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Sephardic Migration and Cultural Transfer: The Ottoman and Spanish Expansion through a Cinquecento Jewish Lens

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

This study explores the reading and writing practices of Joseph Ha-Kohen, a sixteenth-century Jewish chronicler from Genoa, against the background of his Italian and Spanish sources: in what ways and why did he adapt, change or subvert their narratives? It focuses on two of Ha-Kohen’s major works: his Franco-Turkish Chronicle, and his Hebrew adaptation of López de Gómara’s account of the Spanish conquests in the Americas. Based on these writings, the essay asks how the author’s Sephardic identity and migration experience inform his ideas about the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Notably, the Jewish chronicler applauds the Ottomans’ conversion of churches into mosques, while he condemns the forced Christianization of the Amerindians. At the same time, Ha-Kohen shares cultural attitudes with Gómara and voices qualified support for a Spanish civilizing mission. These ambiguities in Ha-Kohen’s writings—oscillating between praise and repudiation of imperial ideology—prove to be emblematic of post-expulsion Sephardic Jewry.

Affiliations: 1: Washington University in St. Louis


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