Thomas Skidmore Awarded Brazilian Studies Association Lifetime Contribution Award


Thomas Skidmore, Emeritus Professor of History and Brazilian and Luso-Brazilian Studies at Brown University, has been named the 2006 recipient of the Brazilian Studies Association’s Lifetime Contribution Award.

Reflecting the primary mission of BRASA, the LCA recognizes Dr. Skidmore as a leader with both a record of outstanding scholarly achievement and significant contributions to the promotion of Brazilian studies in the United States. BRASA especially wishes to emphasize Dr. Skidmore’s lifetime contributions to our field.

Dr. Skidmore’s stellar career merits such an honor for his scholarship, teaching, publishing, mentoring, and institutional development, among other contributions to the profession. He played a very significant role in advancing the study of Brazil in the United States throughout his forty-year career as a professor of Brazilian and Latin American history.

Born in Troy, Ohio on July 22, 1932, Dr. Skidmore graduated from Denison University in 1954, received a masters’ degree from the University of Oxford, and completed his doctorate in history at Harvard University in 1961. He taught as an instructor and then as assistant professor at Harvard from 1960 to 1966. In 1967 he moved to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, becoming a full professor the subsequent year. Dr. Skidmore moved to Brown University in 1988 where he taught in the History Department (where he was Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of Modern Latin American History) and was the Director of the Center for Latin American Studies until his retirement in 2000. He has served as President of the Latin American Studies Association and of the New England Council of Latin American Studies.

Dr. Skidmore’s first monograph, Politics in Brazil, 1930-1964: An Experiment in Democracy (Oxford University Press, 1967), based on post-doctoral research at Harvard University, immediately became the definitive political history in English of those turbulent times. He followed up that volume with a political history of the military regime, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964-85 (Oxford University Press, 1988) that documented the political system under the dictatorship and the gradual return to democratic rule in the early 1980s. Taken together, these two volumes offer the most comprehensive survey of modern Brazilian history and have become classics in the history of Republican Brazil. He has also produced an important textbook history, Brazil: Five Centuries of Change (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Another significant contribution of Dr. Skidmore to Brazilian studies has been the intellectual history, Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought (Oxford University Press, 1974), which traces the changes in notions of race in Brazil from debates during slavery to the eugenic and nationalist movements of the twentieth century. Like his two works on the political history of twentieth-century Brazil, this volume has become a reference point for all subsequent treatments of the subject. Dr. Skidmore continued publishing on this topic with an edited volume, The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870-1940 (University of Texas Press, 1990).

Dr. Skidmore’s interest in modern Latin American history led him to co-edit with Simon Collier and Harold Blakemore the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean (Cambridge University Press, 1985, 1992), also published in Spanish. He co-authored with Peter H. Smith Modern Latin America (Oxford University Press, 1984 and subsequent editions), co-authored with E. Bradford Burns, Elites, Masses, and Modernization in Latin America, 1850-1930 (University of Texas Press, 1979), and edited Television, Politics, and the Transition to Democracy in Latin America (Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1993).

In Brazil, Thomas E. Skidmore has come to personify the “Brazilianist,” as is reflected in the Portuguese publication of a collection of his essays,O Brasil visto de fora (Paz e Terra, 1994) and in the numerous printings of his translated works (Politics in Brazil, for example, has undergone some 20 printings and sold 85,000 copies). In Brazilian academia he is recognized as a stellar historian, and in the Brazilian media he is by far the most sought-after foreign commentator on Brazilian affairs. His name is a household word among Brazilian intellectuals. On at least two occasions during Brazil’s military dictatorship Dr. Skidmore’s public statements about the political situation caused confrontations with the government.

Beyond his role as an eminent scholar, Dr. Skidmore’s contribution to the field of Brazilian Studies is also reflected in the scores of graduate students he has trained over the years at Harvard, Wisconsin, and Brown.

In addition to Dr. Skidmore’s myriad intellectual, pedagogical and service contributions, he has always been an admirable and caring colleague. His warm and ironic personality, his generosity, his intellectual prowess, and his dedication to the profession mark him as one of the most respected scholars of Brazilian history and culture both in the United States and in Brazil.

Ten prominent Brazilianist scholars put forth Dr. Skidmore’s nomination. His selection was made by the BRASA LCA Committee, consisting of BRASA Vice President Kenneth P. Serbin and Executive Committee members Severino Albuquerque, Maxine L. Margolis, and William C. Smith, and ratified by the BRASA Executive Committee.