When, in 1876, a young man by the name of Capistrano de Abreu was making his way from the northern province of Ceará (by way of Pernambuco) to Rio de Janeiro, Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen História geral do Brasil had been published in its entirety. This important work brought together an entire generation of research that had begun with the founding of the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro (Brazilian Institute of History and Geography) in 1837. One of Abreu's first undertakings as a journalist in the imperial capital was a series of articles that definitively situate and evaluate Varnhageds work as the canonical and factual foundation of Brazilian history. This starting point is of extreme importance for the present endeavor--an attempt to evaluate Abreu's contribution to Brazilian historiography and to evaluate Chapters of Brazil's Colonial History in Abreu's lifelong production.
Indeed, beginning in 1876 and continuing until Abreu's death in 1927, this great historian's activity was always split simultaneously in three directions: historiographical criticism aimed at evaluating and integrating studies on Brazil; wide, persistent documentary research that yielded important discoveries as well as critical editions of basic texts; and historical work itself--be it in monographs, or be it in synthetic works. Studies on Varnhagen, Eduardo Prado, and Alfredo de Carvalho stand out among the works in the first vein, which were gathered and published ( 1931) in the three volumes of Ensaios e estudos (Essays and Studies). In the research