The Americas 60.4 (2004) 634
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Two new, short textbooks have been added to the half dozen volumes available about Brazilian history. Levine's The History of Brazil offers a quick overview of the country's politics, cultures, and people from Portuguese contact in 1500 to the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The book begins with a fast look at Brazil's geography, political institutions, economic structures, and cultural characteristics, followed by a brief summary of the colonial period. The core of the volume focuses on the political narrative of the nineteenth and twentieth century. The final section analyzes Brazilian political culture and the nation's social and economic realities. An appendix offers thumbnail biographies of a curious selection of twenty "notable people in the history of Brazil." A bibliographic essay covers most of the important scholarship in English to the date of the original publication of this volume in 1999. Directed toward an undergraduate audience looking for an introductory survey history, the text's strength is Levine's integrative narrative that succinctly synthesizes complex historical and cultural processes.
MacLachlan's A History of Modern Brazil covers the last two centuries, beginning with independence in 1822, and likewise integrates social and cultural history into the political narrative. Following a chapter-based chronology that is divided along the traditional political fault lines, the author emphasizes the interplay of economics, politics, culture, and society in his assessment of the nation's history. Written in a direct, lively, and accessible style, the author has also woven into the work several highlighted issue-related vignettes, including a discussion of the pharmaceutical industry's use of tropical rainforest resources and the international auto industry's investments in the country. Although more dense that Levine's volume, this work, like the former, suits an undergraduate course that can use the text as an anchor alongside primary and other secondary materials in order to compliment the survey quality of the narrative.
James N. Green
Long Beach, California