Since by asymmetry of power, status, and

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Since the beginning of the century, the supposed European
decline and the ascend of emergent countries, such as Brazil, have been widely
discussed. However, it appears as if the country has found itself stagnated in
the status of “emergent” for most of the past fifteen years, not progressing or
being able to achieve a “higher” status in the international sphere. But this
has been (to a certain extend) an everlasting historical struggle. It was
during the 19th century, when Brazil first started to negotiated its
access and recognition as a member of an international society of European and
global expansion. It sought to establish itself as an independent country in a
system deeply marked by asymmetry of power, status, and ranking, developing in
the process, instruments to access the world of diplomacy1. This
essay aims at briefly analyzing how Brazil came to be part of the European –and
later global– international society.

For the authors of the English School, such as Hedley Bull
and Adam Watson, the transformation from system to international society was a
historical process. According to them, the ancient world had several systems of
states but these have eventually evolved into a European international society
and, finally, into our “universal
international society of the present”2.

The most diverse regions of the planet were incorporated into the mold of
European society, extending this configuration to the whole world following the
Second World War and decolonization3.

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For the “classical” authors of the English School, Brazil adhered, as
part of the process of independence of European colonies, as a kind of
Neo-Europe -an admission free of greater obstacles4.

There were confrontations not only in political, economic, or military terms,
but above all in terms of civilizations and cultural patterns. The core of this
clashes was the “standard of civilization” by which different
civilizations identified and regulated their international relations. The
practices that became accepted as “civilized” were those coming from
European countries and soon became demanded by the international system
centered in Europe, being used to distinguish those who belong to a particular
society from those who do not. Membership was conditioned to a degree of
homogenization, requiring non-European states to make social and political
reforms and to accept the rules and principles of international society5.

In the mid 19th century, Brazil and other non-European entities
began to demand or be required to join a European core international society.

This was an important period of the British “imperial turn”, in which
the planet had been scrutinized, occupied and Europe’s relations with the world
had been redefined based on European interests6.

At the time, it was not easy to classify Brazil as barbarian
or savage, but the domestic government and political elites worked hard to gain
recognition of civilization and thus belong to the “civilized” group. Eventually,
this was only to a certain extent successful, since even if a state was to be
recognized as independent and legitimate, celebrating treaties and establishing
diplomatic relations did not mean, however, necessarily to be seen as a full
member of international society7.

Brazil was a former member of the Portuguese Overseas Empire officially
independent in 1822 in the form of a constitutional monarchy. To “allow”, even
if recognized as legitimate and sovereign state, extraterritorial rights to
Western powers, was seen as an important indicator of inferiority and
subordination status and that the sovereignty of the country was only partial8

Brazil officially only maintained it for a certain period, until 1844, as an
inheritance of the Portuguese Overseas Empire. Thus, although it was formally
recognized as independent and sovereign, it was not a full member of European
core international society, because it lacked the so-called “standard of
civilization”. It is interesting
to notice that the option for the title “empire”10 can be
perceived as a statement of affiliation greater to the Old than to the New

In 1889, when the Republic was introduced, Brazil underwent a new phase of
“renovation”, distancing itself to a certain degree from Europe and turning to
the Americas12. In
short, during the 19th century, Brazil was a newly independent
political community in search of recognition.

Another huge impediment to Brazil’s annexation to the
international society was the fact that it continued and even came to increase
during mid 19th century its dealing with slavery, an institution which
played an important domestic role at a time when it no longer had a place in the
international society. In other words, it did not meet the “standards of
civilization” required. In relation to that, a historical event worth
mentioning is The Paraguayan War (1864-1870). The war helped the Brazilian
Empire to reach its peak of political and military influence, becoming the
Great Power of South America, besides also helping to bring about the end of
slavery in Brazil13.

However, it also caused a ruinous increase of public debt, which took decades
to pay off, severely limiting the country’s growth. The war debt, alongside a
long-lasting social crisis after the conflict, are regarded as crucial factors
for the fall of Empire and proclamation of the First Brazilian Republic14.

de facto suppression of slave trade, came
with the Eusébio de Queiroz Law (July 12, 1850)15.

For the British, Brazil finally fulfilled its previously signed treaties and
followed “the common principles of
humanity and the fundamental precepts of the Christian religion”16.

The process of Brazilian independence dragged on in
successive stages between the arrival of the Portuguese crown in Rio de Janeiro
in 1808, the formal British and Portuguese recognition between 1825 and 1827,
until Dom Pedro I’s return to Europe in 183117.

The period coincided with the process whereby the Congress of Vienna came to
accept new members, nominally the “new states of settlement” of the
American continent. European recognition was formalized through treaties and
the establishment of diplomatic relations18.

It is interesting to consider that due to the fact that Brazil inherited great experience
in diplomatic matters from the Portuguese, this expertise made all the
difference in the formation of borders, in the management of rivalry with
Spanish American neighbors and in obtaining European recognition19.

