This study is based on a reconstruction of the paleogeographic and paleobathymetric history of the South Atlantic and on a standardized set of sediment and biostratigraphic data from all Deep Sea Drilling Project sites. Standard data sets used are the lithologic description, biostratigraphic age, CaCO3 content, carbonate and carbonate-free sedimentation rates corrected for compaction, and hiatus distribution. For each site the subsidence history has been determined. Paleoceanographic variables used are the spatial and temporal lithofacies distribution, history of calcite compensation depth, surface fertility and lyocline, erosional events, and special lithologies (black shales). During its early history the South Atlantic consisted of a narrow rift divided by the Rio Grande Rise- Walvis Ridge barrier into a restricted northern and an open (to the southern ocean) southern basin. In the northern basin, evaporites are the earliest known marine sediments (Aptian) while more normal pelagic deposits formed in the southern basin. Free circulation of surface water between the southern ocean and the North Atlantic became possible late in the Mesozoic or in the early Cenozoic, and deep circulation (below 3 km depth) paths were open from north to south by the early Cenozoic. During the early and middle Mesozoic the South Atlantic had its own oceanographic character with dominantly terrigenous sedimentation and two anoxic black mudstone phases (Albian and Santonian) probably resulting from a strong oxygen minimum in mid-water caused by either excess surface fertility or old, slow moving bottom water. In the late Cretaceous the South Atlantic became part of the world ocean system and global events have overshadowed local ones since that time. After the early phase of rapid sedimentation of terrigenous material, the depositional history has been in- fluenced mainly by the increasing width and water depth of the basin and by fluctuations of the level and intensity of carbonate dissolution. At the Eocene/Oligocene boundary, the onset of a deep water circulation dominated by a cold circum-polar source of surface water is clearly marked by erosional events, a sharp drop of the calcite compensation depth and the arrival of biogenic siliceous oozes in the Argentine Basin.