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Cannibal tales


Cannibal tales: HCA 15/5 f.99

Editorial history

Created 18/05/13, by CSG

HCA15_5_f.99_Unfolded_180513.JPGHCA 15/5 f.99


This page is for the annotation of The humple petition of Priscilla Lockier and Sara Spurgeon wifes of Hugh Lockier and George Spurgeon two of the Marriners of the Shipp the Virginia Merchant (whereof John Lockier was Captaine or Commander). The document can be found at the National Archives, in Kew, England (HCA 15/5 f.99).

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- HCA 13/72 f.XXXX Case: XXXX; Deposition: XXXX; Date: XXXX. Transcribed by XXXX1

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    1. Suggested links
    2. Transcription
    3. Comment
    4. Topics
      1. People
      2. Places
      3. Ships
      4. Materials
      5. Miscellaneous
        1. Cannibalism and the Custom of the Sea
      6. Text
    5. Sources
      1. Primary sources
      2. Secondary sources


Current Transcription

<series>HCA 15/5</series>
<status>First cut transcription started and completed on 18/05/2013 by Colin Greenstreet</status>
<first-transcriber>Colin Greenstreet</first-transcriber>

Petitio Prescilla Lockyer
presentat. 28th Septem

To the right worshipfull the Judges of the high Court of the Admiraltie:./
The humble petition of Priscilla Lockier and Sara Spurgeon wifes of Hugh Lockier and
George Spurgeon two of the Marriners of the Shipp the Virginia Merchant (whereof John
Lockier was Captaine or Commander./

That the petitioners husbands were hired by the said Captaine Lockier at severall monethly wages to serve in the said shipp for a voyage
to be made from this port of London to Virginia and from thense hither backe againe, which service they performed from
the 6th of September 1649 untill March last being 6 monethes lacking 4 dayes, but by reason the sayd Shipp was become
unserviceable at Virginia your petitioners husbands could not come home in her but are left behind to shift for themselves
the said Captaine Lockier and some others coming home as passengers in another Shippe And your petitioners seeing their husbands come
not home as they expected demanded their wages of the Captaine for the time they served him, but he denyed to pay the
same, for which your petitioners have sued the said Captaine Lockier in the Court And whereas all Masters of Shipps that goe to
Virginia use to carry 3 monethes victualls at the least out with them; The sayd Captaine Lockier had not layd in above 6 weekes
victualls in his said shipp when she sett saile from Gravesend outward bound; which Mr George Putt cheife Mate and pilot of
the said Shippe taking notice of, asked the said Captaine why he had soe slenderly victualled the shipp telling him, it would not
serve halfe way; he replyed that he would take in more victualls at the Downes which he did not at all performe
notwithstanding there were 35 seaman and above 130 passengers neere upon 200 persons in all in the said Shippe, whereof 62
passengers and 4 Seamen by reason of the want of provisions were starved to death before the shipp came to Virginia.

That within a fortnight next after the said Ship set saile from Gravesend both Seamen and passingers were put to their allowance
videlicet the Seamen to two, and the passingers each man to one biskett a day, afterwards to halfe a biskett a day and at length to halfe a
pint of parched pease a day betweene 2 men, they having neither beere nor water in the shippe to drincke but what they were
Constrayned to drinke of strongwaters of their owne which they Carried with them for adventures: and the famine came
soe violently upon them that divers in the said Shippe would willingly have given 10: s for one of the Shipps ratts (which some
of the Seamen catched) to have eaten, their being but one small fish of the value of 6: d allowed for a meale to 15 or 20 men:/
That the said Captaine Lockier sett 23 persons ashore upon an unknowne Island to gett freshwater promising to
fetch them on board againe: but after they were soe sett on shoare the sayd Captaine Lockier presently carried the Shippe
away to Virginia and most in humanely and barbarously left all the said 23 persons in that unknowne place to be starved there
noe manner of food to be found soe that they were forced to live a whole 3 weekes with water and the leaves of trees: And at the
length the rage and violence of their famine soe much increasing and being not able to eate those leaves and longer they cast
lotts which of them should be shott the next day to serve for food for the rest; which was miraculously prevented by the
suddaine and unexpected fall of a great tree that night which killed 2 men and a woman of their Company: which the rest of the Company
left alive were forced to eate and live upon untill such time as they were by Gods providence XXXXXXXX releived by the very
heathen and by them in Canoes transported over the river to the other side and soe travelled to Virginia by land where
divers of them dyed as soone as they came thense, and some dyed on that Island by famine./

