For almost 200 years - since Brazil's independence from Portugal in 1822 – many Brazilian politicians and intellectuals, and many foreign observers, have believed that Brazil had the potential to become a great nation and a positive force in international affairs - largely because of its continental size and natural resources, but also because of its people, its society and culture, the absence of significant linguistic, religious, racial, ethnic or regional domestic conflict and (since the Paraguayan War in 1870) Brazil's peaceful relations with its neighbors. During the Empire (1822-89), the First Republic (1889-1930), the Vargas era (1930-45) and even the post World War II/Cold War period (both under democracy, 1945-64 and under military dictatorship, 1964-85) Brazil was, however, largely inward-looking, primarily concerned with its own political and economic development and defining its national identity. As result, Brazil was relatively peripheral in both regional (whether Brazil's region is defined as the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, or Latin America, or South America) and global affairs.
Leslie Bethell, the Brazil Institute Senior Scholar at the Wilson Center, is writing a book on Brazil in regional and global history. He will present a paper that examines what Brazilians have in the past thought about Brazil's place in the region and the world, what has been Brazil's policy towards the region and the rest of the world and, finally, why since the end of the Cold War both thinking and policy has changed and why Brazil has for the first time become a significant player in both regional and global affairs.
Luigi Einaudi, author of a recently published article titled "Why Brazil and the United States Matter to Each Other: the Need for Strategic Engagement," will offer comments on Bethell's paper.