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Brazilian images of the United States, 1861-1898: a working version of modernity?

Bas, N.; (2011) Brazilian images of the United States, 1861-1898: a working version of modernity? Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

For most of the nineteenth-century, the Brazilian liberal elites found in the ‘modernity’ of the European Enlightenment all that they considered best at the time. Britain and France, in particular, provided them with the paradigms of a modern civilisation. This thesis, however, challenges and complements this view by demonstrating that as early as the 1860s the United States began to emerge as a new model of civilisation in the Brazilian debate about modernisation. The general picture portrayed by the historiography of nineteenth-century Brazil is still today inclined to overlook the meaningful place that U.S. society had from as early as the 1860s in the Brazilian imagination regarding the concept of a modern society. This thesis shows how the images of the United States were a pivotal source of political and cultural inspiration for the political and intellectual elites of the second half of the nineteenth century concerned with the modernisation of Brazil. Drawing primarily on parliamentary debates, newspaper articles, diplomatic correspondence, books, student journals and textual and pictorial advertisements in newspapers, this dissertation analyses four different dimensions of the Brazilian representations of the United States. They are: the abolition of slavery, political and civil freedoms, democratic access to scientific and applied education, and democratic access to goods of consumption. These four themes together reveal the centrality of the relationship between the idea of modern civilisation and the United States in the imagination of the Brazilian liberal elites. The chronological framework of this research covers the period between the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) and the Spanish- American War (1898). These were crucial decades in the development of U.S. power and a period when images of the United States began to circulate far more widely than hitherto in Brazil. Even though this study shows that positive and negative representations of the U.S. society coexisted, clashed and changed in the courte durée, the general tendency, however, was an overall shift from negative to positive images of the United States. ‘Americanisation’ is one of the theoretical concepts around which this study is framed. However, this thesis adds complexity to this term by showing that Brazilians themselves were active agents in the process of disseminating the (North-)‘American’ model of society in Brazil.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Brazilian images of the United States, 1861-1898: a working version of modernity?
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History

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