In This Review

Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues
Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues
By Kenneth Maxwell
Routledge, 2003, 240 pp

This volume brings together 16 essays by an eminent scholar of things Brazilian and Portuguese. With one exception, the pieces were published between 1991 and 2001, half of them in The New York Review of Books or Folha de São Paulo, one of Brazil's leading newspapers, and they demonstrate Maxwell's sweeping range. Perhaps the only scholar in the English-speaking world capable of skillfully handling all of Luso-Brazilian history, Maxwell writes about subjects as diverse as Columbus, pirates of the Caribbean, the history of chocolate, Jesuits, the Amazon, the slave trade and Yale University, Macao, and the late historian C. R. Boxer. In two of the most interesting essays, he ruminates on the differences between the processes of independence in Brazil and Spanish America and discusses Thomas Jefferson's friendship with the Portuguese intellectual Abbe Jose Corrêa da Serra, whom Jefferson called the "most learned man I have met in any country." Bracketing the collection are two autobiographical chapters on Maxwell's introduction to Brazil and Portugal. Naked Tropics is the fruit of 40 years of transatlantic travels and study, exposing the reader to many facets of the Luso-Brazilian world and its most astute historical interpreter.