IV From the synthetic references or simple mentions made above about books and essays included in collective editions, articles published in academic reviews or in periodicals with a wide circulation, as well as lectures and papers presented at conferences that are still awaiting publication, there can be no doubt that we are now faced with a rich source of information and additional knowledge about the period of the transfer of the Portuguese court to Brazil and its subsequent stay there.
And, there are many other aspects that embody the difference between the colony that was the jewel in the crown and the colony that became the capital of the empire. The various institutions created in Brazil in —Ministries, the Council of State, the Military Council and the Council of Justice, Law Courts, the Intendancy of the Police, the Board of Trade, the Royal Printing Press, the Bank of Brazil, the Botanical Garden, the Academy of Midshipmen, the Medical and Surgical School, amongst others—are better known today and have been researched in an innovative fashion, associating the work of investigating the archives with the hermeneutic questioning about their place and function in the new legal and political order of the Portuguese-Brazilian empire.
And the minutiae of the micro-analyses about individual political actors or economic agents serve as a complement to the essays providing an overall interpretation of the full extent of the changes brought about by the transfer of the court to Brazil. Since , Portugal had been attempting and successfully managing to follow a policy of neutrality which, after October , ceased to be possible.
In seeking to remain on good terms with each of the two rivals, Portugal ended up finding itself in the strange situation of declaring war against them both.
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Which was clearly an exercise in neutrality that presaged the worst possible fate for its territory. The reduced dimension of its economic or military power at a European scale did not allow it to enjoy any special prerogatives as an arbiter. However, the grandeur of its overseas empire exacerbated its inevitable fate of becoming a tempting target for European strategic ambitions and rivalries that it could definitively avoid no longer. If the territory had to be defended, the crown and the headquarters of the empire needed to be transferred to the place where it was most important to do precisely this: Brazil.
Empire Adrift: The Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821
In short, the relevant question of interpretation consists of understanding the transfer of the court from the point of view of the Portuguese positioning on the European chessboard on which was played out the destiny of the countries that refused to accept the Continental Blockade decreed by Napoleon. This particular direction taken by research is an irreversible fact and has been pursued, above all, by Portuguese historiography on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The second line of force that can be noted in more recent studies about the continued presence of the Portuguese court in Brazil relates to the interpretation of the importance of that presence for the construction of Brazilian national unity and political independence. This approach gives greater importance to the later confirmation of incompetence and the incapacity to go beyond idle rhetoric and implement an effective reform of the political, institutional and economic system in Brazil.
It explains the reasons for the failure of the mere replication of the system existing in the continental metropolis, whose transfer was motivated by the invasion and consequent break-up of the territory. Or, in other words, it observes events and considers the reasons that show that it was impossible to translate the imperial project into concrete policies and actions for constructing a system suited to the new circumstances, namely those resulting from an economic regime founded under the aegis of liberal principles.
But it is also this type of analysis that favors a critical view of the luxuries and extravagances of a royal house that essentially brought benefits to Rio de Janeiro, thus making it possible for the city to impose its central power over the other captainships of Brazil, which remained peripheral and subject to fiscal exploitation. Now, it is this skeptical and critical view of the new administration of the Portuguese-Brazilian empire that has been subjected to examination and discussion, necessarily introducing the problem of discovering to what extent the arrival of the court in Rio de Janeiro was an important step towards avoiding a fragmentation similar to the one that occurred in Spanish America and consequently creating the conditions for unifying the immense territory of Brazil.
The debate is far from having reached the point where we might consider it to be definitively closed. But there is no doubt that the commemorations of the bicentenary created an opportunity for going deeper into this and other subjects that are decisive for our understanding the significance of the transfer of the Portuguese court to Brazil and its subsequent presence there. Now that the dust has settled and the festivities are over, it is time to pause for a while and digest and rethink the huge volume of activities that I have tried to list here.
Carvalho, , who mentions other events promoted by the various Brazilian Historical Institutes. No individual identification is made of the articles published in the special issues of the reviews mentioned above. Arruda, J. Jobson de Andrade, A Abertura dos Portos Brasileiros, Athayde, Sylvia Menezes org.