Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492 - 1763

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John Hopkins University Press, 1992 - History - 217 pages
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When the natives of Hispaniola first told Christopher Columbus of their feared enemies to the east - using the Arawak word caniba or carib - the admiral considered two possible explanations. Either these fierce warriors were soldiers of the nearby Great Khan (Spanish can) or they were cannibals. Europeans' dawning awareness of New World geography soon proved Columbus's first theory wrong. But the second has persisted for centuries. In Cannibal Encounters Philip Boucher analyzes the images - and the realities - of European relations with the people known as Island Caribs during the first three centuries after Columbus. Boucher begins by examining the current debate about the Caribs' ethnic origins and the controversy over their supposed cannibalism. Subsequent chapters show how French and English Caribbean policies evolved and how those policies were related to - and influenced by - literary and cultural images in the work of such thinkers as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Although the French and the English developed similar plantation economies that meant harsh treatment for the Caribs, French relations with the islanders were usually less strained than those of the British. Among the reasons for this difference, Boucher argues, were the benevolent influence of French missionaries and merchants and the firm hand of French government, which restrained colonialists' worst excesses. Based on literary sources, travelers' observations, and missionary accounts, as well as on French and English colonial archives and administrative correspondence, Cannibal Encounters offers a vivid portrait of a troubled chapter in the history of European-Amerindian relations.

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A boucherie of dogheaded cannibals
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About the author (1992)

Philip P. Boucher is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and author of Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492--1763, also published by Johns Hopkins.

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