On the level of kings-and-queens history, and the intrigues of the officials and semi-dictators that followed them, this is a reasonably competent study of Brazil. But Worcester never gets us excited about the many issues involved -- was Brazilian slavery harsher or milder than North American? What about 19th-century British financial domination, which Worcester brushes by? His cultural forays make you long for the grandeur of Gilberto Freyre, especially since they are sometimes off the mark (as with Machado de Assis). Toward the end Worcester does show some animation, a buildup to his final pitch -- how wonderfully the military junta has cleaned up the mess of the early '60's and promoted, through its U.S.-run War College cadre and austerity measures, an ""unparalleled economic prosperity."" Worcester remains slippery about just who is enjoying this boom, and unfortunately few readers are likely to be aware of the post-1968 trends in infant and adult mortality, slashes in real wages, mass starvation, as well as torture and political repression of dissenters and the native Indian population. Worcester admits that the latter is a shame but the Brazilians, unlike you or me, seem to need ""semiauthoritarian"" structures. . . . It's a good thing the book is too dull and shallow to serve as strong propaganda.