Although the political and economic history of the Portuguese Empire has received increasing attention in recent years from scholars such as Boxer and Mauro, we still know very little about its institutional structure, and even less of the royal servants who staffed it. Thus M. A. Norton’s unpretentious and direct biography of Don Pedro Miguel de Almeida Portugal is a welcome contribution.

He begins by tracing Don Pedro’s early experience as an infantry captain in the War of the Spanish Succession, and then his long service to the monarchy, first as governor and captain-general of São Paulo and Minas during the critical years of 1717-1722, and later as viceroy of India from 1744 to 1751. Although some interesting pages are devoted to an economic analysis of Don Pedro’s casa, as well as to his education and culture, the author is really not successful in situating Don Pedro economically and socially among the aristocracy. Nor is the book always smooth in composition; too often the technical scaffolding shows through, making it clear that the work was written from a laboriously collected set of fichas. But let us not discourage such efforts! With more such monographs we might begin to understand a number of matters which are now obscure: the cursus honorum of imperial functionaries in the eighteenth century, the extent of noble monopoly of office, the social and economic background of these royal servants, their cliques and factions, and other related matters. All of these would make the vicissitudes of Portuguese government policy immeasurably clearer, and provide the basis for an evaluation of its success or failure as an imperial experiment. The volume contains a useful documentary appendix, a full bibliography, and footnotes.

On the other hand, the volume by Silva Rego, who is professor at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Política Ultramarina, adds little that is new to our knowledge of the empire in the eighteenth century. Obviously devised to sensitize Portuguese opinion to the long tradition of overseas involvement, the volume is a (literal?) reprinting of lectures which the author gave over the Portuguese National Radio in 1966. It does provide a convenient survey of the farflung empire; and although its interpretations are neither especially subtle nor penetrating, they are nevertheless “sound” and in tune with most recent scholarship. The most disconcerting aspect of the book is the manner in which it jumps about from area to area and from continent to continent in a seemingly random fashion, thus preventing any possible understanding of the empire as a functioning economic or political whole. Was this the inevitable solution to the problem of organization?

As an outline of the main political and social events, the volume could serve as an introduction to its subject. But historians who read Portuguese are probably ready for something more advanced, and the book is not good enough to translate into English for undergraduates. It also lacks a bibliography except for occasional footnote references.