Brazil and the two World Wars


By Joseph Smith, published 1st December 2004

Brazil and the outbreak of the First World War At the beginning of the twentieth century Brazil was on the periphery of a world order that revolved around decisions made by the great European powers. Although it was the largest and most populated nation in South America, Brazil possessed an army of just over 20,000 soldiers and a navy whose principal warships were four destroyers and two cruisers. Diplomatic relations were mostly concerned with promoting external trade, especially the export of coffee. In August 1914 when Europe erupted into war, the main topic of Brazilian politics was the forthcoming inauguration in November of a new federal president. Events in Europe soon attracted increasing attention, but genuine surprise was expressed at the outbreak of fighting. The Brazilian government showed no desire to join the conflict and followed the action of President Woodrow Wilson of the United States in declaring a policy of neutrality.

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