Fear and massacre in the early modern world

Wednesday 1 March, 18.00–19.30

Harald Braun (Liverpool)

Massacres are a familiar feature of human history – from the Neolithic slaughter house of the Talheim Death Pit to the siege of Drogheda (1649), from the Massacre of Nanking (1937) to Srebrenica – the latter uncomfortably recent, uncomfortably close to home. This paper explores the experience of massacre and its conceptualization in early modern law and theology as well as political and military theory. I focus on massacres in Spanish theatres of war and conquest in Europe and the Americas. What happened in the run-up to a massacre? How was it experienced and remembered? What was the early modern European legal, moral and political framework for explaining, condemning or justifying massacre as a form of collective violence? I will approach these questions by looking closely at early modern perceptions of the relationship between massacre and fear.



‘The Massacre of Colula’ from the Tlaxacala Canvas (c.1550s).