Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

“Para que me saque cabesa por cabesa…”: El intercambio de esclavos entre cristianos y musulmanes en el Mediterráneo occidental

Daniel Hershenzon


The ransom of captives has recently become a burgeoning theme among scholars of the early modern period. Most studies focus on the ransom of Christians from the Maghrib. The assumption is that since Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco did not develop ransom institutions similar to the French and Iberian Orders of Redemption (the Trinitarians and the Mercedarians), North Africans taken captive and enslaved in Christian lands had no hope of returning home.

In contrast, this article argues that in the seventeenth century, Maghribis employed various ransom procedures in order to liberate their dear ones and return them home. Moreover, examining these procedures sheds new light on the ransom of both Muslims and Christians. On the one hand, Algerian and Moroccan wives and mothers negotiated with Christian women the exchange of their own sons and husbands. On the other, Maghribi rulers —Moroccan sultans and Algerian pashas— negotiated with their Christian counterparts the exchange of large numbers of captives. This articles focuses on how simple folks, Muslims and Christians, men but more often women, sought to swap their beloved held captive across the sea. In order to make these ransom procedures visible, the article takes as its point of departure the moment of the exchange of captives or the negotiations that led up to that moment rather than captives’ religious confession. When examined from this perspective, it becomes clear that Maghribis made huge efforts to liberate their beloveds and that the captivity and ransom of Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians and that of Christians from Iberia, France and Italy were entangled.

Paraules clau

esclaus; Mediterrània

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