane – The Sea Wolf
Lord Cochrane was a daring and successful Royal Navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars, leading the French to nickname him Le Loup des Mers (‘The Sea Wolf’). His life and exploits inspired the naval fiction of 19th- and 20th-century novelists, particularly the figures of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s protagonist Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe in the film ‘Master & Commander’. Less known is that Cochrane took command of the Brazilian Navy in 1823 and attacked, blockaded and forced the surrender of the Portuguese navy. As a result of Cochrane’s efforts, Brazil became de facto independent and free of any Portuguese troops. On Cochrane’s return to Rio de Janeiro in 1824, the Emperor Pedro I rewarded his officer by granting him the non-hereditary title of Marquess of Maranhão (Marquês do Maranhão) of the Empire of Brazil.
Read more about Lord Cochrane here