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A Concise History of Brazil (Cambridge Concise Histories) Paperback – 28 Apr 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (28 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052156526X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521565264
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 557,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'… this is a good, very well written book. It will be of great service to those interested in knowing more of Brazilian theory.' Scandinavian Economic History Review

'A fine introduction to Brazilian history.' Foreign Affairs

'It's no mean feat to tell the unruly story of a country as large, diverse and divided as Brazil in one volume of narrative history. But Fausto succeeds admirably in presenting facts, figures, events and influences in an orderly, palatable fashion. … Fausto has written a nuts-and-bolts account that will serve general readers as a navigable port of entry into the history and life of one of the world's most culturally rich nations.' Publishers Weekly

'The most distinguished historian of Brazil of his generation, Boris Fausto has chosen a broad-brush historical narrative approach, punctuated by a discussion of key controversies in the historiography. … A Concise History offers the non-expert reader a broad panorama of Brazilian history. The expert will appreciate efforts to capture issues and controversies in the historiography and to present them in a digestible fashion.' Reviews in History

Book Description

A Concise History of Brazil covers almost 500 years of Brazilian history, from the arrival of the Portuguese to the political events that defined the recent transition from an authoritarian to a democratic political regime. This book emphasizes topics such as the destruction of Indian civilizations, slavery, and massive immigration throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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The Portuguese reached the coast of what today is Brazil in April 1500. Read the first page
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book as it was on the reading list for one of my modules for my degree course, and was not particulary looking forward to reading it. Once I picked it up, however, I could not put it down. I knew very little about Brazil's history and expected the book to be quite heavy-going. I was wrong - it's accessible to even those who know nothing about the topics covered. It's a well written, informative and fascinating book and I would recommend it to anyone, not just students.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on 18 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
Fausto makes a difficult choice, limiting his coverage of Brazil's history to things political and economic. Cultural life, he feels, would take another volume. The result is a tale of hard, dramatic realities. We have the booms and busts of various regional resource-economies down the centuries, with the flow of migrants from slumping to temporarily thriving states. The book's mandate requires fairly fine-resolution coverage of political leaders, parties, elections, and coups, for decade after decade. Both the political alliances and economic problems often seem bewildering, like the mysterious bouts of hyper-stagflation that lost the 1980s.

But a focus on the eco-political half of Brazil's life can't help but mirror it's cultural and spiritual changes of heart. The colonial-age "bandiera" expeditions of plunder, slave-raiding, and metal-prospecting had their counterparts in the jungle semi-states of escaped slaves. The enormous slave economy involved a high rate of manumission for slaves, often because slave-owners fell in love with slave women. The military coups to thwart communist revolutions confirmed the rise of urban labor movements, the massive organization of rural workers, and the often heroic role of church leaders in defending human rights. Fausto crunches the numbers on social change. Among other things, he measures how much the military rulers of 1964 to '89 managed to squeeze the poor majority in terms of education, wages, and taxes -- for the sake of increased investment to richer people.

