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Puritan Bioprospecting in Central America and the West Indies

  • Karl Offen


In July of 1633, Captain Sussex Camock set sail from London with around 50 men to establish an English outpost on the mainland of Central America. His voyage was sponsored by members of the Providence Island Company, recent founders of a Puritan colony on two small islands 150 miles off the coast of Nicaragua (fig. 1). Company adventurers—so called because they ventured their capital—instructed Captain Camock to establish a “Colony upon the Mayne” and to start a trade with local Indians. The group was directed to “carry themselves wislie and modestlie towards the Indyans, for the honor of our Religion and nation”. They were to endear themselves “to the Indyans…and by some reasonable guise to winn their Friendship”. In case the Indians did not have sufficient commodities to trade, Camock's men were implored to investigate the region for any and all potential resources, “or to give ye full Intelligence of the possibilities of that designe”. The adventurers specifically sought information about:



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* Karl Offen is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Oklahoma. He is co-editor with Jordana Dym of Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader (Chicago University Press, 2011), and the author of numerous articles on the historical geography of eastern Central America. Research and writing for this paper was supported by a 2009 National Endowment for the Humanities and John Carter Brown Library Fellowship. Comments and suggestions by Randolph Lewis, Amanda Minks, and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the final version.

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Puritan Bioprospecting in Central America and the West Indies

  • Karl Offen


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