Provincial Reports on Early Twentieth Century Brazil

Rafael Davis Portela, History
Irene Meisel, History

“The New Governor Takes Office”, Fon-Fon vol. 11, June 1908.

This project is part of my research on the relationship between transnational corporations and the development of urban infrastructure in Latin America. My goal here is to work with Bahian governors’ annual reports from 1892 to 1930, in which they evaluated the social, political and economic situation of that Brazilian state. They cover, among other things, the financial health of the state, its debt, sources for credit, list of debts, along with investments and works related to public services. The reports are rich and extensive, but haven’t been explored to their full potential. Even though they are available online, the researcher can only access them page by page, and the tables are not available in a usable format.

This project will follow these steps: First, I aim to find a way to automatically download those reports—some reports are hundreds of pages long—and make them single pdf files. Second, I plan to OCR them, and check the accuracy of the numbers to see if I can rely in the OCR. Third, I will find out how to transform the tables into a workable format, such as csv files. Fourth, I plan to create an online repository so people can quickly access and work with the data. And finally, I will learn and employ ways to map investments, credit, debit, and movement of capital, and find ways to present this visually. This will enhance user’s understanding of how these factors impacted urban development in early twentieth century Bahia.