Centuries ago, Bororo Indians lived in the area now known as Mato Grosso. However, when the European explorers began making their way to South America during the 16th century, they colonised it, introducing their cultures, religions, languages and genes. The fight for territory and power between the Bororo Indians and the Europeans continued right up until the 1800’s. Despite the conflict, as well as rampant diseases, these Indians still boasted a population of up to 10 000 inhabitants by the end of the 19th century.
In 1903, the Treaty of Petropolis dictated that the southwest of Mato Grosso be given to Bolivia in exchange for the state of Acre. Cuiabá, the capital city, was founded in 1719. At first, Mato Grosso was a district under the captaincy of São Paulo. In 1748, though, it became an independent captaincy. 13 years later, the capital was moved to Vila Bela and then, in 1820, back to Cuiabá. The state was made a province of Brazil in 1822 and a state in 1889.
Mato Grosso lies predominantly on the western part of the Brazilian Plateau. It is elevated approximately 3 000 feet above sea level along the Mato Grosso Plateau, which is home to the line that separates the neighbouring drainage basins, the Amazon River basin and the Río de la Plata basin.