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The Masters and the Slaves (Casa-Grande and Senzala) a Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization: Paperback – Jan 1 1900


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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
One of the Three "Classical" perspectives on Brazil Feb. 13 2002
By "cued" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Freyre's Masters and Slaves forms what is considered by many to be a trilogy of books published in the 1930's that revolutionized Brazilian Studies. The other are two books,[by other authors]... Freyre, the most popular and readable of the three, was a Pernambucano (from the sugar cane regions around Recife) and often blurs the distinction between Brazil as a whole and sugar-cane regions of Brazil. His methodology reflects his education, a US oriented 1930's anthropological perspective (he was a student of Franz Boas). This book in particular treats a very specific historical event: the development of a sugar-based agricultural economy in late 1500s, early 1600s in northeastern coastal Brazil. The book makes the generalization that Brazilian culture as a whole evolved from this cultural base, and places little importance on the parallel development of cattle-based cultures in the northeastern interior or the primitive jungle trading activities of Sao Paulo's city fathers (Raposo Tavares, etc).
Because of its focus on a very provincial-specific economy and culture, I would criticize Freyre for offering a very incomplete study of "Brazilian Civilization" in this book. In his defense, however, this book is too often read as a stand-alone study, when in fact Freyre intended for it to form a trilogy with another two books...The former traces how the rural sugar-based culture of early northeastern Brazil affected and was affected by the emergence of cities and urban life-patterns in places like Recife, Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro in the mid 1600s through the end of the 18th century. The latter book follows the study further, through the independence period and especially the twilight of the Empire, establishment of the Republic in the 188o's. If you read one, I recommend all three books to appreciate Freyre's thesis, that the original sugar-culture that developed and was discussed in Masters and Slaves had a lasting impact on Brazil's evolution as a whole, even in areas and regions where sugar cane and slavery were never established bases for economic development. This vision of Brazil remains incomplete without an understanding of Sao Paulo and the south, a region which today is arguably the strongest center of influence in the country. To complete that, I would recommend some books by [other authors]
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
About writing style May 20 2001
By José Maria Neto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gilberto Freyre is now considered one of the grestest thinkers of Brazil, alongside Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda. As mrs. Laidman recognized, we can't look for his work as if it's been written yesterday: when many people all over Americas (both North and South) believed that "whitening population" was the solution to all problems; when fascists and nazis took power in Europe, Freyre looked at mixture of races and saw it as a positive feature, something that could lead our people to a better place, God knows where, but better. During the 60's and 70's his ideas were fiercely attacked by new generations of sociologists and historians - and that's good, that's how science advances. But, they attacked him, mostly, for his political positions. Today, people rediscovered Freyre, understood him on his own time. Yes, his presumptions about sex addicted people, indian women burning in desire and so on are considered today too much. But the essence, the mix of races and cultures as a positive fact, the understanding of Portuguese government as something absent and masters of plantions, on the absence of State, rulling their slaves and families and regions, masters as the actual power in colonial Brazil, is considered a remarkable way to understand our country and it's people. By the way, many people in Black Movement also recognizes Freyre and his role in understand Brazil's black influences. Despite his presumptions, Freyre is more up to date than ever.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A product from this society Jan. 3 2000
By José Maria Neto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When Gilberto Freyre first launched this essay, 1933, it revolutioned the way brazilians thought about themselves. Until then, we understood us as a "white nation", with some black people who, eventually, would disappear. Black people's only importance were as slaves, planting sugar cane or coffee. Freyre brings to History black people's contributions: culturally, genetically. Most of all, underlines that brazilians are a mix of cultures and races, not a pure race, and it is a positive feature for as all.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
More drummers please! May 2 2000
By Roberta Laidman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Freyre did extensive research for "The Masters and the Slaves, A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization", an informative and stimulating social history of Brazil. However, not all of what is written should be taken at face value.
The book was written more than 50 years ago and Freyre, like any other historian or ethnologist, unavoidably comes to the table with cultural and personal biases transparent to himself.
Freyre makes a number of presumptions, sometimes contradictory, sometimes a bit absurd from today's perspective, about the sexual attributes, habits and dispositions of the Amerindians, peoples of African descent and the Portuguese. Portuguese men are categorized as oversexed (over and over again), Amerindian women as ever willing sexual partners while the Africans are determined to be less sexual because they use music and dancing to stimulate their sexual urges (!). Then, just to confuse the reader, Freyre talks about Africans escaping to the Brazilian bush and `raping' the (ever willing?) Amerindian woman. Did these alleged rapists bring their drummers with them? All three groups can step forward and take offense at Freyre's presumptions.
In the year 2000 we would interpret Freyre's presumptions as racist, but we have the benefit of hindsight and he didn't. In his time he would have been considered forward looking and anything but a racist. The reader needs to take note of the author's presumptions, biases and preoccupations and then continue reading. All things considered, this is a remarkable and valuable piece of scholarship.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Masters and the Slaves Jan. 24 2008
By cortezhill - Published on Amazon.com
This is the Second English-Language Edition, revised and with an extended new Preface, of Gilberto Freyre's masterwork, Casa-Grande & Senzala.

With astonishing erudition, a commanding sense of style, and a gift for gripping narrative, Senhor Freyre has applied all the modern techniques of social study to the remarkably successful melting-pot culture of "medieval" Brazil. He deals with race, climate, agronomy, sexual habits, architecture, the arts, religion, sorcery, literature, history, food, economics, politics, and the thousand other forces that made the Brazil of today what it is. In doing so, he throws blinding light into the color problem, the meanings of "civiliation" and "culture," the political and economic situation in Latin America, the significance of ethnolocical and anthropological judgments, etc. From beginning to end The Masters and the Slaves (the Portuguese title literally means Big House and Slave Quarters) is absorbing, colorful, and dense with material. It has the qualities of great literature, not least in that it suggests far more than it states, sends readers' minds on treks and side-trips of their own.
--- excerpt from book's dustjacket

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