The story ends before the era of Lula, on a note of optimism and awareness of peril. Fausto suspects that a whole raft of old illusions have slowly faded away: "The delusions of grandeur which moved people to violence and to destroy natural resources no longer exist. Brazilians have begun to discard their belief in a providential leader endowed with willpower and magic who will solve their nation's problems."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Leaden. 27 July 2002
By Richard R - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the most comprehensive recent history of Brazil by a Brazilian to be translated into English. Its having been written by a Brazilian academic makes it a useful read for those who are also reading books by Americans (Skidmore, Eakin, etc.) But this book founders on Fausto's deep historical understanding and thorough research. There was no factoid too minute or political movement too mundane to leave out. Result: only the most tenacious reader will be able to plod through this leaden work.
Arthur Brakel's translation is mediocre, particularly in the early pages. The prose gets clunky and uses a lot of academic words oddly out of place ("insure" vice "ensure", a situation always "obtains" rather than exists). The maps are a major failure, as the first one is on page 86 and is outdated and inaccurate (failing to show either the country's capital, Brasilia, or states such as Toncatins) yet showing useless details of railway spurs. The next edition needs a dozen strong historical maps, showing the progression from colonial captaincies to modern state. Maps on the conflicts with Uruguay and Paraguay are particularly lacking.
The overabundance of detail about obscure 18th and 19th century political movements merely bogs down the reader. For despite the author's disclaimer in the Preface, this work is really is a chronological narrative only thinly based on underlying themes (such as slavery and regionalism). While Fausto claims to reject "inertia theory" of Brazilian history, the book is really a testament to those ideas. The book is not a complete failure, there are strong and detailed discussions of the coffee economy, a good (though mapless) description of the war with Paraguay, and a particularly insightful discussion of Brazil's long-term, complicated relationship with Great Britain.
The author deliberately made the arbitrary and unhelpful decision to eschew discussion of cultural themes because, he claims, they deserve their own book. Thus readers are deprived of essential material on art, sexuality, family, and sport that are integral to understanding Brazil. These themes are more usefully described in Eakin's book. Sao Paulo's "Modern Art Week", one of the crucial events in Brazil's modern history, is not mentioned even once. The author is excessively Sao Paulo-centric. Most of the text focuses on minor details of Sao Paulo's development to the exclusion of other regions.
While Fausto provides more detail, clarification, and insight than Eakin or Skidmore on many topics, such as the impact of positivism on military thinking, the book gets bogged down in dry recitiation of economic statistics without real analysis and in discussion of minor historical events without real import. It is finally defeated by its dry, uninspired prose, by a parade of chronological details and economic data that make great watershed events and minor political hiccups seem equally (un)important.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Concise but nevertheless satisfactorily comprehensive 18 Sept. 2000
By Leonardo Alves - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book on the History of Brazil. Concise but nevertheless satisfactorily comprehensive.
Brazil is surely a unique occurrence in South America. It was colonized by the Portuguese instead of the Spaniards, it maintained and even expanded its territory while the Spanish South America was fragmented. The ethnical and cultural formation was less influenced by the original inhabitants having received a much more important contribution from Africans. The historical process in Brazil was rather bloodless with little change on the power structure. The few exceptions on Brazil's bloodless history were the violent repressions to popular upheavals that were fiercely opposed before a major national conscience could be formed. Nowadays Brazil presents a strong industry but is still very unfair on the wealth distribution.
The reasons why Brazil became what it is today are brilliantly presented in Boris Fausto book. Each major episode is analyzed on its origins and consequences making the book very well connected. Very useful demographic and economic data is presented throughout the book.
The main problems I see on the book are the lack of simple geographical background information and the writing style that is sometimes very academic and dry. The book presents at least two maps but the use of historic location names without a better explanation can sometimes cause confusion to readers that lack a basic understanding of Brazil's geography. A brief overall introduction to nowadays Brazil regions covering geographical, ethnical, cultural and economic aspects would be welcome in future editions.
Cultural aspects were deliberately ignored. That could make the book concise but it forces the reader to search elsewhere for information on this important aspect in a country's history. A few glitches can be found here and there as it usually happens in translated books, for example magnesium is reported as an important export product during the first 20th century half instead of manganese.
Overall this is a very good book, a great way to have an introduction to the history of such an important and unique country as Brazil.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
It is concise, but also boring, and certainly not short 26 Jan. 2000
By J. Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is concise, but reads like a dictionary definition of Brazilian history. It will have a hard time keeping your attention, even if you are compeletely unfamiliar with Brazilian history.
A much better book is Thomas Skidmore's recent book on the history of Brazil. Or, if you are looking for an understaning of the present state of things in Brazil, I would highly recommend Joseph Page's "The Brazilians."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The politico-economic half of Brazil's story 18 Jan. 2010
By Brian Griffith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Fausto makes a difficult choice, limiting his coverage of Brazil's history to things political and economic. Cultural life, he feels, would take another volume. The result is a tale of hard, dramatic realities. We have the booms and busts of various regional resource-economies down the centuries, with the flow of migrants from slumping to temporarily thriving states. The book's mandate requires fairly fine-resolution coverage of political parties, elections, and coups, decade by decade. Both the political alliances and economic problems often seem bewildering, like the mysterious bouts of hyper-stagflation that lost the 1980s.

But Fausto's focus on the eco-political half of Brazil's life can't help but mirror it's cultural and spiritual changes of heart. The colonial-age "bandiera" expeditions of plunder, slave-raiding, and metal-prospecting had their counterparts in the jungle semi-states of escaped slaves. The enormous slave economy involved a high rate of manumission for slaves, often because slave-owners fell in love with slave women. The military coups to thwart communist revolutions confirmed a rise of urban labor movements, massive organization of rural workers, and an often heroic role for church leaders in defending human rights. Fausto crunches the numbers on social change. Among other things, he measures how much the military rulers of 1964 to '89 managed to squeeze the poor majority in terms of education, wages, and taxes -- for the sake of increased investment to richer people.

The story ends before the era of Lula, on a note of optimism with peril. Fausto suspects that a whole raft of old illusions have slowly faded away: "The delusions of grandeur which moved people to violence and to destroy natural resources no longer exist. Brazilians have begun to discard their belief in a providential leader endowed with willpower and magic who will solve their nation's problems."
Prosaic Correct Academic History 14 April 2010
By Christopher Ammons - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After starting to learn some basic Portuguese I realized that I new next to nothing about the history of Brazil, and thought I should change that. One thing leads to another and I take this book out from the library.

Standard serious academic history here. The text is prosaic, of course, but doesn't seem to me to get dull or into unnecessary and trivial details. The author seems to have a good head on his shoulders, no fantasies or obscure theoreticizing. I find nothing at all awkward or incorrect about the translation either, basically the book reads as if originally written in English. Seems to me that "A Concise History of Brazil" is written as it should be.
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