Crimes of Consumption: Polemical uses of Gluttony and Cannibalism in English Print, 1580-1625
Attacks on excessive consumption are an enduring theme in Western biblical and Greco- Roman thought. This dissertation attempts to unravel the cultural and political context of two such critiques. The 'culture' of gluttony at the Court of King James still stands as a stereotype largely left unchanged by the recent revisionist historiography. This dissertation argues that James's Court was unexceptional when placed in the context of other English and European Courts. Polemical attacks on the culture of 'gluttony' at the Court of King James were motivated by political contest. Proximity to the King's person allowed for unrivalled privilege and reward. The attacks on James's new favourites came from the old nobility, once at the centre, and now relegated to the periphery, while those targeted, James's 'new men', came from the periphery. Competition for resources also informed the allegations of cannibalism made against New World peoples. Under the Spanish, attacks against the 'cannibals' at the periphery were designed to justify the appropriation of their resources. The English, when their opportunity came, could no longer convincingly accuse those at the periphery of cannibalism. New economic arguments and empirical science together promoted a new focus on 'culture', which suggested that Amerindians belonged at the periphery. At some stage in their 'development' and under proper Christian tutelage, and if they behaved themselves, they might be incorporated into the centre. In the meantime, English 'trade and friendship' would assist in their education. This dissertation makes an original contribution by demonstrating that bodily practices sit at the heart of enduring political contests.