Bert J. Barickman, associate professor at the University of Arizona, died of dengue fever in Tucson on November 12, 2016. He had taught Brazilian and Latin American history at Arizona for 27 years. It is a sad duty for me, his dissertation director, to write an obituary for a historian who would normally have had 15 or more years of scholarship ahead of him. Most of all, his passing is a tragedy for those who knew the warm and modest person he was.
Bert was author of A Bahian Counterpoint: Sugar, Tobacco, Cassava, and Slavery in the Recôncavo, 1780–1860 (Stanford University Press, 1998), published in Portuguese in 2003. Among his other numerous publications were two in the Hispanic American Historical Review: “Revisiting the Casa-grande: Plantation and Cane-Farming Households in Early Nineteenth-Century Bahia” and “‘A Bit of Land, Which They Call Roça’: Slave Provision Grounds in the Bahian Recôncavo, 1780–1860.” He and I coauthored a third article in HAHR, “Rulers and Owners: A Brazilian Case Study in Comparative Perspective.”
Two other articles—“‘Tame Indians,’ ‘Wild Heathens,’ and Settlers in Southern Bahia in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries” and “Reading the 1835 Censuses from Bahia: Citizenship, Kinship, Slavery, and Household in Early Nineteenth-Century Brazil”—both won the Tibesar Prize, awarded for the best article in a given year in The Americas by the Conference on Latin American History. Another major publication, “Persistence and Decline: Slave Labour and Sugar Production in the Bahian Recôncavo, 1850–1888,” appeared in the Journal of Latin American Studies. As a graduate student, Barickman had won three prizes for the best history seminar paper at the University of Illinois.
As a teacher at Arizona he won the Most Distinguished Teacher Award for the teaching of upper-level courses, and he garnered another teaching award from the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies. In his graduate studies he had been awarded Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships and a Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowship. As a professor, Barickman won a Fulbright Scholar Program award to teach at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco.
At the time of his death, Bert had completed well over half of a thoroughly documented social history of the beach in Rio de Janeiro from the early nineteenth century to the 1990s, covering many aspects of racial and social history such as the exposure of the body on the beach, tanning and its relation to perceived racial background, the mixing (and segregation) of social classes, and the respectability of “as familias” as opposed to the popular classes. He focused on sea bathing and beach going—distinct aspects of life on the beach—in the context of the broader social history of the city.
Bert Barickman took all his degrees at the University of Illinois but also earned a master's degree with historian Ciro Cardoso at the Universidade Federal Fluminense and spent a summer at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires on an Organization of American States fellowship. He had fallen in love with Brazil and its culture during an experience with the American Field Service in Rio de Janeiro while in high school.