Empire Adrift: The Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821 by Patrick Wilcken - review by John Hemming

John Hemming

The Tropical King

Empire Adrift: The Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821


Bloomsbury 307pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

NAPOLEON BONNAPARTE’S LASTING geopolitical legacy is, curiously, not in Europe but in the Americas. He sold a substantial portion of its present-day territory to the young United States in the Louisiana Purchase, squandered an army trying to recapture Haiti from its rebellious slaves, and his inroads into the Iberian Peninsula led to the independence of almost every country in South and Central America. By sending armies to invade Spain and then virtually kidnapping the Spanish king, Ferdinand, and supplanting him with his own brother Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon smashed the patriotism with which the Spanish Empire revered its monarch. The United States' winning of its independence and then the rhetoric of the French Revolution had influenced intellectuals in other American colonies. But it was the removal of the hereditary King that really inspired Miranda, San Martin, Bolivar and others to rise in rebellion.

This book describes a curious episode that explains why the independence of Portugal's Brazilian colony evolved so differently from those of the Spanish colonies. In 1807, having conquered Spain, Napoleon sent an army under General Andoche Junot to invade neutral Portugal. He wanted to plug this gap in his 'Continental

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