Geoffrey Plank

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

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In recent years scholars have become increasingly aware of the pervasiveness of violence in the early modern Atlantic world. The growing attentiveness to the issues surrounding the coercive or injurious use of force has stemmed partly from a long-standing, widespread historiographic trend. For decades scholars have been encouraged to consider topics at least partly from the perspective of groups that received less attention from earlier generations of historians. This project of writing history “from the bottom up” is hardly new, but the large volume of work conducted since the 1960s has vastly expanded our knowledge and made us more aware of the ways in which class relations, race relations, and sexual relations in the early modern era were affected by violence. In pursuing these themes, historians have been influenced by many theoretical works, including those of Robert Cover (see Judicially Imposed Violence) and Elaine Scarry (see Cannibalism, Severed Heads, and Terror), which call attention to ways in which unseen violence continues to order much of modern life. Of course, sometimes violence is quite visible. It has been known for centuries that relations between colonists and indigenous peoples could be violent. Nonetheless, our understanding of those early colonial bloody encounters has been complicated and enriched over the past several decades by scholars who have sought to understand the distinct meanings various groups of native peoples and colonists attached to their actions. Slavery, similarly, has been associated with violence for as long as it has been discussed, but its violent nature has been reconceived in fundamental terms since 1959, when Stanley Elkins stimulated a reexamination of the impact of everyday violence on the lives of North America’s slaves (see Violence and the Experience of Slavery).

Article.  6116 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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