In late 1807, Brazil was still a part of the Portuguese empire. As a consequence of the outbreak of the Peninsular War, the Prince Regent and the court moved to Brazil, an amazing voyage planned as a way of safeguarding Portugal's sovereignty over her vast territories. When the royal ships arrived in Brazil, the first measure to be taken was the decree which opened up Brazilian ports to British commercial vessels, thus putting an end to the old system of exclusive colonial trading between Brazil and Portugal. This was indeed the very first sign of a much larger process of economic liberalisation that was shortly to follow. In this process, a special role was to be played by the science of political economy used as a rationale for economic change and ultimately serving as an instrument for political independence.