Professor Pereira dos Reis sets out to make two points in this book: first, within the Lusitanian empire Brazil occupied a position inferior to Portugal; and, second, the Inconfidência deserves a significant place in Brazilian history. Apparently the author has been disturbed by some “revisionist” historians who claim that Brazil and Portugal were treated similarly within the empire and that the importance of the Inconfidência is marginal at best. This latter opinion, for example, has been well stated by none other than Capistrano de Abreu, who assigned much greater importance to the Wars of the Mascates and Emboabas within the totality of colonial history than to the conspiracy of Tiradentes.
In making and defending his two points, Pereira dos Reis presents little or no new material. Mercantilism bears most of the blame for Brazil’s slow development and as the chief cause of the Inconfidência. Chapter V contains an interesting résumé of the restrictions Lisbon placed on Brazil: no manufacturing, road building limited to approved routes, no printing presses, no university, supervision of the book imports, no money shipments to the colony, control of clergy movement, etc. Here, as elsewhere in the book when condemning Portuguese “greed and ambition,” the author naïvely fails to distinguish between the law as written in Lisbon and its execution or neglect in the New World. Nor is any mention made of salutary legislation. The general result is an unbalanced account in which Portugal emerges as villain worthy of sharing the mantle of the “black legend” with its Iberian neighbor. In the final chapter on the Inconfidência, the treatment is so emotional that the reader can see the flag waving in the background. In short, in order to make its two points, the book oversimplifies causation and conveniently omits the facts which do not coincide with the author’s theses.
Scattered throughout the book are many documents which do merit attention. The author has culled a goodly number of them from Documentos interessantes para a história e costumes de S. Paulo.