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Gilberto Freyre

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Sociologist, anthropologist and writer

Gilberto Freyre

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Last update: 11/08/2017

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Sociologist, anthropologist and writer, Gilberto de Mello Freyre was born in Recife, Pernambuco, on 15 March 1900, on the old Aflitos Road (nowadays Rosa e Silva Avenue), to professor and judge Alfredo Freyre and Francisca de Mello Freyre.

It was at Gilreath, in Recife (1908-1917), where he actively participated in its literary society, becoming editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Lábaro, edited by the teaching institution.

In 1918, he travelled to the United States to complete his university studies: graduating in Liberal Arts, majoring in Political and Social Sciences, from Baylor University, and completing his masters and doctorate in Political, Juridical and Social Sciences at Columbia University, where he defended the thesis Vida social no Brasil em meados do século XIX (Social Life in Brazil in the mid-19th Century).

He travelled to various European countries, returning to Brazil in 1923, preferring to live in his hometown, Recife, instead of going to the south of the country.
Considered to be a pioneer of Sociology in Brazil, he was one of the organisers of the 1st Brazilian Congress on Regionalism, from which came the publication Manifesto regionalista de 1926 (Regionalist Manifesto of 1926), which was opposed to the Modern Art Week of 1922 and valuing Northeast regionalism in confrontation with the appearances of “European Culture”.

From 1927 to 1930, he was head of the cabinet of the then-governor of Pernambuco, Estácio Coimbra.

In 1933, he published his most famous book Casa-grande & senzala (The Masters and the Slaves), which would later be published in various countries like Argentina (1942); United States (1946); France (1952); Portugal (1957); Germany and Italy (1965); Venezuela (1977); Hungary and Poland (1985), and others.

He was elected as Federal congressman in 1946. As a congressman, he was behind the project that created the Joaquim Nabuco Institute of Social Research, nowadays the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation.

Besides being a writer, he was also a painter and a journalist. He ran the Recife newspapers A Província and the Diario de Pernambuco. He was a contributor to the magazine O Cruzeiro (Rio de Janeiro) and various foreign periodicals.

He was a member of the Federal Council of Culture since its creation, director of the Regional Centre for Educational Research and president of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation’s board of directors.

He received various literary awards and the Honorary Doctorates from several Brazilian and foreign universities. From Queen Elizabeth II, of England, he received the title of Knight of the British Empire.

He is the author of dozens of books, among them: Casa-grande & senzala (The Masters and the Slaves) (1933), a work considered fundamental to the understanding of the social formation of Brazil; Sobrados e mucambos (The Mansions and the Shanties) (1936); Nordeste (The Northeast) (1937); O mundo que o português criou (The World the Portuguese Created) (1940); Ingleses no Brasil (The English in Brazil) (1948); Aventura e rotina (Adventure and Routine) (1953); Ordem e progresso (Order and Progress: Brazil from monarchy to republic)  (1959); Vida, forma e cor (Life, Form and Colour) (1962); Homem, cultura e trópico (Man, Culture and the Tropics) (1962); Oliveira Lima, Dom Quixote Gordo (Oliveira Lima, Fat Don Quixote) (1968); Além do apenas moderno (Beyond Just Modern) (1973); Tempo de aprendiz (Time to Learn) (1979); Rurbanização: que é? (Re-urbanisation: What is it?) (1982); Apipucos: que há num nome? (Apipucos: What is there in a name?) (1983); Insurgências e ressurgências (Insurgencies and Resurgences) (1983); Modos de homem e modas de mulher (Ways of Men and Ways of Women) (1987); Ferro e civilização no Brasil (Iron and Civilisation in Brazil) (1988).

He died in Recife, on 18 July 1987, and was buried in a sepulchre in the Santo Amaro Cemetery.

Recife, 19 August 2003.
Updated on 28 August 2009.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.
Updated on 02 april 2018.

sources consulted

FONSECA, Edson Nery da. Cronologia da vida e da obra com índice onomástico, temático e biblionímico. Ciência & Trópico, Recife, v. 15, n. 2, p. 233-286, 1987.

GILBERTO Freyre [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 02 abr. 2018.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Gilberto Freyre. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009