The Americas in Early Modern Political Theory

States of Nature and Aboriginality

  • Stephanie B. Martens

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Stephanie B. Martens
    Pages 1-16
  3. Stephanie B. Martens
    Pages 141-153
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 155-168

About this book


This book examines early modern social contract theories within European representations of the Americas in the 16th and 17th century.  Despite addressing the Americas only marginally, social contract theories transformed American social imaginaries prevalent at the time into Aboriginality, allowing for the emergence of the idea of civilization and the possibility for diverse discourses of Aboriginalism leading to excluding and discriminatory forms of subjectivity, citizenship, and politics.  What appears then is a form of Aboriginalism pitting the American/Aboriginal other against the nascent idea of civilization.  The legacy of this political construction of difference is essential to contemporary politics in settler societies.  The author shows the intellectual processes behind this assignation and its role in modern political theory, still bearing consequences today.  The way one conceives of citizenship and sovereignty underlies some of the difficulties settler societies have in accommodating Indigenous claims for recognition and self-government.


Social Contract Theory Thomas Hobbes Locke Vitoria Travel Literature Aboriginalism State of nature Early modern political theory early modern legal theory Americas Colonialism

Authors and affiliations

  • Stephanie B. Martens
    • 1
  1. 1.Laurentian UniversityBARRIECanada

Bibliographic information