In This Review

Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821
Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821
By Kirsten Schultz
Routledge, 2001, 320 pp

A remarkably interesting book about a long-neglected episode in South American history: Rio de Janeiro's European royal court of 1808-21. Most discussions of South America's independence movements ignored this unique (even bizarre) experience in favor of focusing on the exploits of such swashbuckling heroes as Simon Bolivar. In fact, while Spanish Americans were fighting for their independence, Portuguese-speaking Brazil attempted to set up a European-style imperial regime. The Rio court was to be an inspiration for leadership not only for Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia but for Portugal itself. Schultz has skillfully reconstructed from archives this monarchy's ideology and its vision for Brazil. Her book is weak, however, in setting this distinctly Brazilian experience in its international context; for example, no attention is given to the complex diplomatic machinations in Europe and the Americas that surrounded the Portuguese monarch. Nevertheless, such a well-written, well-illustrated, and innovative account of this period is long overdue.