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1808: The Flight of the Emperor: How A Weak Prince, A Mad Queen, And The British Navy Tricked Napoleon And Changed The New World Hardcover – September 3, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Portugal’s royal court, plus about 10,000 support staff, sailed from Lisbon in 1807, expelled by an invading French army. Taking refuge in Brazil, the exiles stayed until 1821. Gomes relates this episode and its significant ramifications from a variety of perspectives: from the positions and personalities of the king, João VI, and his consort, Carlota Joaquina; from observations by visitors to Brazil during those years; and through narratives of political events in the home country and its huge tropical colony. Though João was not, avers Gomes, an impressive figure, the presence of his court promoted a unity that Brazil did not previously possess, while his sanction of free trade connected the colony to world commerce, including commerce in African slaves. Describing the populaces of Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities, Gomes renders a society in flux, contrasting it with Portugal’s sufferings from war and political turbulence. The latter resulted in a constitution, marking João VI as Portugal’s last absolute monarch. Gomes’ work, a best-seller in Brazil, will engage readers interested in a formative phase of the country’s history. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

The author of this study has produced a book that is enjoyable to read. .. .it does a fine job and gives casual readers a valuable overview. The book is a bestseller and has drawn a lot of popular attention to an important period of Atlantic World colonial history, which is of course desirable and impressive. .. .If one were asked to recommend the book as light reading for a popular audience, one would do so enthusiastically. -Historian (Historian)

An Amazon.com History Bestseller

Winner of the Jabuti Prize

A Brazilian Academy of Letters Best Work of Nonfiction

Critical Acclaim for 1808: The Flight of the Emperor

"This vivid portrait of an unkempt, self-preserving king provides insight into the obscure history of Brazil. ... A meticulous and encyclopedic account of life in the colony of Brazil, as well as the doings of the Portuguese royalty in their new home ... 1808: The Flight of the Emperor offers important knowledge for understanding how modern-day Brazil, a diverse mix of the ancestors of Europeans, slaves, and natives, was created. ... Gomes tells that story completely, with vivid accounts from historians as well as original sources."
Foreword

"Highly readable ... a well-researched, engaging history."
Kirkus Reviews

"Good airline reading on your next flight to Rio."
Library Journal

"Fascinating."
Publishers Weekly

“A light and informative history ... Gomes offers a broad perspective on the period, portrayed in bright colors.”
Folha de São Paulo

“A rare portrait ... Gomes’s research shines . . . in his ability to recreate with unparalleled flair a portrait of daily life in the colonies and how this all changed with the arrival of the Portuguese.”
Estado de São Paulo

“This is a book that you will read with a broad smile. ... The result of ten years of research, 1808 is a veritable guidebook through all the events that formed part of this little-known episode of history. ... It conjures up a delicious blend of good humor and erudition to create a broad portrait of events and people that crossed paths during the thirteen-year adventure in the tropics. ... Through short, cinematic chapters, Gomes successfully sets up a jigsaw puzzle in which each piece fits right into the preceding one. ... In addition to supporting the historical record with primary source documents and with more recent studies, he makes the people of the era jump off the page. ... 1808 reveals these events with grace and weightlessness. ... It’s a historical synthesis that shines for the clarity of its explanations and for the interest of the past it projects onto the present. It’s a well conceived idea sustained by a flawless methodology.”
Veja magazine
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 10th Edition Revised and Corrected edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762787961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762787968
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Brown on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first heard about this book many months ago when I was visiting South America and met a Brazilian who had read the Portuguese version and shared several funny anecdotes from the book with me. I was fascinated by the fact that the nation of Brazil owes its creation and independence to the only ever relocation of a Royal Court to a Colony (Lisbon to Rio) in recorded history. When I discovered that an English version of this book was coming out, I was quick to preorder a copy.

Having nearly finished the book, I can honestly say that it is a great primer for anyone wanting to learn more about the nation of Brazil. The book is filled with interesting (and often hilarious) anecdotes about the years leading up to the relocation and the roughly 13 years the Royal Court spent in Rio de Janiero after the flight from Lisbon. I've especially enjoyed reading the first-hand accounts of the lives of people that lived in Rio at this time. The author has done a great job of tracking down many primary sources to help the reader better understand the period and context of events.

The English version is topnotch and I have encountered zero spelling errors or grammar issues. Kudos to the translator and editors. I'm very much looking forward to the English version of the sequel "1822"!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Histories, well written and researched, can be informative, entertaining, and enlightening. Laurentino Gomes has accomplished this. As an historian I am grateful for this well-documented read. The presentation of the cultural impact the fleeing monarchy had on Brazil is most rewarding. Gomes humanizes this history and moves beyond the mere informative of who and how and into the world of the impact human choices have on the world. If there is any weakness to the work it is the lack of maps, contemporary or historical.

This is a book worth reading twice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to understand the present and the possible future, you have to understand the past. 1808 is one of the most important moments of the History of Brazil. Everything changed! The next 205 years from than was unfolded to our days because a weak Prince, a mad Queen and the British Navy tricked Napoleon. As funny at it looks this is an amazing story that seeks for the, sometimes, unbelievable truth. This reading experience is a delicious journey through a story that seems as a brilliant fiction, but is the closest thing to the reality of that time. Laurentino searches as an investigative journalist and writes like a novelist that you can't stop reading. I loved the book and all the extensive indications of "what is where". It inspire me to spend some time browsing the internet to learn more about some of the incredible moments of our world history. Last thing (promise I'll stop): History is usually written by the "winners", so heroes and villains are completely out of integrity and their actions make no sense. In 1808 you understand the "who's" and the "why's" with no good or bad label. This is all happening today... Who is spying who? What Republicans has to do with Republic? What Democrats has to do with Democracy? Why Brazil is destroying there forests? Sorry for this last part... Enjoy the book!
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Format: Hardcover
1808 narrates the birth of Brazil as a nation. It was not a revolution that formed the country, but a fleeing king and his entourage. That is peculiar in itself, but the details are even more out of the ordinary, and that's where this book stands out.

The book reads like an article in The Atlantic maganize. The chapters are very short, further increasing the readability.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a history and personality study of Portuguese emperor Joao (John) VI who was forced to avoid Napoleon and flee to set up shop in his then colony of Brazil until recalled by the Cortes in 1821. It's second in a history of Brazil trilogy by this author.

After a difficult Atlantic passage Joao sojourned in Salvador before sailing to his final destination, Rio de Janeiro, which featured slavery, prostitution and a lower caste personnel than the Portuguese court was used to.

An unattractive, fat slovenly, timid man whose only uniqueness lay in fear of thunder and crabs, Joao played a curiously enigmatic role with successful establishments of schools, banks and other institutions heretofore missing in Brazil. He left Brazilian industry in an improved condition. Gomes credits him with preserving the territorial integrity of Brazil resulting in its major role in the present S. American political economy. Shortly after the death of Joao in 1828 his son Pedro I established a Brazilian monarchy independent of Portugal.

The book depicts relations with his mad (like George III) mother Maria I, in whose name he ruled as regent, and his wife, the former Spanish infanta, Carlota Joaquina. Carlota, before consummation of marriage, bashed him over the head with a silver candlestick. Later she fomented a couple of rebellions and very likely poisoned him. She did bear him 7 children, including 2 sons and a daughter who feature in the aftermath. In 1821, after return to Portugal, she refused to sign the new constitution.

There's a good description of slavery in Brazil and its place in the Atlantic trade. Gomes gives an interesting statistic that 40% of prospective slaves died between capture and way to the W.
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