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Reviewed by:
  • Slavery in Brazil
  • Mariana P. Candido
Slavery in Brazil. By Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010) 364 pp. $95.00 cloth $28.99 paper

This invaluable overview sums decades of research and reflection about what makes the slavery system in Brazil fundamentally different from many others. Klein and Luna attribute the difference partly to the size of Brazil’s slave population and partly to Brazil’s multiple uses of slave labor.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part presents the development of slavery in Brazil in a chronological fashion—from slavery’s origins in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to its rapid expansion in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, despite international pressures to bring the slave trade to an end. The authors present the development of the plantation system in Brazil as a continuation of other Portuguese experiments in the Azores and Madeira. They compare the system implemented in Brazil with the slavery in Spanish America, emphasizing the difference in size and organization of Amerindian population in both regions. Despite a great deal of interaction with the work of Brazilian scholars, the authors repeatedly use the term pardo as synonymous with mulatto without mentioning that some scholars claim that pardo refers to free blacks.1

The second part of the book investigates various aspects of slave society in Brazil, exploring how slaves shaped religious life and ultimately changed the Catholicism practiced there. It also analyzes the many resistance movements, offering an overview of the slave revolts. This section stresses the importance of the repeated arrival of Africans to the ability of slaves in Brazil to maintain cultural connections with African societies. In Chapter 6, the authors address the question of whether treatment of slaves was better in Brazil than in the United States through an analysis of reproduction rates and lactation periods. In Chapter 8, Klein and Luna stress how ethnicity and family formation helped to new social networks. However, their description of African identities as “tribal” overlooks the long debate among Africanists about the misleading meaning of the term (243). The last section of the book, in which the authors discuss the gradual transition from slavery to freedom during the nineteenth century, shows the continuation of labor exploitation and the reluctance of the oligarchy to share land with freed people during the twentieth century.

Klein and Luna use a large body of quantitative and qualitative sources, including correspondence, newspapers, official reports, legislation, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, to create a synthesis of scholarship about Brazilian slavery, presenting demographic data in user-friendly [End Page 485] tables and graphs. Broad in scope, this study explores the differences and similarities between the worlds of sugar and coffee plantation and mining and urban slavery throughout four centuries, highlighting slavery in Brazil as a diverse institution. This survey will be useful to students of Brazilian history, Atlantic history, and slavery in general.

Mariana P. Candido
Princeton University


1. Hebe Matos, Das Cores do Silêncio: Os Significados da Liberdade no Sudeste Escravista—Brasil, Século XIX (Rio de Janeiro, 1998); Larissa Viana, O Idioma da Mestiçagem: As Irmandades de Pardos na Amércia Portuguesa (Campinas, 2007).



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pp. 485-486
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