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Hispanic American Historical Review 84.2 (2004) 329-330

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Brazil in British and Irish Archives. By Oliver Marshall. Oxford: Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford, 2002. Map. Appendixes. Index. xviii, 241 pp. Paper.

This work compels admiration for the compiler's industry and determination. British and Irish archival collections are numerous, diverse in purpose, and often difficult to access. Oliver Marshall gives us, almost 30 years after Peter Walne's A Guide to Manuscript Sources for the History of Latin America and the Caribbean in the British Isles (Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), a systematic and inclusive survey of all manuscript materials relating, even tangentially, to Brazil. The volume surveys some 80 depositaries, several with multiple holdings, and includes information on conditions for use and times of opening. A good index facilitates consultation of the volume's contents. Scholars who perceive Brazil and its past in terms broader than the Western Hemisphere will welcome this volume, and Marshall merits our warmest thanks and commendation.

What is the nature of the collections that Marshall has identified? The British archives contain (perhaps surprisingly) no body of material truly Brazilian in nature: that is, written in Portuguese by people born in or identified with Brazil. The only documents of this type that I could find are the sixteen letters written by Isabel Bezarra de Seixas, a courtier's wife, describing high life in Rio de Janeiro from 1814 to 1817. The personal papers of Thomas Cochrane and John Pascoe Grenfell, both of whom served in the Brazilian navy, also contain material of this nature. Nobody in Great Britain made it their mission to acquire archival collections from Brazil, as the late Nettie Lee Benson of the University of Texas did from Mexico.

The various materials essentially record how the British perceived, treated, and interacted with Brazil and the Brazilians from about 1750 to 1950. A large percentage of the archives are diplomatic: either Foreign Office records or the personal papers of foreign secretaries and envoys. Similar in type (and indeed overlapping) are military records, particularly of the British navy and its officers who served in the South Atlantic. Third in importance stand the holdings relating to trade, technology, and transportation. Of considerable interest, given Great Britain's role as a supplier of capital, are bank and financial archives. Collections that can be classified as scientific, philanthropic and religious, and travel bring up the rear. Surprisingly, there is only one holding that is cultural (artistic or literary) in nature.

The extent and quality of these holdings is diverse in the extreme. Some contain one or two document (as with two letters from 1803 and 1808 found in the Addington family papers) or none (as with Sir Brooke Boothy's papers, which contain nothing relating to his service as legation secretary at Rio). Some collections, useful in themselves, offer unintended entertainment: the records of the Brazil Nut Importers Association, for example, or those of "Owen Owens and Son," which manufactured umbrellas and increasingly exported them to Brazil. [End Page 329]

In a work of this scope and complexity, omissions inevitably creep in. Marshall should have noted the publication of Edward Barlow's fascinating journal in 1932, and the Rothschilds' agents in Brazil included Finnie Bros & Co., 1834-47, not just Samuel, Phillips & Co. and Leuzinger Bros. In respect to errors, both Arthur Aston (p. 143) and William Gore Ousley (p. 210) were chargés d'affaires, not just legation secretaries. The author provides what, at times, seems an overabundance of information about the origins of certain archives: for example, half a page on Winston Churchill precedes a slim collection, mainly telegrams, on Brazil during World War II. But such objections don't lessen the work's value.

A printed monograph such as Marshall's has both advantages and disadvantages: it is a permanent record, but one that cannot be corrected, updated, or reformatted. Perhaps the São Paulo foundation that so generously funded both research and publication can be further persuaded to finance the creation and maintenance of a Web site, so that the data...


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