Business History in Latin America: The Experience of Seven Countries

By Carlos Dávila; Rory Miller et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Business History in Brazil
from the mid-nineteenth century to 1945
Colin M. Lewis

The bibliography on Brazilian business history is limited but growing rapidly.1 In part this is due to the novelty of the subject, which is only now emerging as a distinct discipline or, more accurately, being consolidated as a clearly identifiable branch of economic history in the country. This process is not peculiar to the literature on Brazil. The same phenomenon can be observed elsewhere in the Latin American historiography and in writing about Asia, regions of Africa, and central and southern Europe. As in the case of Colombia, Chile and, possibly, Mexico, the study of Brazilian business history has been enriched by the quality of new research into economic history at national and regional level. Nevertheless, in all of these countries, economic history itself remains a young discipline (or a recently revived subject).


Economic history and business history: schooling the Brazilian
literature

Writing on business history is indebted to various intellectual traditions which may be traced directly to distinct approaches in the general social science literature.2 Analyses of the history of the society and economy of Brazil before the Second World War reflect larger controversies about the nature of contemporary Latin American development which in turn provoked a reappraisal of the recent and the not-so-recent past. Three major schools may be identified. Many texts written during and after the 1950s and 1960s were shaped successively by structuralist and dependency

____________________
1
This chapter has benefited from suggestions made by Sergio de Oliveira Birchal, Carlos Dávila, José Gabriel Porcile Meirelles, and Terry Gourvish, as well as from comments made at seminars at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, the Universidade de São Paulo, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. These contributions are gratefully acknowledged.
2
Terry Gourvish, ‘Business History: in defence of the empirical approach?’, Accounting, Business and Financial History 5 (1995), 3–16; Charles Harvey and Geoffrey Jones, ‘Business History in Britain in the 1990s’, Business History 32:1 (1990), 5–16.

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