Episode 12 – Forging an American Empire

Today we’re going to talk about Pedro I’s successor, his son, Pedro II. He will rule the Empire of Brazil for 58 years, until its demise in 1889—making him one of the longer ruling monarchs in all of history. e will guide Brazil through a series of revolts to prosperity then through a devastating war and beyond. Like many of his peers in this group, he became a monarch young, at age 5.

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Episode 11 – Lava Jato #2


A brief update on the on-going corruption investigations and current political situation in Brazil. Thousands, sometimes millions of people have protested against (in some combination): corruption, the currently-in-power Workers’ Party, President Rousseff, and ex-President Lula.There have been counter-protests, but in general they have been smaller as the Workers’ Party’s support has plummeted as a result of the scandal. Impeachment seems imminent.

Episode 10 – A Trans-Atlantic Game of Thrones (Quick History #6)

In this episode we explore the period from 1808 to 1831: how Brazil fared with the royal family in residence, the oblique path it took to independence, and the turbulent rule of its first emperor, Dom Pedro I.
For all their faults, without the royal family’s presence, Brazil could not have made the first steps toward economic independence so quickly nor likely remained a single country. The other side of this is that their tenure in Brazil made independence a prolonged process instead of a clean break. Although that break would be accomplished with less bloodshed than others in the Americas. At the same time tensions over the form of the government, the role of the emperor, successions issues, and resistance to independence itself would force Brazil’s firt leader to abdicate not one but two thrones.

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Episode 9 – Scandal a go-go (Current Events)


Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A few years ago, Brazil was the darling of the BRICS countries: host of the World Cup and Olympics, 7% annual growth, lifting millions out of poverty…  now, inflation if up, growth is not just down but negative, joblessness is on the rise, the government is barely functioning, and people are questioning whether Brazil can manage the Olympics.

How did it all go so wrong so fast? It’s a complex question with a complex answer, and part of the answer has been brewing for longer than you might think.

Episode 8 – Revolt Interrupted (Quick History #5)

Departure of the Portuguese royal family from the docks of Belém, Portugal.


Wars and revolutions wrack the Americas and Europe. Colonies are becoming nations and monarchies are falling. And it’s all because of the French. (Okay, not all, but a lot of the blame is theirs.) Brazil starts making tentative steps toward independence, but the revolts are interrupted when the royal family enacts plan B.

Sources for this episode:
1808, Laurentino Gomes
Brazil: Five Centuries of Change, Thomas E. Skidmore
Brazil: uma biografia, Lilia Moritz Schwartz
A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire: From Beginnings to 1807, Volmes 1 & 2, A. R. Disney

It’s with a twinge of regret that after this episode we have to set aside A. R. Disney’s excellent two volume history of Portugal and its empire. (Note the “to 1807” part of the title.) It has been a great resource for these first few history episodes!

Episode 7 – Gold in Them Thar Hills (Quick History #4)

The 18th century brings unforeseen prosperity to the Portuguese Empire and Brazil in particular. People, political power, economic power and attitudes would all soon be on the move.

Gold and diamonds spill from the backcountry. Much is smuggled, but much makes into the crown’s coffers. The crown takes barely a look at the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution and conservatively buries its head in precious minerals.

The riches are in the southeast, until this point little more than a hinterland. But they would draw people and slaves not only from Portugal and its empire, but from within Brazil itself. The shift was seismic and Brazil would be forever altered. As if to counter this, Lisbon used the windfall to remain as much the same as it could.

But change is the only constant.

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Episode 6 – The Dutch Strike Back and Brazil Strikes Gold (Quick History #3)

We cover the rest of the 17th century in this episode. The Dutch recover from their initial failures to conquer Portugal’s Atlantic colonies and conquer northern Brazil along with several other colonies, including Angola. The Dutch were pretty decent rulers, but there were too many cultural differences. In the midst of this, Portugal decides to reestablish its crown separate from Spain and must fight for its existence against Spanish, leaving Brazil and the colonies largely on their own in fighting the Dutch. Exciting times!

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Whither episode 6?

Hey everybody, this is just a quick note to explain the delay in episode 6.

As I was editing it, I grew less and less happy with the sound quality. I had just ordered some new equipment – in particular a pop filter. Since I expected it to arrive soon, I decided to wait for it and re-record the episode. However, it is taking rather more time to arrive than expected.

At this point I’m sort of on the fence. I keep thinking the filter et cetera will arrive Real Soon Now. On the other hand, it has been far too long already.

So, if it doesn’t arrive Monday (the 12th) I’ll just finished editing what I have and re-record another time.


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Episode 5 – Crucifixions, Resurrections, and Conspiratorial Teeth-pullers

Three national holidays – Good Friday, Easter and Tiradentes – in one weekend? What craziness is this? Spend a few minutes learning about Easter in Brazil as well as how a martyr for independence earned the nickname Teeth-puller.

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Brazil’s Big Projects: more bust and fizzle than boom and fortune

Last year former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a contract with the New York Times as an op-ed columnist. So, it’s been with no small amount of interest that I’ve watched a steady stream of content critical of Brazil appear in The Times in recent months.

Much of it is fair criticism – Brazil can be fairly criticized for a great may things. Some is, of course, off the mark as well. In the former category is a pair of articles that appeared last week. Continue reading Brazil’s Big Projects: more bust and fizzle than boom and fortune