Brazil Since 1980
By Francisco Vidal Luna and Herbert S. Klein
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 282 pp.
The first in a new World Since 1980 series, which is designed to examine profound change in important countries over the past 25 years, Brazil Since 1980 is an instructive, fair-minded, and generally upbeat primer on the South American giant. Although the book is billed as a survey, experts will benefit from the sensible, broad perspectives of its authors, both prominent economic historians. Their Brazil is characterized by a vibrant democracy, a maturing demography approaching first World standards of high longevity and low fertility, and a technologically cutting-edge agroindustry complex that is now one of the great granaries of the world. Yet striking income inequalities have persisted, which are attributable to the legacies of slavery and racial injustice and to a bifurcated educational system where the wealthy go to private schools and high-quality public universities while the poor languish in overcrowded institutions. Surprisingly, the volume lacks a chapter on foreign policy; it would also have benefited from a fuller exploration of Brazil's place in the global economy. Alas, Cambridge University Press appears not to have committed the resources -- for example, to add political cartoons, color illustrations, or innovative Internet-linked resources -- to make this new series a clear market leader.