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Diplomacy from Below or Cross-Confessional Loyalty? The “Christians of Algiers” between the Lord of Kuko and the King of Spain in the Early 1600s

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Usually seen as actors with limited political agency, captives and slaves are, in this essay, at the core of complex diplomatic negotiations between two political authorities in a cross-confessional context. The case study presents a group of enslaved Christians in Algiers at the beginning of the seventeenth century working to restore a disrupted communication system between Spain and a rebel Muslim lord at war with the Ottomans. This lord, called Amar ben Amar bel Cadi, ruled the tiny city of Kuko and its region in the Djurdjura range (in present-day Kabylia). The goal of the Spanish military collaboration with him was to take Algiers and weaken the Ottoman Empire in North Africa. The paper argues that the captives’ initiative must be understood both as diplomacy “from below” and as a cross-confessional model of loyalty. Furthermore, it compels us to re-think the agency of actors in imperial encounters and to reject the topos—often implicit in contemporary historical essays—that religious affiliation conditioned political loyalty.

Affiliations: 1: Université Blaise Pascal (Clermont-Ferrand France)


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