A thoroughly documented scholarly treatise on Brazilian history.
In the first of two volumes spanning 500 years of Brazilian history, Hufferd focuses on the first 300 years of colonization in the northeast region. Portugal was seeking to build maritime trade to compete successfully with archrival Spain and to retain its national identity. The colony expanded westward from a number of large tracts of lands called captaincies, granted by Portuguese monarchs to wealthy royal favorites in return for profits gained through trade, breeding cattle and other ventures. These captaincies eventually gained the status of states, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grasso, Manaus and Amazonia. Over subsequent decades, enterprising adventurers and explorers from these captaincies ventured inland, establishing sugar mills, cultivating grazing land and extracting gold, silver and precious gems. All ventures were highly labor-intensive, requiring massive amounts of manpower driven by slaves from Africa and native tribes. In the second volume, Hufferd focuses on the final 200 years of Brazil's rapid industrialization. After the Portuguese monarchy was forced to relocate its base from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, it became the fulcrum of a delicate political system within the new country. The social and political structure favored privileged hereditary landowners, even after the last reigning Emperor Pedro II was deposed amidst strong republican sentiment. Continuing the narrative through 2000, Hufferd chronicles upheavals most often caused by the chronic underdevelopment of existing resources, as the landowners maintained authority over the land, to the detriment of the black, mulatto and tribal segments of Brazilian society, who remained disenfranchised until recent years. In each volume, the author illustrates his vast knowledge of the topic, and he weaves political, economic, social and biographical threads throughout the panoramic narrative. While the expansive footnotes demonstrate impeccable research, they eventually hinder the narrative flow, requiring endless paging back and forth–the dissertation-style format ultimately detracts from the book's impact.
Problematic structure aside, a comprehensive history of Latin America's largest country.