That the petitioners have spent all they have even their very {XXXX} from under them in prosecution of this suite to gett
their wages and are like to be utterly ruined and undone they having each of them a great Charge of Children to
bring up and maintaine all which premisses your petitioners are able to prove by the oathes of sufficient witnesses

Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that your worships would be pleased to take
their sad conditions into their your pious and serious Considerations, and to order
the sayd Captaine Lockier to pay your petitioners their whole wages due to their husbands
forthwith or els to give your petitioners leave to give in an allegation in Court to the effect
of the premisses above weitten: the same being altogether omitted in the allegation
given in on your petitioners behalfe; and to produce and examine witnesses thereupon, that
soe the iustice of your petitioners Cause and the great wrong they have received may appeare;

And your petitioners as in humble duty
bound shall ever pray etcetera

The marke of P L Prescillia Lockier
The marke of S Sara Sparges./


In their petition to the Right Worshipful Judges of the High Court of Admiralty, the wives of Hugh Lockier and George Spurgeon present a bleak view of the voyage of the Virginia Merchant and the behaviour of its master, Captain Lockier. They allege that he neglectfully set sail with inadequate victualls, and that as a consequence the crew and passengers were starved for much of the voyage, with a large number of deaths. Moreover, they assert that the captain deliberately and deceitfully left twenty three members of the crew and/or passengers on an island, on the pretext that they were to search for fresh water.


However, another account of the voyage exists, and was published under the title 'A Voyage to Virginia', authored by Colonel Norwood, one of the passengers.2

Norwood's account notes at several points a paucity of victualls, but suggests that this was due to water damage, rather than inadequate initial provisioning.

In one passage he writes.

Before we attempted to bring the ship about, it was necessary to refresh the seamen, who were almost worn out with toil and want of rest, having had no leisure of eating set meals for many days. The passengers overcharged with excessive fears, had no appetite to eat; and (which was worst of all) both seamen and passengers were in a deplorable state as to the remaining victuals, all like to fall under extreme want; for the storm, by taking away the forecastle, having thrown much water into the hold, our stock of bread (the staff of life) was greatly damnified; and there remained no way to dress our meat, now that the cook-room was gone; the incessant tumbling of the ship (as has been observ'd) made all such cookery wholly impracticable. The only expedient to make fire betwixt decks, was, by sawing a cask in the middle, and filling it with ballast, which made a hearth to parch pease, and broil salt beef; nor could this be done but with great attendance, which was many times frustrated by being thrown topsy-turvy in spite of all circumspection, to the great defeat of empty stomachs.3

Praising the skill and courage of Tom Reasin, one of the crew of the Virginia Merchant, in scaling the surviving, but greasy and slippery, foremast to fasten a yard, Norwood confirms the HCA petition that biscuit rations went down to one per day per man:

We passed this night with greater alacrity than we had done any other since we had left Fyall; for mate Putts, our trusty pilot, did confidently affirm, that, if the gale stood, there would be no question of our dining the next day within the capes. This was seasonable news, our water being long since spent, our meat spoiled (or useless) no kind of victuals remaining to sustain life, but a bisket cake a day for a man; at which allowance there was not a quantity to hold out many days. In the dark time of the night, in tacking about, we lost our new comrade, and with much impatience we expected the approaching day4

The badly damaged ship was frustratingly close to coast of Virginia, yet was unable to make land, and Norwood confirms that daily rations were further reduced to half a biscuit per man and woman per day, consistent with the High Court of Admiralty petitioners claim.

