Independence of Brazil: the story that did not end

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, Labyrinth for Public Place, 1969


Commentary on the recently released book, organized by Antonio Carlos Mazzeo and Luiz Bernardo Pericás

In 2022 Brazil celebrates and remembers three great events, the centenary of the week of modern art and the founding of the Brazilian Communist Party and the bicentennial of Independence. It is in the context of the latter that the book Independence of Brazil: the story that did not end, organized by Antonio Carlos Mazzeo and Luiz Bernardo Pericás. The work, over twelve articles, intends to bring to the reading public the accumulation of reflections carried out so far about the process of colonization and Independence of Brazil.

As the organizers themselves state in the presentation of the book, to a greater or lesser extent the works presented seek to bring such reflections based on the work of authors such as Raymundo Faoro, Caio Prado Júnior, Fernando A. Novais, Carlos Guilherme Mota, Florestan Fernandes, Maria Odila da Silva Dias, Emília Viotti da Costa, Paula Beiguelman and Nelson Werneck Sodré. According to Antonio Carlos Mazzeo and Luiz Bernardo Pericás, although “we always start from previous studies, even though we can admit and insert in our considerations new aspects and elements that aim to broaden the historical-critical approach of the theme in question” it is fundamental to return to these classics interpretations.

Starting from the premise that the process that culminated in Independence results from a much more complex scenario than the one presented, either by those who held the nation's dominance over time, or by authors linked to a more critical historiography that with good reason they sought to demystify the process, but according to historian Rodrigo Ricupero, by adopting the perspective of an Independence resulting only from “an arrangement between D. Pedro and his father D. João VI, with the English seal. Independence would end up being perceived as the result of a march without heroes, without struggles and without popular participation”.

However, far from such interpretations, we can argue that this process was much more complex, marked by the decay of the Old Regime on the European continent and the crisis of the old colonial system on the other side of the Atlantic, constituting, again with the word Bernardo Ricupero, “a result direct from the Liberal Revolution of Porto in 1820, the final stage of the “Age of Revolutions”, which by crossing the ocean put absolutism in check, forcing the return of D. João VI”.

At a time when the bicentennial anniversary is being captured by the neo-fascist government installed in Planalto, through the rescue of a shallow nationalist discourse, which seeks to erase any contradiction in the construction of the idea of ​​nation; either because of the coup-like outbursts promised for September 7th or even because of the macabre “tour” of the heart of D. Pedro I across the country, the publication we are commenting on for now appears like a sliver of light in the middle of the sky.

According to the organizers of the work, “issues such as the “continuity” of different aspects of colonial dynamics in nineteenth-century Brazil, the character of the “rupture” with the former metropolis, the discussion on the idea of ​​“revolution” and “counterrevolution” in the process of political emancipation, the different facets and variables of internal economic development and the continuous external “dependence”, are still current and are still the target of disputes and controversies”. Recognizing that there is no possibility of a deep historical reflection without the dialogue between the different historiographical aspects, researchers from “the most diverse angles of the history of Independence” were invited, creating a fruitful dialogue between Social, Political, Economic and Atlantic History, contributing thus, “for the deepening of reflections on this more than controversial topic”.

The book opens with an instigating essay by the eminent historian Fernando A. Novais; Based on the classic essay “As Dimensions of Independence”, originally published in the XNUMXth anniversary collection organized by Carlos Guilherme Mota, 1822: dimensions and in the article “Passagens Para o Novo Mundo”, still seen in the 1980s in the New Cebrap Studies. Novais brings us the dimensions and passages of the process that would culminate in Independence, showing the reader how much his concept of the crisis of the colonial system remains current, despite the constant attempt at refutation, coming mainly from historians who even adopt a postmodern approach to discuss the period and justify such an interpretation.

