In the nineteenth century Brazil was considered unique not only for its size and Portuguese heritage but also for its distinct social and political characteristics. Brazil was an established slave society that was maintained in peace and unity under a constitutional monarchy. Traditionally, historiography has separated these elements. Most recently, the social history dominant in the Brazilian and Anglo-American academies has given us rich studies of slave society, without sustained reference to Brazil’s political history. In the nineteenth century, and in the earlier political analyses of the twentieth century, the monarchy has either been abstracted away from socioeconomic analysis or reconstructed as an apologia for Brazilian essentialism and authoritarianism.1

Since at least the 1970s, however, political analysis has addressed the relationship between state and society, but with debatable success. It has generally reduced the monarchy to an instrument of the ruling class,...

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