In this excellent and engaging book, Todd Diacon provides a balanced portrait of one of Brazil’s most famous explorers and exponents of national integration. Diacon performs an important service by contextualizing the exploration of the Brazilian far west and construction of a telegraph line within the ideologies and institutions of national integration in a rich and readable historical analysis. Neither saint nor villain, Rondon comes across here as a heroic figure undone, at least in part, by his own contradictions. Likewise, the men and women who built and worked the line are accorded respect for their endurance and courage, even as the product of their labor is shown to be largely a failure (an expensive telegraph line linking points of little consequence) and the collateral effects of their activities (including the disruption of indigenous life) are often seen in a negative light.

The...

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