Morisco survival : gender, conversion, and migration in the early modern Mediterranean, 1492-1659
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In the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Western Mediterranean, Moriscos were Christians whose ancestors had been Muslims. The term came into use in Spanish following the first forced baptisms in the Iberian Peninsula after the 1492 Spanish conquest of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled kingdom in Spain. Old Christians used “Morisco,” often pejoratively, to refer to a group of people whose religious, political, and cultural allegiances were suspect. The Spanish crown finally solved the “Morisco problem” by expelling every Morisco from Spain with a series of edicts between 1609 and 1614. The expelled Moriscos scattered around the Mediterranean and beyond, eventually losing the designation “Morisco” as they assimilated into their new homes as either Christians or Muslims. Previous scholars have approached the Moriscos from a Spanish national historiographical context and have focused on the question of the Moriscos’ “true” religious identity. This dissertation puts new archival evidence in conversation with better-known printed material in both Arabic and Spanish to examine the socio-economic history of Morisco men and women in a transnational context that expands our understanding of who the Moriscos were and the varied strategies they used to survive in a changing Mediterranean world. This dissertation makes three central arguments about Morisco survival from a range of contexts that highlight the variety of Morisco responses to persecution and violence and to emphasize how Moriscos adapted to changing circumstances over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. First, Moriscos in Granada relied on the centrality of Morisco (and especially Morisca) labor to survive in a changing political world, but their economic leverage only lasted a few generations until they were expelled from the Kingdom in 1570. Second, Moriscos in Valencia increasingly relied on resistance as tension increased during the last decades of the sixteenth century and coexistence became increasingly dangerous and impossible. Third, Moriscos in the Mediterranean diaspora and beyond found survival even more difficult than their predecessors in Spain. Separation from communities and families made Moriscos particularly vulnerable and they relied on increasingly desperate strategies to survive. Throughout, gender and class determined the range of both challenges and opportunities.