Renegadism and Transimperial Alliances in the Early Modern Mediterranean

AHA Session 62
Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Blue Room Prefunction (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Megan Armstrong, McMaster University

Session Abstract

Recent scholarship has shown that the early modern Mediterranean was not a space characterized exclusively by binaries and cultural collision, but rather by shared attitudes, behaviors, and values. Historians have described the sea and surrounding areas as a borderless space disposed to cultural contact and intermingling, where hundreds of thousands of individuals fashioned their lives in ways that challenged fixed ideologies and identities. The space, Eric Dursteler has suggested, was fertile for renegadism: acts understandable not only as the breaking of religious conventions, but political, gender or social ones as well. While early modern religious and secular authorities assigned pejorative readings to such acts, these very acts provided men and women with opportunities to escape socio-economic or political instability in their regions of origin, or more options to achieve physical security, financial gain, or social mobility.

Thus, despite the condemnations that renegadism received, it was not simply limited to “the fringes.” Rather, renegades were central to the larger cross-cultural nexuses of exchange and the imperial rivalries that pervaded the Mediterranean. In this regard, all three papers in this panel demonstrate that Mediterranean renegadism was hardly a peripheral phenomenon. Combined, these essays show how the renegade activities that the sea allowed, were central to diplomacy, statecraft, and mercantilism. Dursteler’s paper explores the career of Cigalazade Yusuf Sinan Pasa, a Genoese Muslim who played an important role in Ottoman-Safavid-Hapsburg diplomacy. Clines’ work examines Georgian princes attempting to secure political and religious autonomy from Safavid rule by supporting a Franco-Papal alliance. And Takeda’s essay reveals how Marie Petit, a gambling house madam-turned-unofficial diplomat, played a central role in French expansionist commercial projects in Georgia and Safavid Persia. Together, these papers underscore the complex relationships between religious conversions, geopolitical contests for power among the gunpowder empires, and competition among burgeoning European states across the early modern period, and the roles that traditionally marginal figures – renegades – played in these trans-imperial developments.

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