Welch, Cliff(ord Andrew)

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Welch, Cliff(ord Andrew)

PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1979; University of Maryland, M.A., 1987; Duke University, Ph.D., 1990.

ADDRESSES: Home—2200 Jefferson Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507-3147; fax: 616-331-3285. Office—Grand Valley State University, History Department, 1054 Mackinac Hall, Allendale, MI 49401; fax: 616-331-3285. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Pennsylvania State University Press, 820 North University Drive, University Support Building 1, Suite C, University Park, PA 16820. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer and educator. Grand Valley State University, assistant professor, 1990-96, associate professor of history, 1996-. North Carolina State University, visiting professor of history, 1989; National Faculty, faculty member, 1994-99; Pontíficia Universidade Católica-São Paulo and Universidade Estadual Paulista-Presidente Prudente, Brazil, visiting foreign professor, 2003-05; Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, visiting foreign professor, 2004.

MEMBER: American Association of University Professors, Latin American Studies Association, Assoçiacão Nacional de História, Mid-Atlantic Radical Historians Association, Amnesty International, Global Exchange, Institute for Global Education, United States Soccer Federation, National Inter-Collegiate Soccer Officials Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Academic Title for 1999 Award, Choice magazine, for The Seed Was Planted; Cine Golden Eagle Award, 2002, and LASA Award of Merit, 2001, both for Grass War! Peasant Struggle in Brazil (video); Agency for the Improvement of Higher Education (CAPES) grant, Brazilian Ministry of Education, 2003-05.


(With Sebastião Geraldo) Lutas camponesas no interior paulista. Memórias de Irineu Luis de Moraes, Editora Paz e Terra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1992.

The Seed Was Planted: The São Paulo Roots of Brazil's Rural Labor Movement, 1924-1964, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1999.

(Documentary video, with Toni Perrine) Grass War! Peasant Struggle in Brazil, Cinema Guild (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor to books, including The Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, edited by Barbara Tannenbaum, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1995; and The Human Tradition in Modern Brazil, edited by Peter Beattie, Scholarly Resources (Wilmington, DE), 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including Freeman, Grand Valley Review, Radical History Review, Connection to the Americas, Grand Rapids Press, Labor History, Americas, International Labor and Working Class History, Hispanic American Historical Review, Journal of Latin American Studies, Projeto História, Revista NERA, and Latin American Anthropology Review. Associate editor, African Homefront; member of editorial collective Latin American Perspectives. Translator of works from Portuguese to English.

Authors' works have been translated into Portuguese.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Jofre, Ze Rainha and the Brazilian Revolution, a book on land and labor issues in present-day Brazil; Soccer Class: The Rules of the Game in the U.S. and Brazil, a documentary video comparing youth soccer in the United States and Brazil; interviews with peasant and rural labor activists in Brazil; numerous essays and book reviews.

SIDELIGHTS: Author and educator Cliff Welch is a professor of history at Grand Valley State University, where he specializes in Brazilian, Latin American, and African history. His research and writing focuses on issues related to labor and rural workers in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

In The Seed Was Planted: The São Paulo Roots of Brazil's Rural Labor Movement, 1924-1964 Welch presents a meticulous evaluation of the development of the Brazilian rural labor movement and the unionization of rural workers. Focusing his attention on São Paulo and Brazil's northwestern agricultural areas, he covers in depth the movement as it existed from 1924, when it first emerged, to 1964, when government repression and military force suppressed the movement, its leaders, and its participants. He also shows how the rural labor movement reemerged in the 1980s when civilian government returned to Brazil. His work shows that "in the building of democracy, the work of one generation can be handed to another in the march toward better lives and freedom," commented Anthony R. Brunello in Perspectives on Political Science.

