More than any other part of the 'New World' it displayed both the greatest beauty and grandeur and witnessed scenes of the most terrible European ferocity. Its native people both revolutionized Europe's ideas of itself and were then subject to extermination. For white settlers Brazil's opportunities seemed endless, for imported black slaves it was a hell on earth. Brazil: A Biography, written by two of Brazil's leading historians and a bestseller in Brazil itself, is a remarkable attempt to convey the overwhelming diversity and challenges of this huge country - larger than the contiguous USA and still in some regions not fully mapped - from its origins to the twenty-first century. The book's major themes are the near-continuous battles to create both political institutions and social frameworks that would allow stable growth, legal norms and protection for all its citizens. Brazil's failure to achieve these except in the very short term has been tragic, but even in the 21st century it remains one of the world's great experiments - creative, harsh, unique and as compelling a story for its inhabitants as for outsiders.