Synopses & Reviews
When World War II erupted in 1939, Brazil seemed a world away. Lush, remote, and underdeveloped, the country and its capital of Rio de Janeiro lured international travelers seeking a respite from the drums of the war. Rio: at the end of civilization, as we know it,” claimed Orson Welles as he set out for the city in 1942. But Brazil's bucolic reputation as a distant land of palm trees and pristine beaches masked a more complex reality one that the country's leaders were busily exploiting in a desperate gambit to secure Brazil's place in the modern world.
In Brazil, acclaimed historian Neill Lochery reveals the secret history of the country's involvement in World War II, showing how the cunning statecraft and economic opportunism of Brazil's leaders transformed it into a regional superpower over the course of the war. Brazil's natural resources and proximity to the United States made it strategically invaluable to both the Allies and the Axis, a fact that the country's dictator, Getúlio Dornelles Vargas, keenly understood. In the wars early years, Vargas and a handful of his close advisors dexterously played both sides against each other, generating enormous wealth for Brazil and fundamentally transforming its economy and infrastructure.
But Brazil's cozy neutrality was not to last. Forced to choose sides, Vargas declared war on the Axis powers and sent 25,000 troops to the European theater. This Brazilian expeditionary force arrived too late and was called home too early to secure a significant role for Brazil in the postwar order. But within Brazil, at least, Vargas had made his mark, ensuring Rios emergence as a major international city and effectively remaking Brazil as a modern nation.
A fast-paced tale of war and diplomatic intrigue, Brazil reveals a long-buried chapter of World War II and the little-known origins of one of the world's emerging economic powerhouses.
Well-focused look at the authoritarian rule of charismatic Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas.
Colorful personalities and tricky maneuvers make for a lively drama.” Kirkus Reviews
When World War II erupted in 1939, Brazil seemed a world away. Beautiful, exotic, and remote, Brazil and its capital of Rio de Janeiro boasted world-famous beaches and five-star hotels, luring international travelers seeking adventure off the beaten path. "Rio: at the end of civilization, as we know it," claimed Orson Welles as he set out for the Brazilian capital in 1942 to film Allied propaganda. But even as expatriates like Welles drank away their worries in Brazil's stifling heat, the country's leadership was edging it toward an encounter with the modern world--one that would catapult the nation headlong into the twentieth century.
In The Fortunes of War, acclaimed historian Neill Lochery reveals the secret history of Brazil's involvement in World War II, showing how the cunning politicians who ran the country extracted enormous wealth from both the Axis and the Allies, fundamentally transforming Brazil's economy and infrastructure during and after the war. Brazil's simplistic reputation as a faraway land of palm trees and samba dancers masked the country's immense strategic value to both the Axis and the Allies; its abundant natural resources made Brazil a crucial source of sustenance for Nazi Germany, while its geographical location made it a potential launching pad for a southerly invasion of the United States--a danger that American leaders remembered all too well from World War I, when Germany had urged Mexico to carry out just such an assault.
Brazil's charismatic dictator, Getlio Dornelles Vargas, had himself long feared an attack from the country's rival to the south, Argentina, and understood that trade concessions from the Allies and Axis--not to mention weapons shipments from the Third Reich--could make his country a formidable force in South America. Vargas cozied up to Nazi Germany in the early years of the war, then deftly used his relationship with Germany to coax even better terms from the Allies, playing the two sides against each other in a dangerous game of bait-and-switch.
The riches that Vargas's statecraft brought to Brazil transformed the country virtually overnight, allowing him to develop a sophisticated industrial and transportation infrastructure in what had previously been an underdeveloped backwater. But Brazil's cozy neutrality was not to last. As Brazil's ties with the United States deepened, the German position in Europe was eroding, leading Vargas to sever diplomatic relations with the Axis in early 1942. Within months Vargas declared war on the European Axis powers, and eventually sent 25,000 troops to the European theater. But Vargas's forces arrived too late--and were called home too early--to secure a significant role for Brazil in the postwar order. But within the country, at least, Vargas had made his mark: his leadership during the war ensured Rio's emergence as a major international city, and effectively remade Brazil as a modern nation.
A tale of world war, diplomatic intrigue, and the rebirth of one of contemporary South America's most dynamic powers, The Fortunes of War brings to life a fascinating yet long-buried chapter of the most pivotal conflict of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Neill Lochery is Professor of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at University College London and is a world-renowned resource on the modern history and politics of Israel and the Mediterranean Middle East. He is the author of a series of critically acclaimed books, including the international bestseller Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light 19391945, as well as countless newspaper and magazine articles. He lives in London.