The Tribute of Blood

Army, Honor, Race, and Nation in Brazil, 1864–1945

The Tribute of Blood

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 8 tables, 1 map Published: September 2001

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Brazil

In The Tribute of Blood Peter M. Beattie analyzes the transformation of army recruitment and service in Brazil between 1864 and 1945, using this history of common soldiers to examine nation building and the social history of Latin America’s largest nation. Tracing the army’s reliance on coercive recruitment to fill its lower ranks, Beattie shows how enlisted service became associated with criminality, perversion, and dishonor, as nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Brazilian officials rounded up the “dishonorable” poor—including petty criminals, vagrants, and “sodomites”—and forced them to serve as soldiers.
Beattie looks through sociological, anthropological, and historical lenses to analyze archival sources such as court-martial cases, parliamentary debates, published reports, and the memoirs and correspondence of soldiers and officers. Combining these materials with a colorful array of less traditional sources—such as song lyrics, slang, grammatical evidence, and tattoo analysis—he reveals how the need to reform military recruitment with a conscription lottery became increasingly apparent in the wake of the Paraguayan War of 1865–1870 and again during World War I. Because this crucial reform required more than changing the army’s institutional roles and the conditions of service, The Tribute of Blood is ultimately the story of how entrenched conceptions of manhood, honor, race, citizenship, and nation were transformed throughout Brazil.
Those interested in social, military, and South American history, state building and national identity, and the sociology of the poor will be enriched by this pathbreaking study.


"The Tribute of Blood is a superb study of the relationships between masculine honor, race, nationalism, and the army during the period of nation-state formation in Brazil." — Michael R. Hall , The Latin Americanist

"[A] fascinating and sensitive analysis of the Brazilian military from 1850 to 1916. . . . The book is rich and complex. . . ."
— Cliff Welch , Labor History

"[An] excellent study [of] . . . the Brazilian army as a prime source for the social, institutional, and cultural history of the country."
— Thomas Skidmore , Journal of Military History

"[I have] unreserved admiration for Beattie’s book. It is not just a pathbreaking and engrossing study of the military and masculinity in Brazil; it is also one of the very best historical treatments of nation building and national identity in postcolonial Latin America." — Barbara Weinstein , American Historical Review

"[I]nnovative, insightful. . . . [T]his work is sure to provoke debate and help to bring army enlisted men into the mainstream of social and cultural history."
— Hendrik Kraay J, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Beattie draws on a wide range of sources, including eighteenth-century songs, soldiers’ tattoos, congressional records, and cartoons (some marvelous examples of which are included in his book). The result is a highly original work that is not only a political history but also a social study that evokes the daily concerns and social pressures that people faced in late imperial and early Republican Brazil. . . . Beattie’s work reinvigorates political history by uniting it with social and cultural history. . . . [R]emarkable. . . . His study is . . . relevant to a broad audience, not only those interested in Latin American militiaries, but also anyone studying state-making in the developing world. Free of jargon, theoretically sophisticated, and based on a rich array of sources, this work will likely become a staple in a wide range of classes. . . ."
— Shawn Smallman , Hispanic American Historical Review

"Beattie has uncovered a marvelous array of sources to shape his story, ranging from political cartoons and parliamentary debates to a voluminous assortment of army documents, and his meticulous research should be unconditionally lauded."
— James N. Green , EIAL

"Peter M. Beattie's The Tribute of Blood . . . offers bold and innovative interpretations about the modernization process of the Brazilian army and its relationship to notions of race and nation-building. . . . [R]epresents the best in how a new generation of historians of Brazil has linked the methods of social history to questions of power, politics, race, and the state." — James N. Green, Latin American Research Review

"This landmark study is one of the richest sources on the social history of Brazil between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. . . . While this book should attract the interest of scholars both in Brazil and of the military in Latin American and is easily accessible to undergraduates, it is a project that should also be read by all scholars interested in concepts of whiteness and masculinity." — Jerry Dávila , Journal of Social History

“A marvelous and broadly conceived study of great sweep, impressive documentation, and original insight. Beattie shows us how an imaginative study of the military can greatly illuminate issues of masculinity, nationalism, race, social control, and bondage. Its attention to comparative history, its focus on explaining change, and the care and grace of its writing make it something of a model of what institutional histories can achieve.” — James C. Scott, Yale University

“This is the most original work on Brazilian social history by a U.S. scholar in the last fifteen years. Events and issues become newly understandable in Peter M. Beattie’s presentation of military recruitment as a direct measure of state-building in Brazil.” — Dain Borges, University of California, San Diego


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter M. Beattie is Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Author’s Note

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Introduction: Soldiers of Misfortune, Soldiers by Lot

I. Impressment, Penal Transportation, Defense, and Politics, 1549-1905

1. “Nabbing Time”: The Heritage of Portugal’s Gunpowder Empire, 1549-1905

2. Raising the “Pagan Rabble”: Wartime Impressment and the Crisis of National Recruitment, 1864-1870

3. The “Law of the Minotaur”? Postwar Reformism and the Recruitment of Law, 1870-1874

4. Whipping a Dead Letter: The 1874 Recruitment Law under the Empire, 1874-1889

5. “And One Calls This Misery a Republic?”: The 1874 Recruitment Law under the Early Republic, 1889-1905

II. Soldiers, Their Lives, and the Army’s Institutional Roles, 1850-1919

6. The Troop Trade and the Army as a Protopenal Institution in the Age of Impressment, 1850-1916

7. Brazilian Soldiers and Enlisted Service in the Age of Impressment, 1870-1916

8. Days of Caschaca, Sodomy, and the Lash: Army Crime and Punishment in the Age of Impressment, 1870-1916

III. Implementing Conscription and Reorienting the Army’s Role, 1906

9. “Tightening Screw” or “Admirable Filter”?: The 1908 Obligatory Military Service Law, 1906-1916

10. Making the Barracks a “House” and the Army a “Family”: Assessing the Conscription Lottery, 1916-1945

Conclusions: Army, Masculine Honor, Race, and Nation

Appendix A: Military Crime Data

Appendix B: Army Recruitment Data

Appendix C: Populations of Public Disciplining Institutions


Glossary of Portuguese Terms



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Winner, Best Book Award in the Brazil in Comparative Perspective Section, Latin American Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2743-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2733-2
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