Capistrano De Abreu and
the History of Brazil
The history [historiography] of Brazil gives the impression of a house built on sand. If anyone leans on a wall, no matter bow sturdy it seems, it crashes down in bits.
A história do Brasil dá a idéia de uma casa edificada na areia. É uma pessoa encostar-se numaparede, Por mais reforçada que pareça, e lá vem abaixo toda a grampiola
-- C. DE A. TO J. L. DE AZEVEDO
17 APRIL 1920
CCA, 1, 161
Brazilians, like other Latin Americans in the nineteenth century, sought, in the writing of their national history the foundations of, their existence as a nation and the patterns of social, cultural, and economic life that had given their country its distinctive character. History would explain the past, legitimate the present, and plot the future. History's role in nation-building was serious business and in 1838 under the auspices of Brazil's young monarch Dom Pedro II, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and History (Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro) was established in Rio de Janeiro, the first such institution in the Americas. The study of history was not yet professionalized as an academic discipline and was written by amateurs, educated men (almost exclusively) who wrote history as a pastime or avocation. They assumed the task or,