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Violence and the early modern world
Erica Charters, Marie Houllemare, and Peter H. Wilson

This co-authored introduction analyses how violence was described, defined, and measured across the early modern world, eschewing Western categories and narratives and applying a global approach in their stead. By focusing on large-scale violence, it highlights the fundamental relationship between violence and growing interconnectedness across the early modern world. It endorses the broader view that violence includes both physical actions and coercive threats of physical action, and that it should be understood as a transgression that is socially defined. Early modernity is defined as the period between the mid fifteenth and early nineteenth centuries, while recognizing that any attempt to delineate epochs faces the difficulty of imposing a single framework on something as complex as the history of the world. Global history is used as a methodology to analyse large-scale violence more precisely by providing detailed case studies of violence in a range of local contexts, and to articulate the significance of violence in narratives of state and empire-building, as well as in narratives of decline and fall. Finally, the volume’s thematic structure is outlined, and comparisons and contrasts are drawn between the thirteen case studies.

in A global history of early modern violence
Open Access (free)
Linda Maynard

The final chapter looks at the myriad ways in which siblings used material and written forms to memorialise brothers, setting this within a wider deliberation on the impact of death and grief in interwar Britain. Motivated by the need to ensure that the heroic sacrifice of their siblings was not overlooked or forgotten, they memorialised their brothers as individuals, restoring their individual achievements and qualities from the mass of war casualties. By sharing their stories they link the personal and communal memories of the war. Painful emotions crept in as siblings reflected on the loss sustained by themselves, their families and their wider communities. As such they can be regarded as an adjunct to the ‘disillusionment’ stream of memoirs. Guilt, anger, and grief infuse these accounts, at times becoming evident in a lack of composure. In the post-war decades, some siblings drew on the emerging war literature of the period, particularly its poetry and music, to express their loss. With the passing of years, these added poignancy to collective occasions, providing an emotional ‘punctum’ that pierced stoical masks. Rather than finding such open expressions of emotions discomforting, men and women derived comfort and companionship from a generational shared understanding of grief and trauma.

in Brothers in the Great War
The expansion and significance of violence in early modern
Richard Reid

This chapter examines the ways in which cultures and practices of violence in Africa altered between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries. It discusses these shifts in the context of both external and internal dynamics, and argues that while in some areas endogenous state-building projects led to an increase in levels of violence, the overriding driver of violence during this period was the global encounter. Trade and – in a handful of areas – settlement engendered new zones of violent exchange, and shifts in the understanding and deployment of violence. At the same time, warfare expanded in scale and impact as the result of global exchange. The chapter also reflects on the ways in which such violence has been (mis)remembered in the more recent past, and on distorted interpretations of precolonial history more broadly.

in A global history of early modern violence
Open Access (free)
Raiding war and globalization in the early modern world
Brian Sandberg

Raiding war has often been characterized as ‘primitive war’, but raiding in the early modern world was highly organized and dynamic. This chapter examines evidence of raiding warfare in southern France and the Mediterranean during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. French experiences of raiding violence reveal three dimensions of early modern raiding warfare: borderlands raiding, economic devastation, and maritime raiding. Pirates and privateers launched repeated raids along the French coastlines, while soldiers, militia bands, and bandits engaged in significant raiding activities in the countryside and woodlands.

in A global history of early modern violence
Commerce, diplomacy, and brigandage on the steppe routes between the Ottoman Empire, Poland-Lithuania, and Russia, 1470s–1570s
Alexander Osipian

This chapter examines the large-scale non-state violence on the trade routes in the buffer zone between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Ottoman Empire, and the Crimean Khanate. Though the rulers constantly declared their will to maintain their diplomatic contacts and protect the caravan trade between these states, execution of their orders was entrusted to those who actually committed the violent attacks – the Cossacks and the local dignitaries. The absence of stable central control over the means of violence in the buffer zone rendered preventive measures largely ineffective. The rulers preferred to avoid awkward responsibility by relinquishing their sovereignty over the steppe routes. The growth of brigandage on the steppe routes continued because of the patronage of the local authorities and the support of networks of assistance, which included alehouse keepers, ransom-brokers, and the merchants who bought the stolen goods from the freebooters.

in A global history of early modern violence
The Tokugawa, the Zheng maritime network, and the Dutch East India Company
Adam Clulow and Xing Hang

