The Family in Bahia, Brazil, 1870-1945
This history of the Brazilian family in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries studies the relationship between the informal institution of the family and such formal social institutions as medicine, the law, organized politics, and the church. The author focuses primarily on middle- and upper-class families (for whom adequate documentation is available) and shows the change from a patriarchal model of the family to one that was more conjugal and nuclear, a change necessitated by an insecure and urbanizing economy. Nevertheless, Bahian families maintained many traditional values and traditional kin networks. The author examines the daily life and dynamics of households, including what is known about lower-class families, where consensual arrangements were the norm. He looks at the history of the medical profession, the legal profession, and the Catholic church, and he describes the attempts of each group to mobilize the family for its own political, social and cultural ends. The author argues that family ideology - and families themselves - resisted and transformed the efforts of these institutions to impose their will.
The book also deals with the changes and continuities in Bahian attitudes and beliefs about courtship, honor, and the place of women, as well as the ways in which Bahians projected a familial ethic onto social relations outside the home. Within families, conduct was governed by a belief in the traditional rituals of 'life in the family circle': weekly family dinners at the table of an older relative, residence in family compounds around an old mansion (or in several apartments of a single building), nepotism in public bureaucracies, and the management of both small and large businesses by families and their relatives. Although these patterns of family life were transformed over time, this study demonstrates that such traditions did survive, even thrive, well into the twentieth century.<
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'An excellent study of the basic institution in Brazilian society, set in one of the country's major regions. The breadth of the treatment is remarkable, and the author moves with authority among regional, national, and international levels of this large topic. The work is unique in the thoroughness with which the author examines the family of the elites in modern Brazilian history. The differences in the positions of men and women are a central set of themes, and in treating the family, the author also contributes signally to women's history in Brazil and Latin America at large.'Joseph L. Love, University of Illinois