In This Review

Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825-1891
Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825-1891
By Roderick J. Barman
Stanford University Press, 2000, 576 pp

From the 1840s to the 1880s, Brazil was ruled by Pedro II -- a male version of Queen Victoria. A good, modern assessment of this diffident, important figure has long been needed, and Barman's account goes a long way toward closing a major gap in Brazilian historiography. Using original material from the emperor's personal archives, the author portrays the nineteenth-century Brazilian government at work, offering interesting information on its political elite, party system, and foreign relations. A fervent enthusiast for modern science and technology, Pedro wished to mold a modern Europeanized nation; indeed, Europeans contrasted favorably Brazil's stability and prosperity during the middle years of his reign to the violently unstable successor states of the former Spanish empire. But the regime was also more beholden to the slave-trade interests than even the emperor was prepared to admit. The monarchy survived only one year after Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. Increasingly isolated, always self-centered and lonely, Pedro had little will to resist the military coup in 1889 and died in exile in Paris two years later. An original and enjoyable contribution -- especially for readers who see Brazil as a mystery and a Victorian Brazilian monarch as a striking improbability.