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John Locke and AmericaThe Defence of English Colonialism$
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Barbara Arneil

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198279679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198279679.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
John Locke and America

Barbara Arneil

Oxford University Press

In his Two Treatises of Government, John Locke considers America to be the beginning of civilisation. It is the role of America and its aboriginal population in Locke's political theory which has been largely overlooked in previous scholarship on the Two Treatises. By taking seriously Locke's repeated references to America in the Second Treatise, this book shows that the Two Treatises were written as a defence of England's colonial policy in the new world against the sceptics in England and the counter-claims of both the aboriginal nations and other European powers in America. In particular, it argues that the famous chapter on property, which contains most of the references to Amerindians in the Two Treatises, was written to justify the 17th-century dispossession of the aboriginal peoples of their land, through a vigorous defence of England's ‘superior’ claims to proprietorship.

Keywords:   John Locke, America, England, property, colonialism, Two Treatises of Government, aboriginal peoples, proprietorship, political theory, Amerindians

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