History and Latin America

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Dutra's World: Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro

Zephyr Frank

The relation of slavery to Brazil's economic and social history has long fascinated researchers. Zephyr Frank focuses on nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, where almost half of the city's residents labored as slaves of diverse owners in a complex urban setting. Slavery persisted in the Brazilian city, in part, because it was entrenched among upwardly mobile entrepreneurs who hired their slaves out for wages, employed them in family businesses, and bought and sold them for profit. Changes in the institution of slavery and the economy of the city gradually limited access to slaves, constricting avenues of social mobility for slaveholders and transforming the lives of the slaves themselves.
Frank uses the experiences of one person, Antonio José Dutra, as an example of a middling urban slaveholder. Dutra, a former slave himself, owned thirteen slaves whom he employed in his barbering business and musical band. Dutra's story is part of the larger picture Frank paints of those who owned slaves, how they fit into the social and economic development of Brazil, and what slaves and their owners did as slavery rose and then gradually declined in Rio de Janeiro.
Frank traces social mobility, race, class, and slaveholding patterns, basing his analysis on inheritance records. Rich in detail, these records reveal layers of historical meaning regarding the accumulation of wealth, social mobility, family ties, and the social and cultural practices surrounding death.


Zephyr L. Frank is assistant professor of history at Stanford University.

Lyman L. Johnson is professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is also the general editor for UNM Press's Dialogos series.


"This is an interesting and valuable study of a more or less explored aspect of the economic, as well as social, history of Brazil in the 19th century. One has to admire the amount of work involved in locating and studying thousands of documents involved. Hilghly recommended."


Choice Magazine

"A superb quantitative analysis of wealthholders to an unforgetable evocation of the remarkable family established by the former slave and barber Antonio José Dutra."


American Historical Review

" Dutra's World is a very clear, concise, and nuanced analysis of slavery, social structure, econimic trends, and instititutions in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro."



6 x 9 in. 248 pages 18 halftones, 1 maps, 7 charts, 15 tables