Long before the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia, colony and its Starving Time of 1609–1610—one of the most famous cannibalism narratives in North American colonial history—cannibalism, and accusations of cannibalism, played an important role in the history of food, hunger, and moral outrage. Why did colonial invaders go out of their way to accuse women of cannibalism? What challenges did Spaniards face in trying to explain Eucharist rites to Native peoples? What roles did preconceived notions about non-Europeans play in inflating accounts of cannibalism in Christopher Columbus’s reports as they moved through Italian merchant circles?
Asking questions such as these and exploring what it meant to accuse someone of eating people as well as how cannibalism rumors facilitated slavery and the rise of empires, To Feast on Us as Their Prey posits that it is impossible to separate histories of cannibalism from the role food and hunger have played in the colonization efforts that shaped our modern world.
Rachel B. Herrmann is a lecturer in modern American history at Cardiff University.
“To Feast on Us as Their Prey raises the academic-historical study of cannibalism to a new level. ‘Cannibal’ is a loaded word; in the past, New World colonists, who feature prominently in these pages, denounced Native populations as ‘kennyballes’ and ‘canibales’ as a rationale for conquering them. Yet there is ample evidence that ‘civilized’ people too, including some colonists, resorted to cannibalism as a coping strategy in famine conditions in the past—and that they were forgiven for doing so. The topic is an inherently complex and disturbing one, which the ten essays in this collection handle with sensitivity, learning, and originality.”
—Cormac Ó Gráda, author of Eating People is Wrong and Other Essays on Famine and coeditor of Famine in European History
Food and Foodways is a series from the University of Arkansas Press that explores historical and contemporary topics in global food studies. We are committed to representing a diverse set of voices that tell lesser known food stories and to provoking new avenues of interdisciplinary research. Our strengths are works in the humanities and social sciences that use food as a critical lens to examine broader cultural, environmental, and ethical issues. In addition to scholarly books, we publish creative nonfiction that explores these topics with a focus on food’s sensory dimensions.