The Americas 60.4 (2004) 673-675
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In this thoughtful monograph, Andrew Kirkendall provides an ambitious rereading of some of the classic themes of the post-Independence of Brazil, as well as a careful revision of the historiography on his principal subject: the law schools of São Paulo and Olinda (the latter of which moved to Recife in 1854). Far from a simple institutional history of those bastions of elite education, Kirkendall's work is instead a sweeping treatment of the production and evolution of a political class during the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889). At the heart of the author's analysis is the culture that the students created during their years in São Paulo or Olinda/Recife. Indeed, one of the most striking findings here is that the law schools did not serve as centers of ideological indoctrination by the Imperial government. Given the level of administrative inattention and curricular disorganization that Kirkendall describes, the law schools could not have played such a role. They were, instead, realms in which young men developed the views and the contacts that they subsequently used to further their careers in the legal profession and in politics. [End Page 673]
As Kirkendall argues, however, law students' relationship to the patronage system and the political ideas that dominated the Empire was nothing if not complex. Going off to the law faculties gave these young men hopes of evading, or at least temporarily lessening, their dependence on fathers or other patrons. Toward that end the students carved out their own group identities, which always centered on their independence and the contributions that they, as educated and well-intentioned youth, were sure to make to the progress of their country. Relying on student newspapers, letters, and memoirs, Kirkendall gives colorful evidence of the behavioral excesses to which these affirmations could lead; students were notorious for their inattention to their studies and for their bohemian lifestyles. Most famously in the repúblicas (rented housing shared often by men from the same province), but also on the streets and in other public spaces, the students made the most of the privileges that they enjoyed as the sons, and future bulwark, of the ruling patriarchal class.
Indeed, as Kirkendall aptly points out, the law students' claims of independence did not truly separate them from their society; rather, the values exalted in the culture of the repúblicas and student newspapers paralleled the trajectory of political ideas in the Empire as a whole. The first generation of students, like the early leaders of Brazil after Independence, eagerly embraced not only Liberalism but also partisan politics. The regional revolts of the 1830s and 40s, however, led most students and working politicians alike to question the more radical versions of Liberal thought. Rather than adopting a counter-ideology, the students embraced literary skills, prizing apolitical Romanticism at mid-century, while national parties set aside their differences in the period known as the Conciliation. Like their older peers, they took up partisan issues once more in the later 1860s and subsequently led the way in championing abolition and Positivism before those causes attained wide acceptance among the broader elite in the 1880s.
Even when they formed part of a youthful vanguard, however, the law students were very much creatures of the Imperial political culture. Hierarchy found its way into the culture of the repúblicas; however persistently the students may have spoken and written about independence, Kirkendall writes, they were always interested in establishing their positions of power over others (servants, women, younger law students). Furthermore, while trying to escape the bonds of dependence on fathers or other patrons at home, and on professors or administrators at school, these young men were also building networks that would improve their chances of employment after graduation. By...