Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews, and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740)

Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews, and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740)

Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews, and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740)

Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews, and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740)


This volume is concerned with the religious, social and commercial networking methods extending over a large part of the world, ranging from the Near East to South America, used by the western Sephardic Jewish diaspora - and the linked New Christian diaspora (in lands where the Inquisition prevailed)- from the mid sixteenth to the mid eighteenth century. Particular attention is given to the role of these unique diasporas in the functioning of the six great European world maritime empires of the time - the Venetian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French. New material and argument is offered relating to the questions of diaspora formation, Sephardic social practices, crypto-Judaism, religious syncretism, cross-cultural brokerage, and the contribution of diasporas to European expansion.


I have intended this volume to constitute a hopefully coherent thesis about the nature of Sephardi and converso social, religious and commercial networks over the course of two centuries (1540–1740). During that period, it seems to me, there existed certain highly specialized Jewish diasporas within the wider Jewish diaspora of a kind which had not really existed before and which ceased to exist—at least with anything like the important scope they attained in those two centuries—after around 1740. I have attempted to analyze the rise, functioning and decline of a unique system of global trade networks cemented by religious and family ties of an unusual kind which evolved in distinctly peculiar circumstances.

In terms of their genesis, the volume contains three different categories of essays. First and largest, are a set of ten completely new essays (the Introduction and nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13 and 18). Secondly, there are a group of five heavily revised versions of pieces previously published or which are based on more than one essay which I have published previously (nos. 5, 6, 10, 16 and 17). Finally, there are a category of four pieces (nos. 11, 12, 14 and 15) which are lightly revised versions of essays previously published under slightly different titles.

For lively discussion over many years of the issues herein dealt with, and for many a helpful research tip or suggestion, I would like to thank Yosef Kaplan, Daniel Swetschinski, Edgar Samuel, David Katz, Eva Uchmany, Richard Popkin, Gérard Nahon, Nathan Wachtel, Charles Amiel, Franz Binder, Marcel Curiel, Anita Novinsky, and Odette Vlessing. For providing financial and institutional backing enabling me to organize my research over the years, I am, and will always remain, greatly indebted to University College London and to the Institute for Advanced Study, here at Princeton. Finally, for her support and help in every possible respect I would like to record my profound gratitude to, and appreciation of, my partner, Annette.

Princeton, New Jersey, 7 December 2001 . . .

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