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date: 08 May 2021

Brazil in the First World Warlocked

  • Stefan RinkeStefan RinkeInstitute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universitat Berlin

Summary

When news broke of the war in Europe, there was talk of a catastrophe that, as a result of the close-knit global entanglements, would embroil the world in an unprecedented crisis. The world dimensions of the events were in evidence to contemporary Latin American observers from early on. Despite the region’s considerable distance from the battlefields, the First World War was felt more than any other previous event outside Latin America in Brazil, and it was clear that its repercussions would affect the lives of average citizens. The relative isolation from which people in the region had witnessed other conflicts in Europe prior to 1914 came to an end. Many Brazilians took an active interest in the war. They participated in the debates about the end of Western hegemony and the downfall of Europe, which took place around the world and would become emblematic of the 20th century. The perception of the war followed a global logic, as Brazil was entangled in the events because of the new type of economic and propaganda war. Modern historiography largely ignored the impact of the war in Brazil, although a number of treatises appeared immediately after the conflict. It was not until the advent of dependence theory that interest was rekindled in the significance of the First World War. The picture changed in 2014 when several important studies integrated new perspectives of cultural and global history. While the First World War may have long been a marginal concern of Brazilian historiography, it was even more common to find “general” histories of the conflagration devoid of any perspective other than the European and that of the United States. But in the total wars of the 20th century, even a neutral country could not remain passive. As a result of its natural resources and strategic position, Brazil was to become an actor in this conflagration.

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