Defeated thus of lively hopes we had the night before entertain'd to sleep in warm beds with our friends in Virginia, it was a heavy spectacle to see our selves running at a round rate from it, notwithstanding all that could be done to the contrary. Nothing was now to be heard but sighs and groans thro' all that wretched family, which must be soon reduced to so short allowance, as would just keep life and soul together. Half a bisket cake a day to each (of which five whole ones made a pound) was all we had to trust to. Of liquors there remained none to quench thirst: Malaga sack was given plentifully to every one, which served rather to inflame and increase thirst, than to extinguish it.5

The lack of food and drink is now described as an "intolerable want of all provisions, both of meat and drink" jostling all sense of happiness from the minds of the crew and passengers. "And to aggravate our misery yet the more, it was now our interest to pray, that the contrary gale might stand; for whilst the westerly wind held, we had rain water to drink, whereas at east the wind blew dry."6

Driven increasingly far from the American shore, the crew and passengers debated whetehr it were best to make for the Bermudas or back to the Western Islands. Meanwhile:

The famine grew sharp upon us. Women and children made dismal cries and grievous complaints. The infinite number of rats that all the voyage had been our plague, we now were glad to make our prey to feed on; and as they were insnared and taken, a well grown rat was sold for sixteen shillings as a market rate. Nay, before the voyage did end (as I was credibly inform'd) a woman great with child offered twenty shillings for a rat, which the proprietor refusing, the woman died.7

The passengers had embarked in mid-September, some in London and some at the Downes, and should long have been at Jamestown. Yet come Christmas day, they were still at sea.

Norwood again:

The blessed feast of Christmas came upon us, which we began with a very melancholy solemnity; and yet, to make some distinction of times, the scrapings of the meal-tubs were all amassed together to compose a pudding. Malaga sack, sea water, with fruit and spice, all well fryed in oyl, were the ingredients of this regale which raised some envy in the spectators; but allowing some privilege to the captain's mess, we met no obstruction, but did peaceably enjoy our Christmas pudding.

Norwood's greatest impatience was of thirst:

My dreams were all of cellars, and taps running down my throat, which made my waking much the worse by that tantalizing fancy. Some relief I found very real by the captain's favour in allowing me a share of some butts of small claret he had concealed in a private cellar for a dead lift. It wanted a mixture of water for qualifying it to quench thirst; however, it was a present remedy, and a great refreshment to me.8

Until this moment in Norwood's account there has been little mention of the ship's captain. Instead it is the chief mate, Putt, who is singled out for comment, and broad praise. But after the Christmas feast, the captain extended Norwood the favour of going in search of water at the bottoms of the empty casks in the hold. Sitting astride on a butt of Malaga in the hold, they took to drinkingf the strong waters. The effect on Norwood was to refresh him, yet the captain fell, according to Norwood, into melancholy:

The poor captain fell to contemplate (as it better became him) our sad condition; and being troubled in mind for having brought so many wretched souls into misery, by a false confidence he gave them of his having a good ship, which he now thought would prove their ruin; and being conscious, that their loss would lie all at his door, it was no easy matter to appease his troubled thoughts. He made me a particular compliment for having engaged me and my friends in the same bottom, and upon that burst into tears. I comforted him the best I could, and told him, We must all submit to the hand of God, and rely on his goodness, hoping, that the same providence which had hitherto so miraculously preserved us, would still be continued in our favour till we were in safety. We retired obscurely to our friends, who had been wondering at our absence.9

Approaching the shore on January 3rd, but having lost all sense of an accurate location, they were in a sorry state:

The weakness of the ship's crew, many dead and fallen over board, and the passengers weakened by hunger, dying every day on the decks, or at the pump, which with great difficulty was kept going, but must not rest.10

Whereas the passengers wanted to anchor at sea and make for shore in the suviving wherry, an old, experienced officer , the husband of the ships's remaining stores, would not risk one remaining anchor. Yet, the counterargument was the near certainty of death by famine if the ship be forced out to sea againe by a north-west storm. The chief mate, Putt, was decisive, and various crew and passengers set out for the shore that day, including Norwood and the captain. The captaine chose to return to his ship, inviting Norwood back, but Norwood declined, believing it had been agreed that the ship would not sail, and having found wild-fowl and oysters on the shore. He woke the next morning to see the ship under sail, to his amazement and confusion of mind, the seamen ("as we were told after") having set sail without the captain's order an in his absence on a change of wind promising a return to the Virginian coast.11