The recognition of Brazilian independence, was first made by the African
kingdoms of Benin and Lagos and the United States, then by Portugal and Great
Britain and other European states, with the recognition of the old metropolis,
Portugal, and the main power of then, Britain, certainly being most important

During the second half of the 19th century,
despite the economic and political weaknesses that it still had, Brazil began
to a certain point to participate in the international economic order that was
established, being present at conferences, adhering to multilateral agreements
and to the first technical and economic treaties that established cooperation
among States21. The
Brazilian participation in the Second Hague Convention (1907), which was
responsible for dealing with formal issues of war and the creation of a permanent
arbitration court, was important for bringing the public a discourse that
called for equality between States in relation to international society22.

It is significant, therefore, the understanding of Brazil as an average power
of then.

Its participation in World War I, on the British side, more
symbolic than effective, finally granted the country a pass which enabled it to
participate in the negotiations of the Paris Conference, and, finally, a ticket
as a representative in the congress of the League of Nations. This can be
considered to have been the definitive internationalization of Brazilian
politics then23. The
Brazilian participation in the universal exhibitions of the second half of the 19th
century can also be seen as an effort to be perceived as an equal partner of
the international society of that time24.

Another interesting contemplation, is how the other nations
considered the nation’s sovereign and how this was a strong indicative of the
international positioning of Brazil then. D. Pedro II was the monarch of the
“young sister nation,” a Christian, and though he was a native of
Brazil, he descended from the most important European lineages. The fact that
he did not “look like a king,” wearing ordinary clothes, wearing a
straw hat and preferring to give up “benefits” from his position,
rather than disappoint, attracted the American public interested in this
“monarch of the New world”25.

Brazil, which in the beginning of the 20th century started to take
part in international events, increased its participation to the point of hosting
the III Pan American Conference in 1906, in the then capital city of Rio de

With the destruction of the European international
society after WWI and with the restructuration of the system in the interwar
period, Brazil was finally able to found itself a place of (more) equality
among the members of the new and global international society formed after
WWII, with diplomacy
and international law proving to be fundamental instruments for a militarily
weak state. It is questionable however, to what degree the country is (even
nowadays) fully equal to its European and American counterparts in the global
international society

To conclude, it its
necessary to remark that even though there was a continuous pursuit of
adherence to European diplomatic rituals, practices and symbols since its
independence, this process parallel lead to the creation of asymmetrical
relations with the center of European international society which still exist.

For example, Brazilians still commonly refer to Europe and the U.S. as the “first
world”, praising and considering superior everything that comes from the Old
Continent and the American leader. The embedded feeling of inferiority, rooted
in the past experiences and relations with the European international society
have not yet completely disappeared. But the question is,
will they ever disappear in the current international order or is the birth of
a new one needed?

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Centro de Pesquisa e
Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC), August 2012, Rio de
Janeiro, p. 20.

2 BULL, H.;
“A Sociedade Ana?rquica”, Imprensa Oficial do Estado, Editora UnB; Sa?o Paulo, Brasi?lia,
2002, p. 15. & WATSON, A.; “A
evoluc?a?o da sociedade
internacional”, Editora UnB,
Brasi?lia, 2004, p. 37.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 34.

4 Ibdem, p. 35.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 38.

6 Idem.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, pp. 39 and 40.

8 Ibdem, p. 40.

9 Extraterritoriality refers to the legal regime in which a
State claims jurisdiction over its citizens residing in another country (GOLDFELD
SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 40).

10 The term apparently responded to several local demands: it
symbolized the continental extension of the territory; the distinction from
Portugal, the old metropolis, which called itself Reino and did justice to the political preferences of Dom Pedro I,
a deep admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte. (GOLDFELD SOCHACZEWSKI,
M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 43)

11 Ibdem, p. 44.

12 A Brazilian peculiarity is the fact that the country had
closer ties to Europe than to the American region during most part of the 19th
century (GOLDFELD
SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 47).

F.; “Maldita Guerra: Nova História da Guerra do Paraguai”, Companhia
das Letras, 2nd edition revised by the author, 2002, pp. 47-52.

F.; “Maldita Guerra: Nova História da Guerra do Paraguai”, pp. 47-52.

“The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave
Trade: Britain, Brazil and the slave trade question, 1807-1869”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
1970, p. 341.

16 Ibdem, p. 344.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 54.

18 Idem.

Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International:
Contrastes e Conexões (1850-1919)”, pp. 55 and 56.

20 Ibdem, pp. 56 and 57.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, pp. 74 and 75.

22 Ibdem, p. 75.


H.; “A Raiz das Coisas. Rui Barbosa: O
Brasil no Mundo”,
Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 2007, p. 52.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 78.

25 Ibdem, p. 85.

SOCHACZEWSKI, M.; “O Brasil, o Império Otomano e a Sociedade International: Contrastes e Conexões
(1850-1919)”, p. 85.

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