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“To Kill all Whites”: The Ethics of African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba, 1807–1844

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Using case studies extracted from primary sources produced predominantly in Brazil and Cuba, this article contends that West African military commanders and troops in both regions during the first half of the nineteenth century exhibited an ethical behavior associated with war, which was strongly tied to their cosmologies of the world. Since these actions were all staged against either slavery or enslavement, it argues that the central ethical issue of whether it was right to take arms and kill people they considered enemies (jus ad bellum), was a non-issue from the moment the protagonists’ and participants’ plans took shape. Further ethical issues that could and would arise once each of these armed movements was underway, which were more ambiguous, are also considered in this article.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Latin American History, School of History, University of Leeds,


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