Norwood estimated the number of people on shore at the time of the ship's departure to be nineteen, which is close to the twenty three mentioned in the petition of Priscilla Lockier and Sara Spurgeon.12 13 They were on an island, not the mainland as they had at first presumed.14. But here Norwood's account diverges slightly from that of Lockier and Spurgeon. Norwood records that an oyster bed was their principal source of sustenance when on the island, with the occasional roast wild-fowl shot with the aid of a number of fowling pieces they had with them. Lockier and Spurgeon suggested the sole sustenace was from water and trees. The oysters were supplemented with a sort of weed " some four inches long, as thick as houseleek,and the only green (except pines) that the island afforded. It was very insipid on the palate; but being boiled with a little pepper (of which one had brought a pound on shore) and helped with five or six oysters, it became a regale for every one in turn."15 Yet the situation was dire, with the fowl becoming more cautious and fewer as they migrated, and Norwood and his companions , both men and women, ever weaker.

The petition's assertion of cannibalism is confirmed in Norwood's account, though without the drama of Lockier and Spurgeon's description of lots being drawn to shot a colleague for flesh to eat:

Of the three weak women before-mentioned, one had the envied happiness to die about this time; and it was my advice to the survivors, who were following her apace, to endeavour their own preservation by converting, her dead carcase into food, as they did to good effect. The same counsel was embrac'd by those of our sex: the living fed upon the dead; four of our company having the happiness to end their miserable lives on Sunday night the _ day of January. Their chief distemper, 'tis true, was hunger; but it pleased God to hasten their exit by an immoderate access of cold, caused by a most terrible storm of hail and snow at north-west, on the Sunday aforesaid, which did not only dispatch those four to their long homes, but did sorely threaten all that remained alive, to perish by the same fate.16

The party was saved by the arrival and help of a number of Indians, who provided them with food and canoes to take them to the mainland, which was only a few hundred yards from the island. Of the nineteen men and women who had been on shore at departure of the Virginia Merchant, thirteen remained, with four men and one woman dead, and a second woman missing.17



Captain John Lockier/Locker

"To proceed then, without any further exordium, to the subject of this narrative: It fell out to be about the first day of September, Anno 1649, that we grew acquainted on the Royal-Exchange with Capt. John Locker, whose bills upon the posts made us know he was master of a good ship, (untruly so call'd) The Virginia Merchant, burden three hundred tons, of force thirty guns, or more: We were not long in treaty with the captain, but agreed with him for ourselves and servants at six pounds a head, to be transported into James River; our goods to be paid for at the current price.

About the fifteenth day, we were ordered to meet the ship at Gravesend, where the captain was to clear with his merchants, and we to make our several payments; which when we had performed, we staid not for the ship, but took post for the Downs, where, with some impatience, we expected her coming there. About the sixteenth ditto, we could see the whole fleet under sail, with a south-west wind; which having brought them to that road, kept them there at anchor, until our money was almost spent at Deal.

September 23. the wind veered to the east, and we were summoned by signs and guns to repair on board. We had a fresh large gale three days, which cleared us of the channel, and put us out of soundings. With this propitious beginning we pursued our course for about twenty days, desiring to make the western islands; at which time the cooper began to complain, that our water-cask was almost empty, alledging, that there was not enough in hold, for our great family (about three hundred and thirty souls) to serve a month."18

Colonel Henry Norwood

"Of the author of "A Voyage to Virginia" very little is known save that, as his narrative tells us, he was a kinsman to that picturesque Governor of Colonial Virginia, Sir William Berkeley. His voyage was made in 1649, and the adventures that he describes were doubtless common to many of his fellow gentlemen adventurers. The work is peculiarly interesting to us for its style. The narratives of his predecessors had their intrinsic interest, but they told their stories in cumbrous phraseology. Here the narrative is relatively straightforward and clear, though it is evident that Cowley and Dryden had still their task before them to make English prose a worthy means of artistic literary expression. The Colonel has considerable power of conveying the thrill of adventure. There is a pathos, too, in his story of the kindness that he met with from the poor Indian fisherman, and perhaps there is a touch of humor in that story (not given here) of the Portuguese lady who blushed with happiness at the rough ship’s company’s praise of her little son, whose features, full of sweetness, reminded them, they said, of their exiled king, Charles II. For a few other facts about Henry Norwood see Neill’s Virginia Carolorum."19

"Colonel Henry Norwood, 1664 - 1668: The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment

NOTE:The Queen's Royal Regiment and The East Surrey Regiment amalgamated to form The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment on 14th October 1959)

Henry Norwood was born in 1615. He was active in the Royalist cause at the outbreak of civil war in England. In 1649, after the beheading of Charles I, Henry fled with friends to Virginia where his cousin, Sir William Berkeley, was governor. Author of “A Voyage to Virginia”, describing their trip. In 1658 Henry returned to Holland, then to England and was active in the efforts to restore the Stuarts. At the Restoration in 1660, Henry took part in the coronation ceremony of Charles II as Esquire of the Body. Henry was made treasurer of VA 1661-1673.

He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Tangier until a successor to Lord Billasye was named (see following entry).

During his period of Command, Gayland (the war lord of Northern Morocco, a valiant but scheming foe who had strongly opposed the English occupation of Tangier from the outset), was hard pressed by his Moorish enemies and took refuge in Tangier with 360 of his followers, men, women and children, and including his harem.

Henry Norwood never married; he returned to England and bought Leckhampton from his cousin, Francis Norwood. He died on the 14th September 1689 and is buried in Leckhampton Parish Church with his grandfather, William, who died in 1632."20

Henry Norwood and Samuel Pepys

"Norwood, Henry: (c. 1614 - 1689). Royalist soldier and conspirator; imprisoned 1655-9 and employed in the negotiations between Montagu and the King in late 1659. After the Restoration he was rewarded with a post at court as an equerry (1660) and with the deputy governorship of Dunkirk (1662) and of Tangier (1665-9). He was a Gloucestershire man and after his return from Tangier served Gloucester as Mayor (1672-3) and M.P. (1675-Jan 1679). He was also Treasurer of Virginia 1661-73; Tangier Commissioner 1673-80; and member of the Royal Fishery Company (1677). Pepys rented from him the little house at Parson's Green which he used as a weekend retreat in 1679 and 1681. His letters to Pepys are full of life and humour. He gave the name Parson's Green to a part of Tangier."21


Assateague Island

"Colonel Henry Norwood, sailing on the Virginia Merchant in January of 1650, landed on Assateague Island and reported that'the shore swarm’d with fowl.'"




Cannibalism and the Custom of the Sea

"Historical examples of the Custom of the Sea:

The Essex: After the sinking of the Essex of Nantucket by a whale on November 20, 1820, the survivors were left floating in three small whaleboats. They eventually resorted, by common consent, to cannibalism to allow some to survive

The Mignonette: The case of R. v. Dudley and Stephens (1884 14 QBD 273 DC) is an English case which developed a crucial ruling on necessity in modern common law. The case dealt with four crewmembers of an English yacht, the Mignonette, who were cast away in a storm some 1,600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. After a few weeks, one of the crew fell unconscious due to a combination of the famine and drinking seawater. The others (one abstaining) decided then to kill him and eat him. They were picked up four days later. The case held that necessity was not a defense to a charge of murder, and the two defendants were convicted, though their death sentence was commuted to six months' imprisonment."22


"About the fifteenth day of September, 1649, the "Virginia
Merchant," Captain John Locker, a ship of three hundred
tons burden, sailed for Jamestown with many passengers.
Among those who engaged passage were Colonel Norwood, a
relative of Governor Berkeley; Major Francis Morison, a
sympathizer with the King, and Major Stevens, (1) who had
served under Waller in the Parliamentary Army when it
besieged Exeter, then held by Sir John Berkeley, the Gov-
ernor's brother. Driven by a storm, the ship found itself
on the 12th of January, 1650, among the islands of
Assateague Bay, on the Atlantic coast of Maryland. Upon
one of these, Colonel Norwood, Major Morison, Stevens,
Francis Gary, and others landed, and after several days,
crossed over to the main land and were hospitably treated by
the Indians. A white fur trader, Jenkin Price, (2) arrived,
and under his guidance they began their journey to
Nathaniel Littleton's plantation, the nearest in Accomac.
Toward night of the first day, they reached a point opposite
Chincoteague Island, and at the close of the second day,
after twenty-five miles of travel, they came to Price's post
on the Littleton Plantation. From thence they proceeded to
the Plantation of Stephen Charlton, who gave them fresh
clothing. Lower down in Accomac, now Northampton
County, they visited Argoll Yeardley, the son of the former
Governor, who was born at Jamestown, in 1621, and had
recently married."23


