Fidalgos and Philanthropists. The Santa Casa de Misericórdia of Bahia, 1550-1755 by A. J. R.

Russell-Wood Review by: Leslie Bethell The English Historical Review, Vol. 86, No. 339 (Apr., 1971), pp. 402-403 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/01/2013 07:00
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recapturethe event in every microscopic detail in order to examine some aspects of society and as a means of savouring the age. Almost inevitably one asks, was it worth while then, and is it worth studying now? The answer is yes, for those who believe that anything superlative of its kind needs no justification.But surely such a book ought to be lavishly illustrated? This colossal charadewas dazzling in the prodigious folly of its and nauseatingin its elevation of paranoia exquisite,fruitlessextravagance, into the realms of art. But violent winds collapsed the glorious tents, thunder and rain disrupted chivalrous pastimes and dust obscured the brilliant scene. Doubtless it served to divert the nobility who were dangerous when rich and rebellious when poor, but bishop Fisher was among those who reflectedsadly that the joys of these meetings brought wearinessso that some would 'moche leuer bene at home'. Diplomatically also this most undeceptiveof deceitsfooled nobody. It was a gigantic sham in which two lifelong enemies protested the most perfect friendship in the most complicated possible ways, so that both their 'willys and couraiges'were declared'one mannerof thynge'; whereupon Henry went to meet the emperorCharlesV to strengthenthe old Burgundianalliance, while Francis I proceeded to fortify Ardres with materialsfrom the dismantled pavilions. Bedford College,London

Historians have sadly neglected the important role played in Portuguese colonial society by lay brotherhoods. Like the Church and the religious orders in the Spanish colonial empire they assumed a large measure of responsibility for remedying the shortcomings in the social welfare services provided by the Crown and the local authorities. The most prestigious and privileged, the Brotherhood of our Lady, Mother of God, Virgin Mary of Mercy, commonly known as the Miseric6rdia, was founded in Lisbon in 1498 and in the course of the sixteenth century branches were established throughout the Portuguese empire. FidalgosandPhilanthropist. (London: Macmillan, The Santa Casa de Misericdrdiaof Bahia, I;;o-17;; I968, f 5.z5) by A. J. R. Russell-Wood is, in the first place, a detailed, scholarly study of the Miseric6rdiaof Bahia, the capital of colonial Brazil,

from its foundation c.




when a full-scale royal enquiry

revealed that its finances were in a critical condition due to maladministration, almost total lack of official support and overextension of its charitable activities. (Relying for funds primarily on the bequests of sugar planters, cattle barons and, in the eighteenth century, city merchants and speculators, the Misericdrdia,besides distributing alms to the poor and caring for foundlings, provided an extraordinarily comprehensive range of social services - medical and burial services, in particular - not only for its wealthy, white, Old Christian members, but for the community at large.) The book, however, does much more than trace the history of a charitable institution. It illuminates the darkest corners of a colonial urban society obsessively preoccupied with questions of class, creed and, above all, colour. And through its analysis of the changing composition of the brotherhood's governing body and membership and of the origins and

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nature of benefactionsit provides some indication of economic and social change in Bahia, especiallyduring the first half of the eighteenth century. The outcome of painstaking researchin the archives of the Misericdrdia and in the state and municipal archives of Bahia this is a valuable contribution to Braziliancolonial history and to the comparativehistory of Portuguese and Spanish colonial societies in Africa, Asia and America. University College London

Those specialists in social history who allow themselves to be persuaded that the computer affords an assured and trouble-free solution to all their problems should read Marcel Couturier's Recherchessur les structures sociales deChcteaudun Iy2y-1789 (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., I969. 39 F). One of the chief merits of this study is the careful, step-by-step account of the preparatory work which analysis by computer requires, an account which makes no attempt to minimize the pitfalls, limitations and expense involved. It is true that improvements both in technique and approach have been introduced since M. Couturier completed his research in I965, but his book nonetheless remains a valuable, because practical and realistic, guide to the problems and shortcomings as well as the advantages of applying computer analysis to historical material. Marriage records were M. Couturier's main source, supplemented with tax-rolls and a sampling of notarial records; demographic movements, marriage patterns and the distribution of wealth his objectives. His demographic findings are in keeping with and usefully supplement those of earlier research in this field, what he has to tell us about endogamy confirms the promptings of common-sense, while the inadequacies of the records made it impossible to study systematically the distribution of wealth. However, such information as M. Couturier has been able to glean on this subject, and it is quite considerable if random, is incorporated in his description of the environment and way of life of the various socio-professional groups examined, which forms the last and most substantial part of the book. From this emerges incidentally a compelling account of the economic decline of Chateaudun from the sixteenth century, when it could boast flourishing manufactures notably woollen textiles, barrel-making and tanneries - and a prosperous trade in grain and wine, to the end of the seventeenth century, when the town's population had been halved, the tanneries had virtually disappeared, the woollen industry was sinking fast and the agricultural population of the suburbs formed two fifths of the inhabitants. The decline of manufactures made the vignerons the most important socio-professional group in Chateaudun, and the section on them is the most solid, fresh and interesting in the book. There was some slight demographic recovery in the later eighteenth century, as a result of the drop in infant and adolescent mortality rates and the temporary sojourn of immigrants from the countryside, who used Chateaudun as a staging-post, staying usually one, at the most two generations, before moving on to Chartres, Orleans, or most often Paris. There was no economic revival however, and consequently no significant modification of the social structure in the eighteenth century. This means that the great depression and demographic crisis of Louis

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