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War, Piracy And Religion: Godfried Udemans’ Spiritual Helm (1638)

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Chapter Summary

The Spiritual helm appeared in print some thirty years after Hugo Grotius occupied himself with De jure praedae, but Godfried Udemans had already begun articulating his thoughts in 1608. This chapter examines the extent to which Udemans draws upon religion as a means of legitimizing violence on behalf of secular political authorities such as the prince, and, more in particular, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and West India Company (WIC). If Udemans is representative of the religious tradition to which he reckoned himself, holy war thought did not figure prominently in Dutch Calvinism. Udemans achieved some notoriety in modern times because of a passage on slavery in his Spiritual helm in which he insisted that Christians were allowed to enslave 'Heathens and Turks' on condition that they had been captured during a 'just war' or bought from their parents at a fair price.

Keywords: Christians; Dutch East India Company (VOC); Godfried Udemans; Holy War; Spiritual Helm; West India Company (WIC)

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