The historian, sociologist and one of the organizers of the volume, Antonio Carlos Mazzeo, discusses, based on the “founding elements of the social morphology resulting from the period of colonization”, the construction process of bourgeois autocracy in Brazil, a theme that has already been the subject of of study of the researcher in the fundamental State and bourgeoisie in Brazil: origins of bourgeois autocracy. In the essay “Crisis of colonialism and Independence of Brazil”, the historian Osvaldo Coggiola, starting from the Braudelian concept of long duration, seeks to discuss the process of political emancipation, highlighting the economic and social variables; A similar perspective is brought by Luiz Bernardo Pericás, who is also the organizer of the collection, through the essay “Independence of Brazil: notes”.

Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna, depart from the economic discussion to, in the thought-provoking essay “The Brazilian economy in the beginning of the 1822th century”, show the impact of the economy on the process that would lead to the events that occurred in XNUMX. Addressing a specific case of the period, Professor Vera Lucia Amaral Ferlini, in partnership with fellow professor Pablo Olller Month Serrath, presents in the essay “The São Paulo sugar economy and the process of Independence”, the role played by sugar producers, as well as the role played by the São Paulo sugar industry in the process.

The political economy of communications and geographic information in the period and the circulation of books and the development of the press will be addressed respectively by Íris Kantor and Pérola Maria Goldfeder and Marisa Midori; the former present the essay, “On the trail of letters and maps: the political economy of postal communications and geographic information in the conjuncture of Independence (1798-1831), while Midori brings the overview, “Independence and books: a history about the future”.

Based on the text “Independence and popular protagonism”, published on the blog Brazil: Bicentennial of Independence, Sérgio Guerra Filho, with the essay, “The popular protagonism in the Bahia War (1822-1823)”, briefly presents the struggles waged in Bahia for Independence, not without first proposing a discussion around the facts that led to such conjuncture. Throughout the text Guerra seeks to identify the forms of action of the popular layers in the period of the conflict.

Returning to the area of ​​Economic History, Guilherme Grandi, Luciana Suarez Galvão and Camilla Scacchetti, seek to discuss the conflicts generated around the collection of taxes, thus, “the tax revenue from the registration of the Rio Negro, the privileged object of study of this chapter, passed to compose the rubrics collected by the São Paulo farm”. Thus, in “Taxing to follow: taxation and conflict in the registration of the Rio Negro since the Independence of Brazil”, the authors show how the province of São Paulo, “used legislative measures in order to maintain under its responsibility the tax collection tax rights”.

The work ends with the profile of two classic intellectuals, fundamental in the interpretation of Brazil, through their approaches and discussions around the Brazilian historical formation. The São Paulo historian Caio Prado Júnior is revisited by Lincoln Secco in the essay “Caio Prado Júnior and Independence”. Finally, starting from the premise that, in order to “understand (In)dependence in Celso Furtado’s work it is only possible when starting from the context in which his works were written, in which national sovereignty always appears relocated”, professors Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa, Roberto Pereira Silva and Alexandre Macchione Saes revisit the legacy of Celso Furtado, from Paraíba, in “Celso Furtado and the (In)dependence of Brazil.

This publication was born as a fundamental bibliography for future studies on the subject, Independence of Brazil: the story that did not end, presents, according to Rodrigo Ricupero, author of the book’s ear, “an important and necessary resumption of studies on the Independence of Brazil, contributing to overcome an excessively simplistic view”. For the veteran historian Carlos Guilherme Mota, the book “reveals how much the historiography of Independence has advanced in the country, with classic authors alongside the new and even very new generations (…) and dense, far from post-modernizing visions. It is noted that, in addition to the tradition under Marxist influence, original strains of thought flourish, robust and airy”.

Amidst the dispute of narratives around the value and legacy of the facts that occurred in 1822, the work organized by Antonio Carlos Mazzeo and Luiz Bernardo Pericás, becomes a cornerstone in the construction of another trench for critical thinking.

* Daniel Costa He holds a degree in history from the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).



Antonio Carlos Mazzeo and Luiz Bernardo Pericás (eds.). Independence of Brazil: the story that did not end. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 304 pages.

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