Origins of Economic Backwardness in Brazil


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Huntington Library


Advances in human material well being depend on systematic increases in economic efficiency over the historical long run. Brazil, which today is the fifth largest country in population, failed to enjoy any appreciable material advance for nearly a century before 1900. My project draws on archival field research I have conducted since 1996 to examine why Brazil failed to forge ahead. It specifies major obstacles to nineteenth-century economic growth--colonial mercantilism, neocolonial dependency, slavery, economic geography, and politicized financial repression, and examines their origins, the degree to which they weighed on material progress, and the history of how several of the most significant of them were ultimately remedied near the end of the century.