Synopses & Reviews
In a time of terror for Europe’s monarchs--imprisoned, exiled, executed--Napoleon’s army marched toward Lisbon. Cornered, Prince Regent João had to make the most fraught decision of his life. Protected by the British Navy, he fled to Brazil with his entire family, including his mentally ill mother, most of the nobility, and the entire state apparatus. Thousands made the voyage, but it was no luxury cruise. It took two months in cramped, decrepit ships. Sickness ran rampant. Lice infested some of the vessels, and noble women had to shave their hair and grease their bald heads with antiseptic sulfur. Vermin infested the food, and bacteria contaminated the drinking water. No European monarch had ever set foot in the Americas, let alone relocating an entire court there. A week after landing, Prince João opened Brazil’s ports, liberating the colony from a trade monopoly with Portugal. While explorers mapped the burgeoning nation’s distant regions, the prince authorized the construction of roads, the founding of schools, and the creation of factories, raising Brazil to kingdom status in 1815. Meanwhile, under French control, Portugal was suffering the dire effects of famine and war. Never had the country lost so many people in so little time. But after Napoleon’s fall and over a decade of misery, the Portuguese demanded the return of their king. João sailed back in tears, but because of him Brazil remained whole and powerful. As he left, the last chapter of colonial Brazil drew to a close, setting the stage for the strong, independent nation that we know today, changing the history of the New World forever.
"Incapable of fending off Napoleon, Portugal's Prince Regent JoÃ£o ruling since 1799 in the stead of his demented mother bluffed France with promises of surrender while signing a secret agreement with Britain to secure safe passage to Brazil for JoÃ£o and his entire court, comprising up to 15,000 people. On November 29, 1807, the fleet set sail from Lisbon, leaving Portugal at the mercy of Napoleon (who once declared JoÃ£o 'the only one who tricked me'). During the 13 years that JoÃ£o reigned in exile from Rio de Janeiro, Portugal lost one-sixth of its population half a million people due to emigration, starvation, or in battle. Meanwhile, 'the idle, corrupt, and wasteful' royal court stayed financially afloat by levying taxes on Brazilians and granting titles in exchange for donations from wealthy colonists many of them slave traffickers. Nevertheless, the weird king (he had a 'crippling fear of crustaceans and thunder' and had a valet regularly masturbate him) raised Brazil to the status of a kingdom in union with Portugal, improved infrastructure, reorganized the government, promoted the arts, and essentially began the process of decolonization. Despite Nevins's awkward translation, Gomes's (1822: The Prince Left Behind) account is fascinating. Illus. and 2 maps. Agent: Jonah Straus, Straus Literary. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Gomes brings a broad perspective of the period, portrayed in light colors and starring characters that he tries to make more familiar to the unspecialized reader without esoteric academic language, debauchery, or caricature. Avoiding the scurrilous or the cartoonish, he strays from the grotesque gutter history often found these days.”
—Folha de São Paulo (SP’s largest paper)
“A rare portrait of a period normally presented in dry academic language, not always accessible to the public at large. … His research shines not with unpublished discoveries but rather in his ability to recreate with unparalleled flair a portrait of daily life in the colonies and how this all changed with the arrival of the Portuguese.”
—Estado de São Paulo (SP’s second largest paper)
An Amazon.com History Bestseller
Winner of the Jabuti Prize
A Brazilian Academy of Letters Best Work of Nonfiction
Critical Acclaim for 1808: The Flight of the Emperor
"This vivid portrait of an unkempt, self-preserving king provides insight into the obscure history of Brazil. ... A meticulous and encyclopedic account of life in the colony of Brazil, as well as the doings of the Portuguese royalty in their new home ... 1808: The Flight of the Emperor offers important knowledge for understanding how modern-day Brazil, a diverse mix of the ancestors of Europeans, slaves, and natives, was created. ... Gomes tells that story completely, with vivid accounts from historians as well as original sources."
"Highly readable ... a well-researched, engaging history."
"Good airline reading on your next flight to Rio."
“A light and informative history ... Gomes offers a broad perspective on the period, portrayed in bright colors.”
—Folha de São Paulo
“A rare portrait ... Gomes’s research shines . . . in his ability to recreate with unparalleled flair a portrait of daily life in the colonies and how this all changed with the arrival of the Portuguese.”
—Estado de São Paulo
“This is a book that you will read with a broad smile. ... The result of ten years of research, 1808 is a veritable guidebook through all the events that formed part of this little-known episode of history. ... It conjures up a delicious blend of good humor and erudition to create a broad portrait of events and people that crossed paths during the thirteen-year adventure in the tropics. ... Through short, cinematic chapters, Gomes successfully sets up a jigsaw puzzle in which each piece fits right into the preceding one. ... In addition to supporting the historical record with primary source documents and with more recent studies, he makes the people of the era jump off the page. ... 1808 reveals these events with grace and weightlessness. ... It’s a historical synthesis that shines for the clarity of its explanations and for the interest of the past it projects onto the present. It’s a well conceived idea sustained by a flawless methodology.”
About the Author
Laurentino Gomes is a journalist and the bestselling author of 1808: The Flight of the Emperor, the first volume in a trilogy on the history of Brazil, which has sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide and was named by the Brazilian Academy of Letters as 2008’s best work of nonfiction. He lives in São Paulo.