Cover image for Brazil : five centuries of change
Brazil : five centuries of change
Skidmore, Thomas E.
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Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 254 pages ; 25 cm.
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F2521 .S54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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With a land mass larger than the continental United States, a unique culture that is part European, African, and indigenous, and the world's ninth largest economy, Brazil is one of the most important--yet one of the least understood--nations in the world. Thomas Skidmore, a preeminent authority on Brazil, vividly traces the 500 years of Brazil's development. Its epic story begins in the wake of Vasco da Gama's historic circumnavigation of the globe, when another Portuguese vessel, commanded by Pedro Alvares Cabral, ran aground on the coast ofBrazil in April 1500. From there Skidmore probes Portugal's remarkable command of the vast country in the face of the advances of the Spanish, French, and Dutch colonial interests; Brazil's compromised independence in 1822; its evolution as the center of world coffee cultivation; and the creation ofthe republic in the late nineteenth century. Here also are examinations of its unique forms of modernist art and literature, the dictatorship of Getulio Vargas and the military coups, and the ambitious reforms of current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Informed by the most recent scholarshipavailable, Brazil explores the country's many blessings: ethnic diversity, a vibrant cultural life, and a wealth of natural resources. But, as Skidmore writes, the Brazilians must also grapple with a history of political instability and military rule, a deplorable environmental record, chronicinflation, and international debt. Mapping out its past as well as its future, this eloquent and detailed look at Brazil will be the standard history of the country for years to come.

Author Notes

Thomas E. Skidmore, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Brown University, is the author of Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964-1985 and, with Peter H. Smith, Modern Latin America,Fourth Edition (all available from Oxford University Press).

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Brazil is known for its multiracial population, vibrant culture, volatile political history, and legendary inflationary economy. Skidmore examines 500 years of Brazilian history, its political and economic development, and social and racial relationships. He starts by probing how Portugal, much smaller than other European imperial nations, managed to hold on to such a large colony, today one of the largest nations of the world. Brazil's mix of indigenous Indians, Europeans, and Africans has wrought a long history of ever-shifting relationships, more liberal than North America in absorbing its former slaves and subjugated peoples but nonetheless unyielding in racial stratification. Unlike the U.S., Brazil has had no legally defined racial barriers but definite unwritten racial and social strata. Skidmore examines the birth and growth of colonial Brazil, independence from Portugal, and modern Brazil with its struggles for democracy, including several slips into military rule and dictatorship. This is a well-researched look at a fascinating country. --Vanessa Bush

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Read About Brazil?
Chapter 1 Birth And Growth Of Colonial Brazil: 1500-1750
The Country the Portuguese Created in the New World
The Colonial Economy and Society
Miscegenation: Biological and Cultural
The Beginnings of a Luso-Brazilian Culture
Chapter 2 Crisis Of The Colonial System And Emergence Of An Independent Brazil: 1790-1830
The Economics and Politics of Post-1750 Brazil
The Portuguese Court Comes to Brazil
Chapter 3 Revolt, Consolidation, And War: 1830-1870
Uprisings under the Regency
The Role of Pedro II
The Rise of Coffee
The Emerging Problems with Slavery as an Institution
The Question of Abolition
The Paraguayan War
Chapter 4 Making Brazil ""Modern"": 1870-1910
The End of the Empire
Coffee Fluctuations, Emerging Industry, and Urban Labor
Chapter 5 World War I, The Great Depression, And Dictatorship: 1910-1945
The Shock of World War I
New Currents in the 1920's
The Revolution of 1930
Getulio Vargas as Dictator
Chapter 6 Democracy Under Vargas, Halcyon Days With Kubitschek, And A Military Coup: 1945-1964
The 1945 Election and the Dutra Period Vargas Returns
A Socioeconomic Profile of Brazil in the Late 1940s and 1950s
A New President, Juscelino Kubitschek, Elected
The Brief Presidency of Janio Guadros
The Succession of Joao Goulart
Chapter 7 Rule Of The Military: 1964-1985
The Generals Search for a Political Base
The Arrival of the Guerrillas
Culture and the Generals
The Economic ""Miracle"" Wrought by the Authoritarians
The Road to Redemocratization
Chapter 8 Redemocratization
New Hope, Old Problems: 1985-
Sarney and His Challenges
The Debt Crisis and the Economy
Widening Gaps Between Rich and Poor
Public Health: The Fish That Swam Upstream
Changes Affecting Women
Race Relations
The Political Spectrum in the New Democracy
The Collor Debacle
Another Vice-President in Command
Back to Stabilization: The Plano Real
The Presidential Election of 1994
Suggestions for further Readings