The Formation of Souls

Imagery of the Republic in Brazil

José Murilo de Carvalho
Translated by Clifford E. Landers

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

In The Formation of Souls: Imagery of the Republic in Brazil, José Murilo de Carvalho examines the birth of the Brazilian Republic in 1889. Given that the majority of the population of Brazil participated very little in the change from an empire to a republic, what allowed the new government to consolidate its power? As a part of the answer to this question, Carvalho analyzes a collection of republican symbols, images, allegories, and myths of the period as attempts by various republican political elites to shape the collective social imagination. As Carvalho explains, the expansion of popular participation in republican ideals would have been nearly impossible through a purely theoretical, ideological discourse, so it had to be achieved by more universal, accessible means, appealing to collective sentiment through stories and images of heroes and founding fathers, images of women, and national flags and anthems.

In this concise but heavily illustrated study, Carvalho demonstrates how the foundational symbols created for the new republic reflected important ideological battles over the nature of the new Brazilian regime. He evaluates the acceptance or rejection of these symbols by the public, that is, their efficacy or failure in promoting the legitimization of the new political system and redefining the collective identity of Brazilians.

Available for the first time in an English translation, The Formation of Souls: Imagery of the Republic in Brazil will appeal to all students and scholars of history, political science, and Latin American studies who are interested in one of the key moments of Brazilian political history.

José Murilo de Carvalho is professor of history at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He has published twelve books, including Cidadania ano Brasil: O longo caminho (2001), and the biography D. Pedro II: Ser ou não ser (2007).

“This classic study is essential to our understanding of nation-building in Brazil’s post-1889 transition from monarchy to liberal republic. Through an engaging analysis of iconography, Carvalho offers a rich look into the ascendancy of a positivist political culture invested in forging national traditions in the Western mold.” — Jerry Davila, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“This richly illustrated study expertly teases out the didactic symbolism that the founders of the Brazilian Republic used to stimulate patriotism in the early decades of the regime. It shows how political leaders enlisted the arts to create citizens in the face of popular incomprehension, apathy, and disillusion.” — Joseph Love, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


“When Brazil overthrew its monarchy in 1889 and opted for republicanism, there were no clear guidelines on how the new government should operate, nor which symbols should represent the ‘new order.’ In this brilliant essay (originally published in 1990 and offered here in the first English translation), the distinguished Brazilian historian José Murilo de Carvalho dissects this process by focusing on the ‘origin of myth, the hero, the feminine allegory, and the flag.’ . . . Eminently readable in a superb translation by Clifford E. Landers and illustrated with reproductions of paintings, sculptures, flags, and snatches of musical anthems, this short work is required reading for students of Brazil and Latin America.” — Choice