“The purpose of this work,” Roderick J. Barman writes, “is to elucidate three principal themes: 1) the growth of an autonomous identity [in Portuguese America] from the late eighteenth century onwards, 2) the process of state formation from 1808 to 1852, and 3) the exercise of politics and the formulation of policy at the national level . . . during the three decades after 1822” (p. 7). To this end, the author constructs a detailed political narrative based on extensive research in published sources and archival material from the British Public Record Office that conforms to the nationality theory developed by Carlton J. H. Hayes and others in the 1950s and 1960s. Given his sources and theoretical orientation, the author necessarily concentrates on the “privileged few (p. 26). (His last chapter surveys some of the broad social and economic transformations underway during the seemingly unrelated political debate that is chronicled and laboriously analyzed in the preceding seven chapters.)

In adapting Hayes’s nationality theory, Barman translates la patrie as a pátria and contends it has no proper application in Portuguese America beyond the boundaries of the individual captaincies prior to 1822. Not only was there no conception of Brazil as the pátria, but multi-captaincy regional patriotism did not exist, not even in the Northeastern revolt of 1817: according to Barman, Carlos Guilherme Mota, in Nordeste 1817, “fails to understand not only the meaning of the pátria but the role it played in the rebellion” (p. 261, n.96).

Barman sees the nation-state after independence emerging from the competition of three political factions: the “Luso-Brazilians,” who attended Coimbra University prior to 1808; the “Coimbra bloc,” who matriculated after 1808; and the “Nativists,” who never went to the university but are identified by “support for an ideology (p. 282, n.29). He believes that “Feijó epitomized, so far as any one man could, the Nativist group” (p. 171) but does not satisfactorily demonstrate how that champion of immigration, friend of Protestant missionaries, and protector of the foreign community in Bio could simultaneously be a servant of a nativist ideology.

The book’s main problem lies in the author’s attempt to force Brazilian history into an outdated, Eurocentric mold. The ideas that “the nation-state first took form in Europe” and that the United States was “the first new nation” (p. 4) lack the general acceptance today that Barman assumes. Not until the birth of the United States did any polity meet all the supposed criteria for nation-statehood, and before that there were non-Western states, like Japan and Korea, that satisfied at least as many of those conditions as any European country. The United States was not just new, but unique: a “nation” based not on kinship mythology but dedicated to a “proposition” (as Lincoln said, echoing Jefferson) of equality. This proposition—with its corollaries of inclusiveness and openness to outside ideas, immigration, goods, and investment—had a huge impact on nineteenth-century Brazil that Barman largely overlooks. His fixation on the European-style nationstate leads him to slight the movement in Brazil toward the liberal state. This is inevitable in a text of 242 pages in which fewer than 4 are allotted to the crucial issues of slavery and the slave trade. Barman’s work, though prodigious, is sadly misdirected.