José Antonio Gonsalves de Mello

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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Born on 16 December in Recife, to Doctor Ulysses Pernambucano de Mello (1892 – 1943) and Albertina Carneiro Leão de Mello (1893 - 1963).

Does his secondary school studies at Ginásio Pernambucano, Recife and at the Anglo-Brazilian in Rio de Janeiro.

Enters the Recife Faculty of Law, graduating in 1937. At the invitation of Gilberto Freyre, his cousin, he does historical research for work-in-progress, Casa-grande & senzala (The Masters and the Slaves) and, at Freyre’s suggestion, dedicates himself to the study of Dutch, which he strives to do. In 1934 he participates in the 1st Afro-Brazilian Conference of Recife, presenting a paper on the situation of black people under the Dutch dominion, published in 1937.

Creates in 1940, in Rio de Janeiro, together with Dutch refugees and Honório Rodrigues, the Brazil-Holland Institute. Continues his research in the Archives of São Paulo, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, searching for and revising documents, the majority of which are unedited, regarding the history of Pernambuco. On 2 July 1943 he becomes an effective member of the Pernambuco Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Institute. In this period he concludes his work Tempo dos Flamengos (The Time of the Dutch), published in 1947.

Invited by Gilberto Freyre, assumes in August 1949 the Executive Direction of the Joaquim Nabuco Institute for Social Research, today the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, therefore becoming the first director with the difficult task of organising the installation of the organ and beginning its work. In 1951, for being an official employee, it was not possible for him to remain at the Institute because of a conflict of interest. From 1950 he is in charge of historical research at the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Patrimony.

1951 -1953
Sent to Portugal by the Rector of the University of Recife, Professor Joaquim Amazonas, with the mission of conducting research regarding the history of Northeast Brazil, and particularly of Pernambuco, in the archives at the Tombo Tower, the National Library in Lisbon, the libraries in Ajuda, Évora and Porto, where he remains until 1952. On his return to Recife in 1953, he occupies the History of America chair at the University of Recife, today the Federal University of Pernambuco, where he was chair professor until 1977.

As a result of his research in the Portuguese archives, he publishes a biographic series on the most important restorers of Pernambuco for the Tercentennial celebration of the Pernambuco Restoration. The biography of João Fernandes Vieira would only be published two years later in 1956.

In this period, still under the patronage of the University of Recife, he returns to Europe, this time to the archives in Holland, France, Spain and England. On 27 September 1957, he takes up residency in The Hague, where the country’s main archives were kept. On 2 October, he begins History of Brazil classes in the Spanish, Portuguese and Iberian-American Institute at the University of Utrecht as the professor designated by the University of Recife, later receiving from the Kingdom’s Ministry for Education, Arts and Sciences the title of privaat docent of the university, where he is a professor until May 1958. At the same time he dedicates himself to researching historical documentation relating to the Northeast of Brazil, and Pernambuco in particular, at the General Archive of the Kingdom and the Archive of the Royal House in The Hague; the Municipal Archive and the Archive of the Reformed Community in Amsterdam; and the University of Leiden Archives. During the Christmas holidays, a period when classes at the University of Utrecht were interrupted, he goes to Seville in Spain to work at the General Archives of the Indies and at the Library and Municipal Archive in Porto, Portugal. In June 1958, he relocates to Spain to give continuity to his research at the National Library and the Royal Academy of History in Madrid, and the General Archive of Simancas, located in a village 15 km from Valladolid. On 18 March 1958 he is honoured by the government of Portugal as an Official of the Military Order of Christ.

Releases the work Estudos Pernambucanos (Pernambuco Studies) in 1960, resulting from his research in European archives and, in 1962, Diálogos das grandezas do Brasil (Dialogue of Magnitude of Brazil), in its first complete edition, based on the documents from Leiden, Holland. He participates in the 1960 International Conference on the History of Discoveries in Lisbon. On this occasion, and in 1964, he returns to work at the Archive in Simancas. From 1960 to 1964 he teaches palaeography at the Federal University of Pernambuco. On 30 January 1963 he receives the Pernambuco Medal of Merit, awarded by the Pernambuco State Government. In 1964 he is named Director of the Institute of the Sciences of Man, later the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences at the Federal University of Pernambuco, a position he filled until 1969. In this period he administrates a post-graduate course in a discipline that he created: History of the Northeast.

He becomes President of the Pernambuco Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Institute. He is honoured on 21 November 1966 with the Naval Medal of Outstanding Service by the Ministry of the Brazilian Navy. In 1967 he becomes a correspondent member of the Brazilian Historical and Geographic Institute in Rio de Janeiro and in 1969, a Member of the State Council for Culture (until 1978).

He is elected to the Pernambuco Academy of Letters and the Portuguese Academy of History in Lisbon, initially as a correspondent member. On 28 January 1972 he is honoured by the Queen of the Netherlands as an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau. He receives on 15 October 1974 the Medal of Educational Merit from the State of Pernambuco.

Between 1979 and 1983 he acts as an effective member on the Deliberative Council of the Recife City Culture Foundation. In 1980 he becomes a member of the Directorial Council of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. Between 1983 and 1985 he is in charge of the development of additions and corrections to the second edition of the F. A. Pereira da Costa work, Anais Pernambucanos (Pernambuco Annals), edited by Leonardo Dantas Silva in the Pernambuco Collection, 2nd phase, under the patronage of the Pernambuco State Government (Fundarpe). On 8 May 1984 he receives the Medal of the Guararapes Order of Merit, awarded by the Government of Pernambuco and on 18 December 1985, the City of Recife Capibaribe Medal of Merit, awarded by the Recife City Council. He is elected to chair nº 37 of the Portuguese Historical Academy in Lisboa.

1987 - 1989
In 1987 he becomes a member of the Gilberto Freyre Foundation Advisory Board and launches the third, revised edition of his book Tempo dos Flamengos through Editora Massangana, with patronage from the Instituto Nacional do Livro (National Book Institute) and the Banco do Nordeste do Brasil. In 1989 he publishes Gente da Nação (People of the Nation) about the new-Christians and Jews in Pernambuco from 1542-1654.

1990 - 2000
Having assumed the presidency of the Pernambuco Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Institute since 1965, he is reappointed to the role through annual elections, as he continues to assume the editorial direction of the Institute’s magazine, having created during the period the ‘Série Branca’ (White Series), from issue nº 48. He continues developing consultancy and orientation projects at the Institute for those dedicated to historical research, collaborating with magazines and presentations of various books, as well as conducting conferences on themes relating to the History of Northeast Brazil in sessions of the organisation. As a current member of the Editorial Council of the Joaquim Nabuco foundation, he writes the preface to the Abolition, Republic and Discovery Series of the Editora Massangana. Publishes the second edition of Gente da Nação: Cristãos Novos e Judeus em Pernambuco 1542-1654 (People of the Nation: New Christians and Jews in Pernambuco 1542-1654) (1996) and Tempo de Jornal (Time of Newspapers) (1998), a collection of his articles published in periodicals.

Dies in Recife on 7 January.

Recife, 21 July 2003.
(Updated on 28 August 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. José Antonio Gonsalves de Mello. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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