The Historiography of Early Modern Brazil

Stuart B. Schwartz

in The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195166217
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 The Historiography of Early Modern Brazil

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  • History
  • Methods and Historiography


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Scholarship on the early modern era in Brazil has been booming since the 1980s. This trend has been influenced theoretically by developments in the social sciences and by the cultural turn in history, by new information technologies of digitalization and the Internet, and by a series of centenaries that have generated institutional support for publications, conferences, and research. This article identifies a number of major themes and questions that have organized much of this historical production, notes the major writings that have moved the field in new directions, and discusses the shifts in emphasis in historical inquiry by concentrating on some of the works that have been seminal in the study of colonial Brazil. Five themes or trends are highlighted: the social history of the major groups within the colony (merchants, cane farmers and sugar barons, slaves, and the free population of color); a complementary cultural approach that has added attention to issues such as private life, public rituals, and subaltern agency; Afro-Brazilian life and culture; a surprisingly rich literature on the indigenous population; and studies of colonial governance.

Keywords: colonial Brazil; social history; private life; public rituals; subaltern agency; Afro-Brazilian life; indigenous population; colonial governance

Article.  18368 words. 

Subjects: History ; Methods and Historiography

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