The political economy of money and banking in Imperial Brazil, 1850-1870
The thesis examines the development of monetary and banking policies during the apogee of the Brazilian Empire (1850-70). It adopts a political economy approach to Brazilian monetary history, with the objective of contributing to the debate surrounding the relative autonomy of the imperial State in relation to the planter class (fazendeiros). The research has established two major points of historical fact: the peculiar nature of the gold standard regime in force in Brazil during part of the period, and the role of the Bank of Brazil therein. The analysis has also extended current knowledge of two major contemporary events in the financial sphere - the 1860 banking and corporate law and the Souto crisis of 1864. The former is shown to have been less draconian than claimed by historians while attention is drawn to the hitherto neglected role of private banks in fuelling the 1864 crisis. The thesis argues that between 1850 and 1870 the imperial government followed an approach to monetary and banking policy that could be termed “pragmatically conservative”. This tended to involve the “hard money” combination of monetary restraint and adherence to the gold standard, although on crucial occasions - such as during the Souto crisis, and the Paraguayan War - monetary prudence gave way to expansionist policies, as reasons of State took precedence over financial rectitude. The research reveals how, in the main, “hard money” policies were pursued in the period, to the detriment of demands from the planter class for monetary expansion. This evidence suggests that, at least in the sphere of money and banking, the imperial State displayed a relative autonomy vis-à-vis the economic elite.