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Open Access Punishing the sea wolf: corsairs and cannibals in the early modern Caribbean

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Punishing the sea wolf: corsairs and cannibals in the early modern Caribbean

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

Looks at how Western law was interpreted and applied to perceived cannibals and corsairs in the Spanish Caribbean in the 16th and 17th c., by Spanish jurists in the period, and at the development of the cannibal and corsair image in Spanish culture. Author outlines the convergence of terms suggesting a growing semantic linkage between certain indigenous peoples, specially the famed "Carib cannibals", and foreign, mostly Western European, corsairs poaching on Spanish wealth. He describes how of the Caribs, said to be cannibals, involved in piracy, an image was constructed of not only cannibals, but also greedy criminals, or rebelers against Catholicism, in order to (legally) justify punishments or wars against them, and thus Spanish rule. He then discusses how of French, British, and other corsairs in the Caribbean involved in piracy against the Spanish, an in some ways similar image was painted of fanatical canine types ruled by appetites, and also of anti-Catholic heretics and criminals, in order to justify punishments as well as the Spanish claim on rule of the Caribbean.

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