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Atlantic Diasporas

, 328 pages

2 line drawings

November 2008



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Atlantic Diasporas

Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500–1800

This wide-ranging narrative explores the role that Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews played in settling and building the Atlantic world between 1500 and 1800. Through the interwoven themes of markets, politics, religion, culture, and identity, the essays here demonstrate that the world of Atlantic Jewry, most often typified by Port Jews involved in mercantile pursuits, was more complex than commonly depicted.

The first section discusses the diaspora in relation to maritime systems, commerce, and culture on the Atlantic and includes an overview of Jewish history on both sides of the ocean. The second section provides an in-depth look at Jewish mercantilism, from settlements in Dutch America to involvement in building British, Portuguese, and other trading cultures to the dispersal of Sephardic merchants. In the third section, the chapter authors assess the roles of identity and religion in settling the Atlantic, looking closely at religious conversion; slavery; relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and the legacy of the lost tribes of Israel. A concluding commentary elucidates the fluidity of identity and boundaries in the formation of the Atlantic world.

Featuring chapters by Jonathan Israel, Natalie Zemon Davis, Aviva Ben-Ur, Holly Snyder, and other prominent Jewish historians, this collection opens new avenues of inquiry into the Jewish diaspora and integrates Jewish trade and settlements into the broader narrative of Atlantic exploration.

Richard L. Kagan is a professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University and the translator and editor, with Abigail Dyer, of Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews and Other Heretics, also published by Johns Hopkins. Philip D. Morgan is the Harry C. Black Professor of History at the Johns Hopkins University and author of the award-winning book Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry.

"This rich volume makes a valuable contribution to early modern Atlantic history and to Jewish studies. It is original, substantial, and theoretically sophisticated."

"These authors provide a window onto a diverse and fascinating world that challenges a host of popular notions."

"This volume includes pieces by such scholars as Jonathan Israel and Daviken Studnick-Gizbert, who have made outstanding contributions to our knowledge of the international activities, and the social and mental worlds, of the Marrano mercantile community."

"This volume offers an excellent rebuttal to those who think that either Jews or the Atlantic stand apart from nation and empire."

"A major contribution... Sophisticated analyses of culture and excellent archival research, integrating both with the burgeoning field of Atlantic Studies."

" Atlantic Diasporas will inform even experts in a diversity of fields."

"This volume is a very important contribution to our understanding of a very complex diaspora that defies simplistic generalizations."

"Refashioned the very concept of diaspora and made it into a viable model by which to examine the history of migration and ethnicity."

" Atlantic Diasporas is well organized, fascinating, groundbreaking, and extremely useful both as a platform to promote further research and as an assigned text."

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