In late 1672, news reached Nagasaki that a Ryukyuan tributary vessel had been captured on its way from that island archipelago to China. Tokugawa officials had been dealing with violence on the sea lanes criss-crossing East Asia for years, but there was something different about this episode. The ship from the Ryukyu kingdom had not been attacked by a European fleet. Rather it had been seized by vessels attached to the sprawling Zheng maritime network based in Taiwan. This chapter examines Tokugawa responses to two maritime operations: the first carried out by a European overseas enterprise, the Dutch East India Company, the second by its great Asian rival, the Zheng maritime network. By comparing the very different ways these played out, the chapter argues that the rise of the Zheng presented a new and difficult challenge for polities across Asia, even for those like Tokugawa Japan that had dealt successfully with European maritime violence.

in A global history of early modern violence
Violence and the Great Turkish War in the work of Romeyn de Hooghe
Michel van Duijnen

This chapter discusses a selection of the many prints on the Great Turkish War (1683–99) produced by the famous Dutch printmaker Romeyn de Hooghe. Through the analysis of three different types of prints – news prints, triumphalia, and satirical prints – the chapter dissects the role of unrestrained violence in De Hooghe’s imagination of Europe’s borderlands. It shows that De Hooghe’s portrayal of the battle against ‘the Turk’ cultivated an ambiguous view of south-east Europe as a distant and distinctly violent place beset by ruthless Christian soldiers and warlike border peoples. In doing so, De Hooghe approached unrestrained violence as a theme that went well beyond simple anti-Turkish propaganda. Instead, De Hooghe positioned violence as an inherent characteristic of a vaguely defined European borderland where all parties, not least the Christian ones, succumbed to gruesome behaviour.

in A global history of early modern violence
Open Access (free)
Legitimization and limits of Mughal military violence in early modern South Asia
Pratyay Nath

This chapter explores how the Mughal Empire legitimized its perpetration of military violence in early modern South Asia. It begins by highlighting that Mughal imperial discourse laid great emphasis on the dispensation of justice as the cornerstone of kingship. In turn, this allowed the empire to conceptualize the waging of war and the committing of violence as necessary means for establishing a just social order under the paternal guardianship of the emperor. Within such an ideological framework, war and violence were thought of more as a moral compulsion than a matter of princely whim or dynastic ambition. The chapter also studies the nature, purpose, and effects of military violence perpetrated by Mughal armies in the course of campaigns during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It argues that the scale of this violence was always limited by the urge of the Mughal emperors to project themselves – in both discourse and actuality – as the embodiment of just, tolerant, and caring universal sovereigns. The chapter concludes by assessing the role of military violence in Mughal empire-building and by comparing the Mughal case with other polities of early modern Eurasia.

in A global history of early modern violence
The revolt of Cairo and Revolutionary violence
Joseph Clarke

The repression that followed Cairo’s short-lived revolt against French occupation in October 1798 represents one of the single bloodiest episodes of the French Revolutionary wars. This chapter examines the violence that French forces deployed in suppressing the revolt and explores the attitudes towards civilian resistance that this violence reveals. In part, the violence of the French response to the rioting that swept Cairo that October echoed that of the counter-insurgency campaigns the Revolution’s armies had already conducted in other theatres of war in the 1790s. However, the ferocity of this violence also reflected the French soldiers’ intense antipathy towards Islam and, more generally, the religious ‘fanaticism’ they routinely blamed for the resistance encountered by the imposition of French rule. Drawing on these soldiers’ testimonies, this chapter traces the continuities that link this explosion of violence in a colonial context with the soldiers’ earlier exposure to, and cultural memory of, civil war at home in France.

in A global history of early modern violence
The changing scale of warfare and the making of early colonial South Asia
Manu Sehgal

Debates about the origins of a militarily dominant, territorially acquisitive regime of colonial rule in modern South Asia have invariably failed to assess the transformative impact of early colonial war-making on the East India Company state. This chapter studies the colonial regime within the framework of the bellicist origins of the modern state. Violent conquest depended on the modern state’s ability to vastly augment its capacity to author military violence. Dramatic expansion in the scale of war-making lent colonial specificities to the Company-state in India. As this scale expanded dramatically in the final decade of the eighteenth century, prolific war-making made the colonial state both colonial (in its extractive capabilities) and a hegemonic state formation. The most extensive, expensive, and politically consequential military conflict of the long eighteenth century – the Second Anglo-Maratha War in western India (1803–05) – provides a window into the crystallizing political economy of conquest. Below the surface of the image of an ever-ascendant military hegemon lies an under-studied universe centred on the extraction of resources to feed a ravenous machine of war, leading to fiscal crises and agrarian dislocation. Territorial conquest was both the principal objective and the primary mode of sustaining and expanding colonial rule across South Asia.

in A global history of early modern violence