Renowned historian of Latin America and especially Brazil, Leslie Bethell joined the Brazil Institute on December 3rd as a Public Policy Scholar-in-residence to conduct research on "Brazil in the New Global Order." A professor emeritus at the University of London, Bethell was previously director of the Center of Brazilian Studies at Oxford University. He presented his project on December 9th to an audience of Wilson Center fellows, scholars and staff.

"Brazil is today internationally regarded, along with China and India, as a key ‘emerging power' in the first half of the 21st century," he said. "And yet Brazil has always punched well below its weight in world affairs. Only relatively recently, in the last 10 years or so, has Brazil begun to play a role in world affairs in any way commensurate with its importance, real and potential."

Bethell's work at the Wilson Center, which will last through February 2009, will be part of an ambitious project aimed at explaining Brazil's rise in the world, to both international observers and Brazilians themselves. "My long term aim is to write a book on Brazil in global history, on Brazil's relationship with the outside world and the outside world's relationship with Brazil, during the 19th and 20th centuries," he explained.

Much of his project will draw on nearly 40 years of scholarship, covering Brazil's independence from Portugal at the beginning of the 19th century; the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery; the Paraguayan War; Brazil within Britain's ‘informal empire' in the 19th century; the ‘hegemonic transition' from Britain to the United States in the first half of the 20th century; immigration; the history of liberalism, communism and fascism in Brazil; and the US and Brazil during the Second World War and the Cold War.

"Here at the Wilson Center as a Public Policy Scholar in the Brazil Institute, my intention is to focus on the changing nature of Brazil's role in the new global order since the end of the Cold War. Brazil is an emerging regional power—in South America—and an emerging global power, with ties to the United States, Europe, and increasingly to the rest of the South," said Bethell.

"In effect, [I will be writing] the final chapter of the book."