Atlantic History Portugal and Brazil in the Age of Revolutions
João Paulo Pimenta, Nuno Gonçalo Monteiro
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0365


Since the sixteenth century, Portugal and Brazil had been part of a single political unit—organized around the monarchy and the figure of the king and his European court. This was a Lisbon-based “pluricontinental monarchy” that spread across the globe but had in the Atlantic a key political, social, and economic arena. The Atlantic connected Portugal to the colonial regions of Brazil and the commercial factories of Africa, the latter feeding the transatlantic slave trade to America. In the second half of the eighteenth century, metropolitan imperial policies continued and deepened previous efforts to strengthen this unit, with various political, economic, administrative, and military reforms, some of which were related to indigenous groups in Brazil. In the early nineteenth century the French invasion of Portugal in the context of the Napoleonic Wars led to dramatic changes in this configuration, starting with the transfer of the monarchy from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil still was not a single unit, but the unpredictable consequences of that political crisis created new conflicts, tensions, and alternative projects involving Portugal and Brazil that led to the Portuguese liberal revolution of 1820 and Brazilian independence in 1822. In the absence of the colonial system, liberalism and royalism intermittently clashed in Portugal until the liberal victory of 1834. This conflictive, sinuous, and indeterminate process makes the history of Portugal and Brazil part of the so-called “Age of Revolutions,” with important consequences for both countries and for their relations with the rest of the world across the nineteenth century. But for a few exceptions, the essential bibliography on Portugal and Brazil in the Age of Revolutions has been written and published in Portuguese. This is in part a consequence of the little scholarly interest that Luso-American affairs have attracted until recently, but also because it is the product of a vibrant, autonomous intellectual and academic environment (that at times also includes its Hispanic counterpart). In any case, Brazilian historiography is much larger and marked by many more debates than its Portuguese counterpart, where discussions took place a few decades ago. The choices presented here reflect the different dimensions of each context. This list outlines the most relevant printed sources and classic works as well as the main current bibliography on each selected theme.

Chroniclers and Historians of the Nineteenth Century

The insertion of Portugal and Brazil in the Era of Revolutions occurred concomitantly to the production of many records which, over time, became precious sources for the study of this history. Among these records are a large number of narratives produced by some of the protagonists, during (Costa 2001; Lisboa 1826–1830) or shortly after (Armitage 1836; Debret 1834–1839) the Age of Revolutions. Historiography (Herculano 1982–1983; Martins 1881; Soriano 1866–1890; Varnhagen 1917) and memory (Bonifácio 2011; Freire de Carvalho 1855) of Brazilian and Portuguese history are probably the main theme here.

  • Armitage, John. The History oh Brazil from the Period of the Arrival of the Braganza Family in 1808, to the Abdication of Dom Pedro the First in 1831. Compiled from state documents and other original sources. Forming a continuation of Southey’s history of that country. By John Armitage, esq . . . . London: Smith, Elder, 1836.

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    Written by an English merchant, this was one of the first interpretations of the history of Portugal and Brazil between 1808 and 1831, offering a model for many Brazilian historians of the nineteenth century.

  • Bonifácio, Maria de Fátima, ed. Memórias do Duque de Palmela. Lisbon, Portugal: Dom Quixote, 2011.

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    Living between the diplomacy of the ancient regime and the politics of liberalism, these are the memories of a central figure in the process.

  • Costa, Hipólito da. Correio Braziliense ou Armazém Literário. 31 vols. São Paulo, Brazil: Imprensa Oficial do Estado, 2001.

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    Monthly published in London between June 1808 and December 1822, this Portuguese-language newspaper offered a wide coverage of world events of the time, with special attention to those related to Portugal and Brazil. It contains document transcriptions, news, statistical data, and comments from its editor.

  • Debret, Jean-Baptiste. Voyage pittoresque et historique au Brésil, our séjour d’un artiste français au Brésil depuis 1816 jusqu’en inclusivement. 3 vols. Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1834–1839.

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    A testimony and visual representation of events, social types, and urban and rural landscapes in Brazil on the eve of independence by the official painter of the court in Brazil. It produced a number of images that have shaped collective memories in and about the country.

  • Freire de Carvalho, José Liberato. Memórias da vida de José Liberato Freire de Carvalho. Lisbon, Portugal: Tip. José Baptista Morando, 1855.

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    The rich memories of a journalist who took part in the whole process of implementation of liberalism in Portugal.

  • Herculano, Alexandre. Opúsculos. Edited by Jorge Custódio and José Manuel Garcia. Vols. 1–2. Lisbon, Portugal: Presença, 1982–1983.

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    The greatest interpretation of the liberal revolution written by a direct participant.

  • Lisboa, José da Silva. Historia dos principais successos politicos do Imperio do Brasil dedicada ao senhor D. Pedro I. Rio de Janeiro: Typographia Nacional, 1826–1830.

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    Written in response to a demand from emperor D. Pedro I, this work was never concluded. Still, this can be considered the starting point of the historiography on the independence of Brazil.

  • Martins, J. P. Oliveira. Portugal Contemporâneo. 2 vols. Lisbon, Portugal: Bertrand, 1881.

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    The most brilliant interpretative chronicle of the liberal triumph in Portugal, written in a 19th-century style but still providing a rich source for historians today.

  • Soriano, Luz. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. 19 vols. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa Nacional, 1866–1890.

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    A detailed 19th-century chronicle that is also a great source of primary documents.

  • Varnhagen, Francisco Adolfo de. História da Independência do Brasil até o reconhecimento pela antiga metrópole, compreendendo separadamente a dos sucessos ocorridos em algumas províncias até esta data. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1917.

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    This detailed, influential, vastly documented, and long-lasting narrative of the independence process was written by perhaps the greatest Brazilian historian of the nineteenth century.

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