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Elite politics and popular rebellion in the construction of post-colonial order. The case of Maranhao, Brazil (1820-41)

Assunção, MR (1999) 'Elite politics and popular rebellion in the construction of post-colonial order. The case of Maranhao, Brazil (1820-41).' Journal of Latin American Studies, 31 (1). 1 - 38. ISSN 0022-216X

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This article seeks to explain the breakdown of post-colonial order in the northern Brazilian province of Maranhao that culminated in the Balaiada rebellion (1838-41). Interpretations usually do not take into account the intense political agitation of the previous decades, which already involved lower class participation, and they fail to recognise the major socio-economic differences between the areas touched by the revolt. The main arguments are, first, that the struggle for Independence in Maranhao, more violent than in most other provinces, opened the door to lower class involvement in politics under liberal leadership. Secondly, the struggle between local elites for regional power led to exclusion of peripheral elites within the province and fuelled lower class unrest. Significant moments of rupture between liberal leadership and popular movement occurred as early as 1823-4 and 1831-2. Thirdly, the main structural factor leading to the 1838 outbreak of rebellion was the resistance to military recruitment by the free lower classes, which provided a unifying slogan to otherwise heterogeneous groups of peasants, cowboys, and fishermen. Fourthly, the differences in social structure between the cattle producing South, the cotton plantation belt of the Itapecuru valley and the strong subsistence sector in Eastern Maranhao account for substantial differences in terms of support and leadership during the Balaiada. Whilst fazendeiros lead the struggle in Southern Maranhao, as well as in most of the neighbouring Piaui province, leadership in Eastern Maranhao was almost entirely of lower class origin. Finally, the dynamics of the movement could lead in Eastern Maranhao to a rupture with elite liberalism and envisage the alliance between free rebels and maroons.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2011 14:22
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 16:15

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