An issue of “Quaderni Storici” on the Morisco Diaspora
The issue of “Quaderni Storici” that we are proposing will outline the morisco diaspora in its various facets and trace its major turning points, in order to understand the major escape routes that the moriscos took from the Iberian peninsula after 1609, but also to trace the pathways that they took across Europe before the expulsion. What sources can be used for the study of this diaspora? Are there any analogies between the morisco diaspora and the Jewish one? Did they form “ethnic” networks of solidarity or did they search for outsiders for assistance? How and how well did they integrate into European, and particularly Italian, society? And how and to what degree did they integrate in North Africa or in the territories of the Ottoman Empire? We know, for example, that they brought with them to Africa not only their language, which resounded with the words of the greatest authors of the Siglo de Oro, but also agricultural techniques, political and administrative structures, maritime and agrarian know how, and musical and artistic skills that they preserved over time in communities that retained a strong “Andalusian” connotation. And why, as Louis de Cardillac claims, did the morisco disappear from Italy around 1639, as we can see in the registers of the ecclesiastical and civil tribunals of the peninsula? Who did the moriscos become - catholics, Muslims, or dissimulators? Did they dissolve into the Maghreb like salt into water, as the holy patriarch of Valencia, Juan Ribera, had hoped? And finally, why have Italian historians paid so little attention to this problem?
However, the morisco diaspora and its impact on Europe, and not only in the Mediterranean, remain the least studied and most fascinating problem, one that we intend to place at the center of an upcoming issue of “Quaderni Storici.” The paths of the diaspora reveal the numerous European connections of the moriscos and their links to other Iberian minority, the judeo-conversos. Jewish merchants in France and Holland were often involved in managing the transfer of moriscos and their clandestine goods across the Spanish border. When situated in a European and Mediterranean context of exchange of people, goods, and ideas, the very image of the morisco appears in a different light. Whereas a historiographical tradition that owes much to anti-morisco propaganda sees them inevitably as poor and uneducated peasants who barely spoke Castillian, more innovative recent research has shown that they were in fact shrewd merchants and translators, political, economic, and cultural negotiators who were capable of taking on important political and diplomatic roles in places that ranged from the Barbary kingdoms of North Africa, to Saadian Morocco, the court of the kings of France, and the Dutch Republic.
We know strikingly little about the chronology and geography of the Morisco diaspora in Italy, which was for many of them a momentary stopover as they moved toward the Ottoman Empire or North Africa. The moriscos arrived in Venice, the gateway to the Levant, both before and after the expulsion on their way toward the territories of the Sultan, and Genova, Civitavecchia, and Livorno also served as ports of transit. However, we know almost nothing of the communities that remained on Italian soil, and only a little more about those who came there as slaves and renegades. Around Rome, the moriscos struggled to find acceptance and were significantly confused with another despised and unassimilated minority, the “cingali”, or gypsies. It is striking that the Papacy made no effort to either support or condemn the massive exodus, which was presented by Philip III’s counselors as the last great crusade against Islam. Nor is there evidence of any extended reflection by theologians on the phenomenon of these baptized Christians who were thrown into the arms of Turks and moors, in the very same years when the spiritual conquest of the non-Christian world, symbolized in the creation of the Propaganda Fide and the publication of numerous treatises on ‘conversion of the Turk’, became a priority for the Catholic Church in Rome.
Due date for proposals: July 20, 2011 Due date for completed drafts": July 2012
GIOVANNA FIUME (firstname.lastname@example.org), STEFANIA PASTORE (email@example.com)
Dipartimento di Studi su Politica, Diritto e Società
Piazza Bologni 8
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