Historians have confronted the Vargas period only recently and inconclusively, although substantial work promises to be forthcoming. Researchers are handicapped by the lack of monographic studies on virtually all aspects of the twentieth century in Brazil. The pre-1930 period remains especially unclear—particularly the mechanics of the Washington Luís regime, which culminated a generation of planter-dominated, oligarchic rule. But the new influx of students has demonstrated that extensive documentation remains untapped. Some excellent sources have recently become available, including the archives of Borges de Medeiros and Oswaldo Aranha; the federal ministries of Finance, Public Works, Justice, and Foreign Affairs; and the papers of Getúlio Vargas himself. Other archival materials remain untouched, such as the papers of numerous primary historical figures and extensive public and commercial archives, especially on state and municipal levels. Massive questions await critical examination. Some of these deal with vital aspects of the Vargas years—the ascendancy of a technologically oriented military, economic growth in the industrial sector, rising nationalism and the search for new ideologies, the development of the federal bureaucracy, social welfare legislation, the emergence of the urban middle and working classes, and the establishment of the Vargas myth.
The Revolution of 1930 and the Aftermath falls short of this challenge. It is a synthesis of the events which projected the Liberal Alliance to power, but its impact is crippled by brevity and insufficient analysis. The body of the volume consists of three chapters dealing with the political, military, and economic aspects of the Vargas golpe. One, “The Military and the 1930 Revolution,” appeared as an article in HAHR (May 1964, pp. 180-196). The remaining two chapters cursorily describe the “aftermath” of 1930, which is already treated in more complete detail by new works of Thomas E. Skidmore, Rollie E. Poppino, and John W. F. Dulles. Young relies almost entirely upon published sources, save for citations from the Aranha papers— he was the first foreign researcher to see them—and interviews with political figures. His annotated bibliography is useful but curiously incomplete: for example, it divides newspapers consulted into only two categories, 1930, and 1954-1966, omitting the years from 1931 to 1953.
The author maintains that “since many political and financial fortunes have resulted from the revolution, there is more than just average interest in some quarters in concealing some of the facts” (p. 127). This should not preclude more thorough analysis and original use of available resources. The study narrates clearly the events of 1930 and after, but there is little feeling for the Brazil of the 1930s or for its intricate politico-economic structure. Young avoids meaningful evaluation of Vargas, taking refuge behind the historiographical cliché of the man’s enigma. The real impact of the victorious Liberal Alliance escapes consideration. Did it truly constitute revolution? How did the Vargas regime affect Brazilian life? What did the fall of the old order mean? What was the significance of the Goulart regime and the counterrevolution of 1964?