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3 INTRODUCTION “Cannibalism and . . .” RACHEL B. HERRMANN A 1780 print cartoon titled The Allies—par nobile fratrûm depicts a cannibal feast in the middle of the American War for Independence (1775–1783).1 At this gruesome meal, two Native American warriors from an unidentified, caricatured tribe crouch on the ground while another man stands to drain the blood from a dismembered corpse. The blood trickles down from the torso and into a skull that has been fashioned into a drinking cup. One of the Indian men gnaws one end of a long bone. Alongside him lounges a bewigged, non-­ Native figure—­ perhaps King George III or perhaps his prime minister, Lord North, whose name is scrawled faintly next to the man’s head.2 This gentleman sucks the marrow from the bone’s other end, while holding another blood-­ filled skull. The blood is still fresh; hot steam wafts toward his face. The fluid has come in all likelihood from the chubby, curly-­ haired child whose decapitated head lies at the Briton’s foot. Behind him, a Holy Bible stands upside down, its binding on the wrong side of the book, and beside him, a starving dog vomits up this feast, his skeletal frame rejecting the fare that the Indians and the non-­ Native man readily consume. The scene is divided by a flagpole topped with a cross; it supports a disintegrating flag that proclaims the king’s role as“Defender of the Faith.” On the right side of the flag stand a corpulent bishop and a sailor. They approach the eaters, bearing scalping knives, tomahawks, and crucifixes as presents for the Indians, proclaiming “we are hellish good Christians.”The caption of the scene reads,“The Party of Savages went out with Orders not to spare Man,Woman,or Child.To this cruel Mandate even some of the Savages made an Objection, respecting the butchering the Women & Children, but they were told the Children would make Soldiers, & the Women would keep up the Stock.” 4 INTRODUCTION This image encapsulates the state of cannibalism studies today while hinting at the new questions the contributors to this volume answer. Currently, three overlapping strains of cannibalism scholarship exist.The first contends with the question of whether or not cannibalism took place at various times and in myriad locations around the globe. The second instead asks what representations of cannibalism meant at the time when those representations appeared.The third studies individual cases of cannibalism with the aim of categorizing peoples’ practical, religious, symbolic, and gendered ways of and motivations for consuming other people or for levying accusations of cannibalism. Each of these approaches might profitably be applied to this political cartoon. People in the past and the historians who have written about them have debated the veracity of accounts that suggest that men and women ate each other. Using this frame of analysis, it seems reasonable to interpret this image as a rebel American argument that British soldiers and their Indian allies committed“atrocities” during the War Image 1.John Almon, The Allies—­ par nobile fratrûm!, London, February 3, 1780. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. INTRODUCTION 5 for Independence. Because American newspapers circulated stories of Indian and British war crimes—­ accounts of rape, attacks against civilian women and children, and mutilated corpses—­ it would not be surprising if an American artist had tried to claim that their enemies also cannibalized young toddlers.3 Nor would it be surprising if Britons levied similar charges against the American soldiers and their Indian allies, who fought against Great Britain. There was scope for both sides to accuse each other of what they called“savagery.” But the publisher of this cartoon was not American. John Almon was British, and he printed this cartoon in London. Cannibalism scholars have also drawn conclusions about what cannibal representations meant to the people who produced, read, and viewed them. This approach to writing about cannibalism might suggest that a political cartoonist in the late eighteenth century showed the king or his prime minister eating non-­ Native children because he wanted to persuade the viewer that the act of allying with Indians had debased the country and its inhabitants. The Christians become “hellish,” Bibles get turned upside down, the king ceases to defend the faith, and the Crown spends too much money on maintaining destructive alliances. In some Englishmen’s eyes, Indian-­ Anglo military alliances ran the risk of corrupting white men by...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781610756563
Related ISBN
9781682260814
MARC Record
OCLC
1043151613
Pages
250
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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