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

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Maartje van Gelder University of Amsterdam

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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.

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