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Generalizing ideas of MacKay, and MacKay and Saffman, a necessary condition for the presence of high-frequency (*i.e.*, not modulational) instabilities of small-amplitude periodic solutions of Hamiltonian partial differential equations is presented, entirely in terms of the Hamiltonian of the linearized problem. With the exception of a Krein signature calculation, the theory is completely phrased in terms of the dispersion relation of the linear problem. The general theory changes as the Poisson structure of the Hamiltonian partial differential equation is changed. Two important cases of such Poisson structures are worked out in full generality. An example not fitting these two important cases is presented as well, using a candidate Boussinesq-Whitham equation.

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