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Cairu and the revolutionary vertigo: time, language and epistemology of conservatism (1772-1831)

Grant number: 20/12332-1
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2021
Effective date (End): April 30, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History
Principal Investigator:João Paulo Garrido Pimenta
Grantee:Lucas da Costa Mohallem
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This investigation focuses on the political-intellectual trajectory of José da Silva Lisboa, the Viscount of Cairu (1756-1835). Vilified by the most radical of his contemporaries as a servile man who bowed to power, and evoked by present-day Right-wing activists as a role-model for political action, Cairu is a character who has been consistently associated with conservative thought. Without a doubt, these representations are not thoroughly undue. His political activity during the First Reign (1822-1831), for example, presents characteristics that make it worthy of being called "conservative". But it was not always like so. When we appreciate the evolution of his political discourse and practice over time, we see that, although conservatism indeed came to be one of his points of arrival, it was not his point of departure. An alumnus of the University of Coimbra after its crucial reform of 1772, Silva Lisboa was trained along the lines of the Portuguese Enlightenment. Aligned with the canon of Natural Law - the basis of enlightened reformist thought -, his first writings expressed a rationalist profile, an axiomatic vision, and a prospective outlook, even endowed with an utopian component. This state of affairs would drastically change around 1808. The date here is not fortuitous: the dramatic and unprecedented phenomenon presented by the transposition of the Portuguese Court to America contributed to cement the perception that the subjects of the Portuguese crown were not exempt from the revolutionary onslaught that rampaged through Europe since 1789. Taken by vertigo before the revolutionary march, Silva Lisboa would abandon the naturalist stance that he had until then upheld, taking a conservative detour. Choosing time, language and epistemology as its axes of analysis, this dissertation follows the trajectory of this character in light of the historical context of the Age of Revolutions. Thusly oriented, this research advances considerations not only regarding the character it takes as its object, but that also concern the political culture of Brazil and Portugal, and conservatism more broadly. (AU)

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