This work, the second in a four-volume series of texts intended for introductory history courses that conform to the plan of organization of the official Brazilian curriculum, covers the period 1778 to 1868. The three authors and an additional nine contributors (identified by name but not by any institutional affiliation) give greatest coverage to the evolution of Brazilian social structure in the nineteenth century and to the role of class in political party formation during the empire.
Introductory pieces open each principal division of the text (part six, “The Crisis of the Colonial System,” is the first in this volume) and situate the narrative of ensuing Brazilian events within the appropriate international context with due consideration for contemporary developments in neighboring Spanish America. The emphasis throughout is twofold: on the Brazilian experience as a part of, as well as a response to, the originally European historical processes, such as the development of capitalism, the advances of liberalism, and the expansion of imperialism; and on the populist character of political struggle in the era prior to and following independence in 1822. A cultural supplement at the end on developments in abolitionist and liberal thought, music, art, and literature is well intentioned but uneven.
The preliminary chronological table is adequate, the lengthy topic bibliographies at the end of major sectional divisions are useful, and the document selections appended to many chapters are pertinent, but the analytic index is not as definitive as the editors clearly intend and the series as a whole may well fall short of becoming a major reference tool. Nevertheless, it bears examination, not only as an attempted synthesis of some of the best of international Brazilian scholarship of the last decade, but also as an example of the conceptual framework according to which Brazilian students of the 1970s understand their history.