The Republic’s Renegades: Dutch Converts to Islam in Seventeenth-Century Diplomatic Relations with North Africa

in Journal of Early Modern History
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This article explores the ways in which Dutch converts to Islam acted as informants, intermediaries and at times even informal diplomats for the Dutch Republic, a newcomer to Mediterranean trade and diplomacy. It asks how these renegades, who often occupied high ranks in the North African corsairing fleets and local positions of power, facilitated and shaped Dutch-North African relations. The article explores the renegades’ diplomatic services, follows them as they (re)establish contact with the Dutch Republic, and analyzes how they fashioned themselves as cross-confessional mediators. Far from being marginal figures caught in the dichotomy of a Christian past and a Muslim present, Dutch renegades operated as part of a continuum that encompassed both the Islamic Mediterranean and the Dutch Republic.

The Republic’s Renegades: Dutch Converts to Islam in Seventeenth-Century Diplomatic Relations with North Africa

in Journal of Early Modern History




Tijana Krstic“Conversion,” in Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empireed. Gábor Ágoston and Bruce Masters (New York 2009) 146.


MatarIslam in Britain15-19.


N.I. Matar“ ‘Turning Turk’: Conversion to Islam in English Renaissance Thought,” The Durham University Journal 86 no. 1 (1994): 33-43.


Dakhlia“Une archéologie du même”. Similarly Tobias Graf, “Of Half-Lives and Double-Lives: ‘Renegades’ in the Ottoman Empire and their Pre-Conversion Ties, ca. 1580-1610,” in Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman Historyed. Pascal W. Firges Tobias P. Graf Christian Roth and Gülay Tulasoğlu (Leiden 2014) 131-149. Examples of the construction/continuation of ties Giuliana Boccadamo “I ‘Redentori’ napoletani. Mercanti religiosi rinnegati” in Le commerce des captifs. Les intermédiaires dans l’échange et le rachat des prisonniers en Méditerranée xve-xviiiesiècle ed. Wolfgang Kaiser (Rome 2008) 219-240; Jane Tolbert “Ambiguity and Conversion in the Correspondence of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc and Thomas D’Arcos 1630-1637” Journal of Early Modern History 13 no. 1 (2009): 1-24; and the case of the Cigala brothers discussed by Emrah Safa Gürkan in this issue.


M.E.H.N. Mout“Turken in het nieuws. Beeldvorming en publieke opinie in de zestiende-eeuwse Nederlanden,” Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 97 (1984): 362-381. For inchoate Ottoman-Dutch plans against Spain in the 1560s-1570s Alexander H. de Groot The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic: A History of the Earliest Diplomatic Relations 1612-1630 (Leiden 1978) 83-85.


Molly Greene“Beyond the Northern Invasion: The Mediterranean in the Seventeenth Century,” Past and Present 174 (2002): 42-71; Maartje van Gelder Trading Places: The Netherlandish Merchants in Early Modern Venice (Leiden 2009) 41-66.


García-Arenal and WiegersA Man of Three Worlds71-88; De Groot The Ottoman Empire 94-97. Two Moroccan embassies came to The Hague in 1609 and 1610.


Maartje van Gelder“Tussen Noord-Afrika en de Republiek. Nederlandse bekeerlingen tot de islam in de zeventiende eeuw,” Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 126 no. 1 (2013): 16-33


LunsfordPiracy and Privateering56; A. Th. van Deursen ed. Resolutiën der Staten-Generaal. Nieuwe Reeksii(1613-1616) (The Hague 1984) 200 and 209-210; bglhi.2 976-977. Merouche estimates that at the start of the seventeenth century of 370 identifiable raïs 42 percent had converted Merouche Recherches sur l’Algérie.


De VriesHistorie van Barbaryen65-66. Also Noord-Hollands Archief Oud-notarieel Haarlem 1570-1840 toegangsnummer 1617 inventarisnummer 369 fol. 216r.


Van Gelder“Tussen Noord-Afrika” 16-17. Their presence though difficult to discern may have been much greater than previously realized. For the neglected presence of (converted and native) Muslims in early modern Europe see the two volumes of Les musulmans dans l’histoire de l’Europe.


De Groot“Ottoman North Africa” 136.


BrandtHet leven88-89.


Report of 1 April 1617bglhi.2 722 De Keyser to States General 1 April 1617. Soliman’s source on Chios was the new pasha of Tunis en route to his post. His information on Khalil Pasha’s plans proved accurate see bglhi.2 646-647.


Reports of 1 and 15 April 1617bglhi.2 721-725 736.


Maartje van Gelder“De zeventiende-eeuwse renegaat Jan Jansz van Haarlem. Intermediair tussen de christelijke en islamitische wereld”Transparant. Tijdschrift van de Vereniging van christen-historici19 no. 3 (2008): 4-9.


Weiner“Fitna Corsairs and Diplomacy” 132-133.


  • View in gallery
    The painting shows De Ruyter’s ship De Liefde and another Dutch warship in the foreground. Reinier Nooms, “Algiers” (ca. 1663-1664)

    rijksmuseum amsterdam

  • View in gallery
    The legend in the top left corner indicates the renegade (number 4) and the artist himself, whose nickname was “Zeeman” (“Seaman”) (number 6). Reinier Nooms, “Hannibal’s Court at Carthage” (1661-1662), in Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem

    österreichischen nationalbibliothek, vienna


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