As a Brazilian by birth, Ireneu Evangelista de Sousa (1813-1889) made his own way from “rags to riches,” becoming first Baron, and then Viscount of Mauá, one of the richest men in Brazil. A remarkable business and banking figure, his investments and branch banking led him to Argentina (Rosario), Uruguay (Montevideo), and to London.

Mauá was a successful manufacturing capitalist in the Brazilian Second Empire, much influenced by the interests of the commercial capitalism of importers and exporters. Coffee and sugar provided the most profitable export products of the economy. Mauá, also an organizer of vast landholdings, was not a supporter of industrial protection through tariffs. Like Murtinho, a minister of economics, Mauá saw competition and individualism as essential. Moreover, Mauá was self-made and self-directed. He got little from the Second Empire; in fact the empire took much of what he had, forcing a bankruptcy on him.

Lídia Besouchet, a fine historian, has reprinted and improved her early biography. The time is riper today to hail the pioneer Brazilian industrialist, not only for his accomplishments but also for his scrupulous honesty, simplicity of life-style, his moral sense of duty, and his name which impelled him to pay back every cent to his creditors. In this slim book, Besouchet sees Mauá as one of the greatest promoters, investors, and builders of Brazil. He is the key to Brazilian economic development, more or less by his own efforts and persistence.

Some points stand out. Mauá had a large economic and banking role in the unfolding of Brazil’s policy in the River Plate. In this role he did not advocate any of the wars that took place there, but sought instead a very large market for banking and commerce. With his foreign (that is, English) connections, one other point is that among his British associates some were friendly (Baring Brothers), some were unfriendly (Rothschild). In short, wherever he and his ventures sought assistance, at home or abroad, Mauá found friends and enemies. Nevertheless he was never a destroyer; he was always the builder. He gained and so did Brazil.