Brazil is the largest country in South America; in fact, it takes up half the continent of South America, and is the fifth-largest country in the world both in size and population. Its official language is Portuguese.
The name Brazil came from a tree, the brazilwood or pau brasil (also called pernambuco), which was once plentiful in Brazil but is now threatened with extinction.
People have been living in Brazil for more than 11,000 years. After the discovery of the New World by European explorers, Portugal laid claim to Brazil. The Dutch took over parts of Brazil in the 17th century, but they were eventually driven out by Brazilians.
After the French under Napoleon I invaded Portugal in 1807, the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil. In March 1808 they reached the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where they remained for more than a decade. Even after the defeat of Napoleon, Portuguese king John VI chose to keep the Portuguese government and royal court in Brazil.
When King John finally returned to Portugal in 1821, he left his son Dom Pedro behind to serve as Brazil's regent. In September of the following year, Pedro declared Brazil's independence from Portugal. He became its first emperor, Pedro I.
In 1831, political problems caused the emperor to abdicate in favor of his son, Pedro II, who was then five years old. (Pedro I returned to Portugal to fight successfully for his daughter Maria II's right to the throne. He died in Portugal in 1834.) Brazil's government was in the hands of regents until 1840, when the parliament decided that Pedro II, now age 14, was old enough to rule.
Despite a long and prosperous reign, Pedro II was deposed in 1889, in part because his daughter and designated heir, Princess Imperial Isabel, had abolished slavery while serving as Brazil's regent the previous year. The royal family went into exile in Europe. Brazil's monarchy was abolished and never restored. Today Brazil is a republic.
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A Concise History of Brazil by Boris Fausto. Covers almost 500 years of Brazilian history, from the arrival of the Portuguese to recent years.
Brazil: The Once and Future Country by Marshall C. Eakin. Chronicles Brazil's history, religion, culture, and politics from the 16th century to the present day.
Brazil: Empire and Republic, 1822-1930 edited by Leslie Bethell. The history of Brazil from independence in 1822 to the revolution of 1930.
The Party of Order: The Conservatives, the State, and Slavery in the Brazilian Monarchy, 1831-1871 by Jeffrey D. Needell. Revises notions of the nature of the Brazilian state, the role of the monarch, and elite politics of the era.
Colombia's Military and Brazil's Monarchy: Undermining the Republican Foundations of South American Independence by Thomas Millington. Argues that the development of republican ideas and institutions was hampered by the continuation of the monarchy in Brazil after her independence from Portugal in the 1820s.
The Rough Guide to Brazil by David Cleary. An 800-page travel guide. Includes information on Brazil's history.
Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues by Kenneth R. Maxwell. A collection of writings on Portugal's empire. Major themes include the colonization of the Americas and the rise of Brazil.
1808: The Flight of the Emperor by Laurentino Gomes. When Napoleon's forces invaded Portugal, Prince Regent João fled to Brazil with his entire family and most of the nobility. There he constructed roads, founded schools, created factories, and raised Brazil to kingdom status in 1815. After Napoleon's fall, João sailed back to Portugal in tears, but because of him Brazil remained whole and powerful. This is the first book in a trilogy about Portugal and Brazil; the other two books are 1822 (available in Portuguese) and 1889 (not yet published).
Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821 by Kirsten Schultz. Tells the story of how the Portuguese court was transplanted to Brazil, making Rio de Janeiro a new seat of European imperial power.
Dom Pedro by Neill MacAulay. The struggle for liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798-1834.
Every Inch a King by Sergio Correa Da Costa. A biography of Dom Pedro I, first Emperor of Brazil.
Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825-1891 by Roderick J. Barman. The first full-length biography of Pedro II in 60 years, and the first to make close use of Pedro II's diaries and family papers.
The Emperor's Beard: Dom Pedro II and His Tropical Monarchy in Brazil by Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, translated by John Gledson. Explores the court of Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II and shows how it continues to affect Brazil today.
The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories by Emilia Viotti Da Costa. Explores the social, political, economic, and intellectual currents that shaped 19th century Brazil.
Princess Isabel of Brazil: Gender and Power in the Nineteenth Century by Roderick J. Barman. Biography of Pedro II's daughter, who served as regent three times and emancipated Brazil's slaves.
Isabel Orleans-Bragança: The Brazilian Princess Who Freed the Slaves by James McMurtry Longo. Biography of one of the most little-known heroines in history.
Dona Leopoldina: The Habsburg Empress of Brazil by Gloria Kaiser, translated by Lowell A. Bangerter. A novel about the Habsburg consort of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. The author is Austrian and the book is translated from German.
Pedro II of Brazil: Son of the Habsburg Empress by Gloria Kaiser, translated by Lowell A. Bangerter. A novel about Brazil's last emperor.