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O problema siderúrgico nacional na Primeira República

Barros, Gustavo (2011): O problema siderúrgico nacional na Primeira República.

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Abstract

The debate over the Brazilian national steel-making problem took shape in the end of the 1900 decade and lasted until 1941, with the creation, by the Brazilian federal government, of the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN – National Steel Company) to build and exploit the Volta Redonda steel mill, which was hailed as the solution to the problem, thus closing a debate more than three decades long. Due to this and due to the symbolic importance to the Estado Novo with which the CSN was impregnated, the historiography was significantly marked by this particular outcome, which in light of the own debate was by no means necessary. Bearing this in mind, this dissertation aims at reconstructing and analyzing the efforts, debates and conflicts surrounding the steel-making question along the Brazilian First Republic. We attempt to identify the main agents which intervened and weighted in directing government policy relative to the steel sector and try to present the main proposals done and initiatives attempted by these agents, as well as to map the implications of these initiatives and proposals to the development of the sector. Three of the main axes around which the debates turned were the following: i) the counterpoint between “small-scale steel-making” and “large-scale steel-making” and the correlate choice between imported coal, national coal and charcoal; ii) the question of the link between iron ore export and national steel-making; and, at last, iii) the question of the location of the steel mill. We attempt to understand how these three dimensions interacted along the debate, as well as to identify the origin of the defenses of each of these positions at each moment. The dissertation is divided into four main chapters. In a first one, we describe the evolution of the Brazilian steel-making sector between 1900 and 1940, attempting to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of this development. In a second one, we deal with the emergence, in the end of the decade of 1900 and beginning of the following one, of a series of proposals for the export of iron ore from the iron region in Minas Gerais, which were linked, or rather subordinated, to the steel production in the country. Thus the steel-making problem took shape entwined to the question of iron ore export. In a third chapter, we handle the important 1920 Itabira Iron Ore Co. contract and the more immediate reaction, internal and external, which it gave rise to. Finally, in a last chapter, we identify the configuration of a model alternative to the Itabira Iron’s to the solution of the steel-making problem, based on strictly national inputs, detached from the iron ore export and led by the mineiro government, as well as the resulting polarization of the debate over the steel-making problem.

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