Syllabus for a “Modern Brazilian History” class

I’ve been working to revise my modern Brazilian history syllabus, which I’m attaching here. If you are interested in Brazil, you might also want to look at my book on military terror in that country:


                                                       Modern Brazilian History

                                                           HST 463U/INTL 463U

                                                               MWF, 12:45-1:50

                                                        Neuberger Hall, Rm. 222

Professor Smallman

Rm. 345, East Hall

Phone: 725-9978


Office hours: Friday, 10:00-noon

This course will explore such topics as slavery, abolition, messianism, banditry, the Amazon, race, military rule and democratization. Particular emphasis will be given to the differing visions the elites and the masses held of their nation, and how this tension has shaped Brazilian society.  By the end of the course students will have a better understanding of a Latin American culture, and how characteristics such as race and power are defined by history.

Learning Outcomes: The students in this class will:

1.     Understand the historical context that shapes contemporary Brazilian society.

2.     Demonstrate their knowledge of major political trends and issues within Brazil today.

3.     Discuss the differences between the ideas of race in Brazil and other nations, particularly the United States.

4.     Apply their knowledge of history, politics and identity to assess five major books on Brazil.

Web-infused Course: This is a web-infused course, which means that content is also available on-line, although the class still meets the normal amount each week. To access D2L, go to the To login, enter your odin ID and your odin password. If you do not have an odin account, or are not sure what your odin ID or password is, go to or contact the Information Technology Help Desk at or 725-HELP. For D2L help in person, please go to the 2nd floor computer lab in the Broadway building. All assignments will be submitted in the Dropbox feature of D2L. Please e-mail the faculty member directly rather than through D2L.



All books are available in paperback at the P.S.U. bookstore.

Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. Pages 17-21, 81-126, 153-280.

Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark.

Seth Garfield, In Search of the Amazon.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, The Accidental President

Enrique Desmond Arias, Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro

These books are all on reserve at the PSU library.



Map Quiz: 10%. Friday, January 20th.

Students will identify ten of twenty-nine possible items on a map, which they will receive the first day of class.

Midterm Exam: 25%. Friday, February 10th.

Students will answer one of two possible essay questions, which will draw on both the lectures and assigned readings.

Reflection Paper: 40%. Due the last day of class, Friday, March 17th.

Students will write a eight to twelve page paper that reflects on the assigned reading for the course, within the context of the lectures. The paper will be double spaced, with one-inch margins, no font-size larger than thirteen, and no spaces between paragraphs.  Each paper must have a title page, with the student’s name, the professor’s name, the title of the assignment, and the date. The assignment itself will compare and contrast the different books assigned in the class. What was the author trying to do, and how well did they do it?  What interesting questions were raised in the work, and what were its problems? How does each book tie to major issues in the course? This paper will be uploaded into D2L on the last day of class.

Participation: 25%

Class discussion is an integral part of the course.  Accordingly, students are expected to have good attendance, to come to class having done the reading, and to participate in class discussions. Students will receive a mid-term participation grade when their mid-term exam is returned.

Please note that there is no final exam in this course.

Late policy: late assignments will be penalized (except in case of verifiable illness or family emergency) three percent a day for lateness –including weekends– up to thirty percent of the final grade.


Plagiarism is the submission of another’s work as your own.  It is also a serious academic crime. Any instance of plagiarism will result in an automatic “O” for that assignment.

Disability: Any student who has a disability that may require some special arrangements in order to fulfill the course requirements should contact the Disability Resource Center at the start of the course to make appropriate arrangements. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, and their phone number is (503) 725-XXXX.

Topics: True academic inquiry must follow its own course. For this reason, there may be changes and additions to the schedule that follows.

Week One: January 9-13th.

The Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil.

Independence and Empire.

Week Two: January 18-20th.

Slavery and Rebellion

Abolition and Abdication.

Friday we will discuss selections from Claude Levi-Strauss.

Map Quiz on Friday, January 20th.

Week Three: January 23-27th.

Banditry and Social Protest

Millenarian movements

Week Four: January 30-February 3rd.

The Old Republic to Military Rule

Friday we will discuss Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark.

Week Five: February 6-10th.

Dreams of the Future: Brasília

Military Terror and Society: Authoritarian Brazil, 1964-1985.

Friday: Midterm Exam.

Week Six: February 13-17th.

Twentieth Century Amazonian history

Friday we will discuss Garfield’s, In Search of the Amazon.

Week Seven: February 20-24th.

Race and Identity


Television and Entertainment in Brazil

Week Eight: February 27-March 3rd.

Brazilian politics and society since the end of military rule

Friday we will discuss Fernando Henrique Cardoso, The Accidental President.

Week Nine: March 6-10th.

U.S.-Brazilian relations

Brazil on the International Stage

Week Ten: March 13-17th

Monday we will discuss Arias, Drug and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro

HIV and Drug Use

Traveling in Brazil.

The reflection paper is due the last day of class.

There is no final exam in this course.

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