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Roots of Brazil

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda

Publication Year: 2012

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda's Roots of Brazil is one of the iconic books on Brazilian history, society, and culture. Originally published in 1936, it appears here for the first time in an English language translation with a foreword, "Why Read Roots of Brazil Today?" by Pedro Meira Monteiro, one of the world's leading experts on Buarque de Holanda. Roots of Brazil focuses on the multiple cultural influences that forged twentieth-century Brazil, especially those of the Portuguese, the Spanish, other European colonists, Native Americans, and Africans. Buarque de Holanda argues that all of these originary influences were transformed into a unique Brazilian culture and society—a "transition zone." The book presents an understanding of why and how European culture flourished in a large, tropical environment that was totally foreign to its traditions, and the manner and consequences of this development. Buarque de Holanda uses Max Weber’s typological criteria to establish pairs of "ideal types" as a means of stressing particular characteristics of Brazilians, while also trying to understand and explain the local historical process. Along with other early twentieth-century works such as The Masters and the Slaves by Gilberto Freyre and The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil by Caio Prado Júnior, Roots of Brazil set the parameters of Brazilian historiography for a generation and continues to offer keys to understanding the complex history of Brazil. Roots of Brazil has been published in Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, German, and French. This long-awaited English translation will interest students and scholars of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Latin American history, culture, literature, and postcolonial studies.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii

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Foreword: Why Read Roots of Brazil Today?

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pp. ix-xix

An English translation of this book has been long awaited and finally comes at an important juncture, now that Brazil’s economy and culture have become so prominent in the world. And yet, in one’s urgency to understand that country, why read a book written almost eighty years ago? ...

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The Significance of Roots of Brazil (1967); Postscript (1986)

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pp. xxi-xxxv

At a certain stage of life, we can assess the past without the danger of becoming complacent. Our testimony becomes an assessment of the experience of many others, of all those who belong to what is called a generation. At first we consider ourselves different from one another, but gradually we become so similar that we lose our individuality...

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Preface to the Second Edition of 1948; Preface to the Third Edition of 1956

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pp. xxxvii-xxxviii

First published in 1936, this book, in its current form, has been substantially modified from the original printing. To reproduce it without corrections would imply repeating thoughts and opinions that, for several reasons, have failed to satisfy me. If, at times, I have felt apprehension about radically revising the text, in which case it would...

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Note to the Translation

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pp. xxxix-xl

Translation is an imperfect science and a precarious art. A translator takes on the uneasy task of having to interpret a work more meticulously than critics working in the original language, as well as that of crafting a new text that must strike a balance between the exigencies of being faithful to the language and style of the author and offering...

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Chapter 1: European Frontiers

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pp. 1-11

The effort to implant European culture in an extensive stretch of territory under conditions largely foreign, if not adverse, to Europe’s thousand-year tradition is the dominant fact in the origins of Brazilian society and the one that has yielded the most valuable consequences. We have brought our forms of association, our institutions...

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Chapter 2: Work and Adventure

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pp. 13-41

Pioneers in conquering the tropics for the cause of civilization, the Portuguese saw this achievement as their greatest historical mission. And despite all the accusations that can be made against that accomplishment, the Portuguese were not only effective but also natural bearers of that mission. No other Old World people were so well...

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Chapter 3: The Rural Heritage

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pp. 43-63

The entire structure of our colonial society was based on a rural environment. This fact is essential to understanding the circumstances that continued to govern us, directly or indirectly, long after independence. The consequences of the long-standing rural predominance are still palpable today. ...

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Chapter 4: Sowers and Builders

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pp. 65-110

The primacy of rural life in colonial Brazil is in harmony with the spirit of Portuguese domination, which refrained from imposing imperative and absolute rules. Rather, the Portuguese always made concessions where immediate convenience so advised, and they paid more attention to achieving riches within easy reach...

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Chapter 5: The Cordial Man

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pp. 111-122

Contrary to what some theoreticians assume, the state is not a broadening of the family circle, and it is even less an integration of certain groupings or of certain particularistic desires best exemplified by the family. There is no gradation between the family circle and the state, but rather discontinuity and even opposition ...

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Chapter 6: A New Era

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pp. 123-136

A tendency toward social solidarity is not very important when considering the common good. That explains why we are reluctant to accept principles of organization over the individual, and why religious belief itself becomes excessively human and down to earth in Brazil. All of our usual modes of behavior often reveal a singular attachment...

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Chapter 7: Our Revolution

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pp. 137-155

If the date of abolition of slavery in Brazil marked the end of agrarian predominance, then the political framework established the following year was an attempt to adequately respond to the demands of a new, recomposed society. A secret link connects these two events and several others with a slow, but sure and planned, revolution...

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Afterword: Roots of Brazil and Afterwards

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pp. 157-161

Roots of Brazil is the product of a special phase in the intellectual trajectory of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. This book is not just the first in a series of noteworthy works, nor does its interest stem merely from the sociological analysis of the development of Brazilian society...


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pp. 163-182

Index; Author Biography

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pp. 183-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780268077648
E-ISBN-10: 0268077649
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268026134
Print-ISBN-10: 0268026130

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012