"The book is a carefully crafted case study of rural labor politics" in the region, noted Luis A. Gonzales and Bryan R. Daves in Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. Welch discusses rural conditions in São Paulo in the early years of the movement. While in power from 1930 to 1945, Getulio Vargas tried to impose federal control over the rural labor movement while simultaneously stimulating Brazil's agricultural economy and undermining the power of landowners. With Vargas out of power from 1945 to 1950, the government repressed what were known as "peasant leagues," and the Brazilian Communist Party, a major organizing force, was outlawed, observed Don M. Coerver in History: Review of New Books. Vargas's return in 1950 led rural workers to hope for better conditions as he focused on modernization and economic development. "In 1953, Vargas adopted a more radical approach to the agricultural sector, including the distribution of land and greater efforts to organize rural workers," Coerver noted. Rural organization became more active in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, until the military coup in 1964. Though the labor movement suffered under the military government, the symbolic seed of the book's title was irretrievably sown; labor movements once again sprouted in the 1980s and 1990s to organize rural workers and improve agricultural and economic conditions.

Much of Welch's research relied by necessity on the records of union organizers and other leaders; few resources were available to address the positions and opinions of the general population of agricultural workers. However, Welch also made use of documents and records that helped reveal the overall tone of the times, such labor court cases, petitions and letters directed to Vargas, and publications from the area's Communist press. His work also includes interviews with militants and rural leaders who were active during the time frame of his book. "These sources, revealing the beliefs, aspirations, and memories of the participants' struggles, rescue voices that are often ignored in historical accounts," Gonzales and Daves noted. Welch's "ability to weave together these disparate materials to create a balanced narrative is truly impressive," stated Joel Horowitz in Labor History.

"The Seed Was Planted is a thoroughly researched and original contribution to Brazilian history," commented Peter M. Beattie in Latin American Research Review. "The book "provides an analytical and historical scaffolding that future researchers can build on to explore the lives of common rural workers in the southeast in the 1900s," Beattie continued. Gonzales and Daves called the book "an admirable, outstanding piece of scholarship," and predicted that it will "revise the predominant historiography, which has overlooked rural worker agency in the central political and social processes that have shaped modern Brazil." Welch "has made a major contribution," Horowitz remarked, concluding that The Seed Was Planted "is a book well worth reading."

Welch told CA: "For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write. I think the desire began with reading and took the form of an escape from parents fighting and headed for divorce. I read everything I could as a boy, the 'Hardy Boys' mysteries, James Bond novels, and classics such as The Three Musketeers and Robinson Crusoe. But as I look back, one of the most important books for me was Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Brown championed the voice of the oppressed and raised questions of social justice and of the political militancy required to achieve it; these preoccupations influence my work more than any others. I think of the process of writing as one of construction rather than art. I work hard at research and use the documents to craft pieces that only gradually reveal the whole. It is important to accept the idea that the best we can do is to contribute a few building blocks toward making the world a better place for one and all.

"A lot of my work involves telling the stories of other people, so the most important thing I have learned is the importance of listening, whether through conducting an interview or reading a historical document. The experiences I had with Jofre Correa Netto, whose story has been told in video and articles, taught me this lesson.

"I don't have many books under my belt, but I hope my writing inspires people to think about how they can live more consciously and take part in building a just world."



Agricultural History, winter, 2000, review of The Seed Was Planted: The São Paulo Roots of Brazil's Rural Labor Movement, 1924-1964, p. 129.

Choice, July-August, 1999, R. J. Alexander, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 1990.

Hispanic American Historical Review, February, 2002, Joel Wolfe, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 185.

History: Review of New Books, summer, 1999, Don M. Coerver, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 158.

Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, summer, 2000, Luis A. Gonzalez and Bryan R. Daves, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 156.

Labor History, August, 2000, Joel Horowitz, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 404.

Latin American Research Review, spring, 2001, Peter M. Beattie, "Class Politics and Class Identity in Mid-Twentieth-Century Brazil," review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 193.

Perspectives on Political Science, fall, 1999, Anthony R. Brunello, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 228.

Reference and Research Book News, May, 1999, review of The Seed Was Planted, p. 87.


Grand Valley State University Web site, http://www4.gvsu.edu/ (February 18, 2005), "Cliff Welch."