(1.) Major William Stevens probably for some time remained in Accomac,
where Yeardley and others held his political sentiments, and was perhaps
the same person who in March 1651 declared his fealty to the "common-
wealth of England as it is nowe established without Kins: or House of
Lords." He may have been the one who settled near the spot, where
he was cast away, in 1650, and thus became a citizen of Maryland. In
the records of Somerset County, Maryland, is the following: "Richard
Stevens, brother to William Stevens of Somerset County, in ye Province
of Maryland, was youngest son of John Stevens of Lebourn in ye Parish
of Buckingham in England, died at the house of his brother William
aforesaid, ye 22d day of April, 1667, and was buried at his plantation
called Rehoboth in ye county and province aforesaid, in America, ye
25th day of April."

In 1679, Col. William Stevens entered a tract of two thousand acres
on the shores of the upper part of Assateague Bay near where, in 1650,
the "Virginia Merchant's" passengers landed in distress.

(2) In October, 1650, the Assembly gave 5,000 pounds of tobacco to
Jenkin Price for the preservation of certain persons. Price was now
poor and evidently this was a gratuity for his kindness to Norwood,
now become Treasurer of Virginia.

(Norwood's narrative of his voyage and adventures is contained in A voyage to Virginia. Force's Collect. of Historical Tracts, vol. III)


Primary sources

Tracts and Other Paper Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America From the Discovery of the Country to the Year 1776 A Voyage to Virginia
Vol. III., No. 10.
Colonel Norwood
Peter Force 50 pages, pp. 1-50
Peter Smith
Gloucester, Mass.
E 187.F69 1963
Published: 1649

Awnsham Churchill, A collection of voyages and travels: some now first printed from original manuscripts, others now first published in English. To which is prefixed, an introductory discourse (supposed to be written by the celebrated Mr. Locke) intitled, The whole history of navigation from its original to this time (London, 1745)24

C 6/156/116 Norwood v Norwood. Plaintiffs: Henry Norwood . Defendants: Charles Norwood and Gabriel Beck . Subject: property in Leckhampton, Gloucestershire. Document type: bill, two answers, plea. 1661

PROB 11/311/540 Will of Richard Lockier, Mariner of Stepney, Middlesex. 27 July 1663
PROB 11/370/573 Will of James Locker, Mariner bound in a Voyage to the East Indies in the good Ship called the Scipio Africanus. 29 September 1682
PROB 11/397/128 Will of Henry Norwood of Leckhampton, Gloucestershire. 23 October 1689

Secondary sources


Eshelman, Ralph E., and Patricia A. Russell. 'Historic context study of waterfowl hunting camps and related properties withon Assateague Island national Shoreline, Maryland and Virginia' (2004)25

Hermann, Rachel B., The "tragicall historie":Cannibalism and Abundance in Colonial Jamestown, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 68, no. 1, January 201126

- Urges historians to reconsider their credulous approach to contemporary and later accounts of canibalism in the winter of 1609-10 in Jamestown, Virginia
- Argues that "Of the five main authors - Gates, Percy, Smith, Strachey, and the Virginia Assembly - only one was present during the winter of 1609-10, and he did not claim to witness cannibalism"
- However, archaeological data published since Hermann's 2011 article suggests at least one example of cannibalism in early Jamestown, with cutting and sawing marks found on the bones of a young woman found at the former Jamestown colony, suggesting that the flesh was eaten after her death.27

Walker, Andrew, Is Eating People Wrong?: Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World (New York, 2011)

Article on the voyage of the Virginia Merchant in Colonial Williamsburg: The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, vol. 18 (Williamsburg, VA, 1995)

Neely, Paula, 'Jamestown Colonists Resorted to Cannibalism: A gruesome discovery in a trash deposit at Jamestown points to cannibalism', National Geographic online Daily News: May 1, 201328


'Cannibalism in the minds and imaginations of Early Modern Europeans and Americans', A lecture delivered on 24 April 2013 at the Warburg Institute, University of London, School of Advanced Study, by Alison Coudert, Professor of Religious Studies, University of California Davis29

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