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Varnhagen, Francisco Adolfo de (1816–1878)

Varnhagen, Francisco Adolfo de (1816–1878)

Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen (b. 17 February 1816; d. 29 June 1878), Brazilian historian and viscount of Porto Seguro (1874). The founder of modern historical writing in Brazil, Varnhagen, however, lived most of his life abroad. The son of a German military officer who had been engaged to supervise the recently created ironworks in Sorocaba (São Paulo), he was raised in Portugal, where his family had been established since Brazilian independence. After first receiving military training to become an engineer, he went on to study paleography and political economy. In 1841, he was granted Brazilian citizenship and, in the following year, he obtained a position in the Brazilian army, where he began his diplomatic career, serving in Portugal (1842–1852), Spain (1852–1858), several Latin-American republics (1859–1868), and Austria (1868–1878). He was a member of the Portuguese Royal Academy of Sciences and of the Brazilian Historical and Geographical Institute.

A product of the intellectual climate of Portuguese romanticism, Varnhagen considered the nation to be the natural framework for historical writing but, at the same time, followed the rules of historical research established by German scholars at the beginning of the century. Probing into the archives of Portugal, Spain, and Brazil, he prepared the work for which he is today chiefly known: the História geral do Brasil antes da sua separação e independência de Portugal (1856–1857). He also published a study on the Dutch occupation of Brazil (1871), a second, much altered, edition of the História geral do Brasil (1877) and, on his death, left unfinished the História da independência do Brasil (1916). His interests also included the history of Brazilian literature and Amerindian cultures and languages. Although deprived of literary craftsmanship and tainted by a very conservative outlook, which marred some of his judgments, his work stands, by virtue of the depth and scope of its scholarship, above all others in nineteenth-century Brazilian historical writing.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


J. Capistrano De Abreu, "Necrológio de Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, Visconde de Porto Seguro" (1878), in Ensaios e estudos (crítica e hístoria), le série (1931), pp. 81-91.

Francisco Adolfo De Varnhagen, Correspondência ativa, edited by Clado Ribeiro de Lessa (1961).

José Honório Rodrigues, "Varnhagen: O primeiro mestre da historiografia brasileira (1816–1878)," in História combatente (1982), pp. 191-225.

Nilo Odália (org.), Grandes scientistas sociais, vol. 9, Varnhagen: História (1979).

Additional Bibliography

Odália, Nilo. As formas do mesmo: Ensaios sobre o pensamento historiográfico de Varnhagen e Oliveira Vianna. São Paulo: Editora UNESP Fundação, 1997.

Wehling, Arno. Estado, história, memoória: Varnhagen e a construção da identidade nacional. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1999.

                       Guilherme Pereira das Neves

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