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James S. Amelang

Among the many dramatic events that have recently attracted world attention has been the attempted migration across or around the Mediterranean of millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Relatively few of these migrants – and even fewer Europeans – know of a singular precedent for this mass mobility: one that moved in the opposite direction, and which involved the forcible transfer from Spain to North Africa of tens of thousands of suspected Muslims. The expulsion in 1609–14 of the so-called Moriscos – that is, individuals of Islamic ancestry who had been baptized as Catholics – was a highly controversial measure, whose explicit goal was to purge from the Spanish empire the remaining descendants of the North Africans who had conquered the Iberian peninsula in the early eighth century and then resided there as Muslims to the 1520s. The cultural memory of the expulsion of the early modern Moriscos is the subject of this chapter. Their story and the reasons why, after a long period of coexistence, they were expelled, offers lessons from the past, as well as some thoughts for the present.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present