Brazil in a Changing World Order: Essays by Kenneth Maxwell

By Robbin Laird

We have just published a new book of Dr. Ken Maxwell’s essays on Brazil written over the last decade.

In this book, the noted historian, Dr. Kenneth Maxwell, provides an overview of Brazilian developments over the past decade. As the world has changed dramatically, Brazil’s role is changing as well. These essays have been written over the past decade and provide insights into Brazil’s domestic politics, the role of its military, its changing foreign policy role, and the significant conflicts of the past decade.

These essays were written at the time of the events described, so it is a view of Brazil in “real time” so to speak. It is more like an intellectual photo album, than a movie, and provides intellectual insights along those lines.

As Maxwell is a noted historian, the book contains pieces on Brazilian history as well. Notably, the fascinating case study of the Recueil is included as well. In 1968 while Maxwell was a Gulbenkian-Newberry Library Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago he identified the book of U.S. constitutional documents published in French in France at the instigation of Benjamin Franklin and which were discussed by the Minas conspirators in Brazil 1788-89. Together with a group of very talented Harvard students, he was able to produce a critical edition of the Recueil in Brazil 2013. Maxwell’s analysis provides fascinating insights into trans-Atlantic influences in a time of revolution and change.

Dr. Kenneth Maxwell was the founding Director of the Brazil Studies Program at Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) (2006-2008) and a Professor in Harvard’s Department of History (2004-2008).

From 1989 to 2004 he was Director of the Latin America Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, and in 1995 became the first holder of the Nelson and David Rockefeller Chair in Inter-American Studies.
He served as Vice President and Director of Studies of the Council in 1996. Maxwell previously taught at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Kansas.

Kenneth Maxwell founded and was Director of the Camões Center for the Portuguese-speaking World at Columbia and was the Program Director of the Tinker Foundation, Inc. From 1993 to 2004, he was the Western Hemisphere book reviewer for Foreign Affairs.

He was a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and was a weekly columnist between 2007 and 2015 for Folha de São Paulo and monthly columnist for O Globo from 2015.

Maxwell was the Herodotus Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and a Guggenheim Fellow.
He served on the Board of Directors of The Tinker Foundation, Inc., and the Consultative Council of the Luso-American Foundation.

He is also a member of the Advisory Boards of the Brazil Foundation and Human Rights Watch/Americas. Maxwell received his B.A. and M.A. from St. John’s College, Cambridge University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

As the noted Brazilian journalist and scholar, Adelto Gonçalves has written:

“An expert on the history of Brazil and Portugal in the 18th century and author of the classic A Devassa da Devassa (Rio de Janeiro, Editora Paz e Terra, 1977), released in 1973 in England under the title Conflicts and Conspiracies: Brazil and Portugal, 1750 -1808 (Cambridge University Press), his first book, Maxwell, although his work basically focuses on the Portuguese 18th century, has closely followed political developments in both Portugal and Brazil in recent times.
“He has also published Marquês de Pombal – Paradoxo do Iluminismo (1996), A Construção da Democracia em Portugal (1999), Naked Tropics: essays on empire and other rogues (2003), Chocolate, piratas e outros malandros (Editora Paz e Terra, 1999) and Mais malandros e outros – ensaios tropicais (Editora Paz e Terra (2005), among others.”

Dr. Maxwell is the featured speaker at a June 2024 event in Brazil focusing on the life and impact of the work of Sebastião de Carvalho, marques de Pombal.