Sovereignty and Society in Colonial Brazil: The High Court of Bahia and its Judges, 1609-1751

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Author: Schwartz, Stuart B from the library of professor Peter Blakewell

Year: 1973

Publisher: University of California Press

Place: Berkeley and London


xxvii+438 pages with plates, figures, maps, tables, appendices, glossary, bibliography and index. Royal octavo (9 1/4 x 6 1/4) issued in green cloth with gilt lettering to spine. From the library of professor Peter Blakewell. First edition.

While the Spanish enterprise in America is relatively well-known to the English-reading public, the Portuguese tropical empire in Brazil has remained until recently an unknown world. In Sovereignty and Society, Professor Schwartz contributes to our understanding of the Brazilian past by providing for the first time a detailed study of the judicial bureaucracy that formed the framework of the colonial regime. This work describes the process by which royal administrators maintained control and the techniques used by the Whole Brazilian elite to guard its interest. At the Core of the book is the previously unstudied relação or High Court of Bahia, the supreme tribunal in colonial Brazil and an institution with broad administrative and political powers. Presided over by the governor-general or viceroy, the High Court stood at the apex of the colonial administrative structure and symbolized royal sovereignty. The author examines the origins, functions, conflicts, and history of the relação, relying on little-used manuscript sources in over twenty-five archives and libraries in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and England as well as the whole range of secondary literature. Of particular interest is the departure from traditional administrative history by emphasis on the men rather than the offices of the Portuguese imperial bureaucracy. The bureaucrat-judges of the High Court are at the center of the study, and by careful analysis of the personal and professional careers of these magistrates, the author demonstrates the utility of a human relations approach to the study of historical polities. He shows how the goals of the crown, the aspirations of the magistrates, and the interests of the Brazilian sugar planter elite were expressed and reconciled and how royal officials and the planters became linked by kinship and interest in a union of wealth and power. Finally, he argues that the penetration of such primary relations in the formal structure of a bureaucratic empire help to explain the resiliency. The approach and findings of this book will interest not only those seeking a deeper understanding of the Brazilian past, but also historians, sociologists and political scientists concerned with colonial regimes and bureaucratic policies in general.

Professor Peter Bakewell is professor of History at SMU. He specializes in colonial Latin America and has written Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico (1973). After publishing this work, Bakewell spent nearly two years in Bolivia, doing research in archives in Potosi and Sucre on the larger and more famous Spanish silver mines in the region that later became Bolivia. Miners of the Red Mountain and Silver and Entrepreneurship in Seventeenth-Century Potosi tell how this region came to yield about half of the vast amount of silver flowing out across the world from the Spanish American colonies between 1550 and 1650. Bakewell’s current project looks at the administration of Viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo in Peru from 1569 to 1581. Toledo was one of the most active administrators of any part of the Spanish American empire at any time in its three-hundred year span. He was given the task of organizing Peru, an area that then embraced much of the western half of South America, for the benefit of Spain.


Some shelf wear. Peter Bakewell's signature on front end paper and his pencil marginalia through out. Jacket price clipped else a very good copy in a near fine jacket.

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