Cannibalism in the Early Modern Atlantic

University of Southampton

June 15, 2015 – June 16, 2015


Call For Papers: Cannibalism in the Early Modern Atlantic

Location: The University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Date: 15-16 June 2015

Deadline: 15 January 2015


On early modern voyages, people ate to survive. They fried, roasted, and stewed turtles; they netted fish—including sharks; and they gathered shellfish. During dire moments they sampled penguins and seals. And in even more extreme circumstances, they consumed each other. Last May archaeologists at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project excavation in Virginia unearthed bones that, for the first time, provide physical evidence suggesting that early American colonists ate each other during the Starving Time of 1609-10. Historians have long acknowledged documents detailing the events of that winter, but public interest in the new discovery testifies to the enduring power of cannibalism stories. Such tales, however, tend to deteriorate into debates over whether or not cannibalism occurred, or grisly anecdotes that elide a larger picture of the past. This conference asks participants to think broadly about what occurrences of cannibalism reveal about food history, Atlantic history, and maritime history. Questions that persist include: How did fears about cannibalism shape Europeans’ quest for food? How did early modern actors reconcile medicinal cannibalism with worries about anthropophagy? How did cannibalism tales influence exchanges of food between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans? How did the daily concerns of maritime travel result in occurrences of famine and man-eating? And how does cannibalism challenge the Atlantic World paradigm?


This two-day conference will take place at the University of Southampton from 15-16 June, 2015. It seeks to bridge disciplinary gaps between (but not limited to) anthropology, archaeology, history, and literature. Dr. William M. Kelso (Hon. CBE, FSA), Director of Archaeological Research and Interpretation at the Preservation Virginia Jamestown Rediscovery Project, will give the keynote address. It is expected that presenters will speak for twenty minutes. Thanks to the generous assistance of the Wellcome Trust, some funding is available to assist with food and lodging costs for conference presenters. Selected papers will appear as an edited volume under contract with the University of Arkansas Press. A 250-word proposal and short CV (of no longer than three pages) should be submitted on this website (via the Call for Papers link) by 15 January 2015. Questions should be directed to Dr. Rachel Herrmann (

Conference Information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

A conference hosted by the History Department at the University of Southampton, and funded by the Wellcome Trust