Prologue Hostis Humani Generis

in The Terror of Natural Right

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226184388
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226184401 | DOI:
Prologue Hostis Humani Generis

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Natural right theory emerged as an essential political and philosophical language at the turn of the seventeenth century in direct response to the pressing legal questions raised by European imperialism in the New World. The different incarnations of the hostis humani generis (“enemy of the human race”) were always perceived as sharing certain “family resemblances,” chief amongst which were bestiality and inhumanity. The strange history of the “enemy of the human race” stretches back across centuries, but it is revealing that important episodes in this history, in particular its judicial role in the Terror during the French Revolution, took place in a century that elevated nature to a rung previously occupied by God alone. This chapter examines the concept of natural right in the New World, its relation to the devil in Christian theology, and its link to tyranny. It also discusses the law of nations and the law of nature.

Keywords: natural right; New World; Terror; French Revolution; devil; theology; tyranny; law of nations

Chapter.  8067 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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