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Empathy for the Persecuted or Polemical Posturing? The 1609 Spanish Expulsion of the Moriscos as Seen in English and Netherlandic Pamphlets

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Abstract In April, 1609, King Philip III of Spain needed to reinforce his image as defender of the faith as he signed a peace treaty with the Dutch Protestant heretics. He therefore ordered at the same time that the Moriscos—Muslims who some decades earlier had been compelled to convert to Catholicism—be expelled from Valencia. A few of these Moriscos made their way to Holland, where they seem to have been welcomed, thereby contributing to the reputation of the Dutch that they would tolerate any religious position. Even so, very few publications have survived on the subject of the Morisco expulsion, whereas treatises on the Twelve Years’ Truce poured off Dutch and English presses. While few, the English and Dutch language pamphlets on the expulsion decree reveal something about what English and Dutch audiences were told on the subject. How then was the Morisco expulsion explained to, and regarded by, Catholic and Protestant Europeans outside of Spain? While two of the surviving newssheets were accurate translations of Spanish decrees, a third work printed in the Spanish Netherlands defended the expulsion by linking Morisco plots with demonic witchcraft. On the other hand, a few Protestant and Mennonite writers in the Dutch Republic expressed some sympathy for the plight of the Moriscos and conversos as fellow victims of the Spanish Inquisition. Even so, the propaganda over the Treaty of Antwerp of 1609 clearly overshadowed the few works condemning the Morisco expulsion, rewarding Philip III’s decision to release them at the same time.

Affiliations: 1: University of New Brunswick 1


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