University of Tasmania
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Confronting barbary : reappraising the responses of Britons to engagement with Moroccans, and their influence on Anglo-Moroccan relations, 1625-1684

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:04 authored by Lette, R
Britons began regularly voyaging to Morocco, or West Barbary as it was commonly known, from the early 1550s, and within a few decades England had not only developed an extensive trade with the country, but also close political relations; as a result, the histories of Morocco and England became closely tied until the late seventeenth century. While diplomatic and commercial relations between the two countries have been relatively well, but not extensively, studied, understanding of the situation of Morocco within British history has been overshadowed by the predominance of scholarship which has focussed on relations from the more limited perspectives of the threat posed to English shipping and coastal communities around the British Isles from 'Barbary' corsairs, Christian captivity, and the hostile encounters which marked the English occupation of Tangier. However, it is contended that when this relationship is re-examined from a more holistic perspective by combining elements usually treated in isolation, together with close attention to the impact of experiential engagement ‚ÄövÑvÆ an aspect which has received little detailed attention outside of captivity narratives ‚ÄövÑvÆ new perspectives on Anglo-Moroccan relations are revealed. Only then is it possible to properly evaluate the meaning of Morocco to early modern Britons and British history. This thesis examines the impact that direct contact with Morocco and Moroccans had on the attitudes and actions of early modern Britons concerning them. It seeks to identify the psychological responses which experiential engagement elicited, and the circumstantial and personal factors which contributed to the different reactions of individuals. Furthermore, rather than simply regarding English policies concerning Morocco as contingent factors, this study attempts to understand the extent to which personal responses elicited by, and the knowledge Britons acquired through, direct experience actually helped shape diplomatic and commercial relations. By doing so, it shows that the encounter of Britons with Morocco between 1625 and 1684 was both a humbling and enlightening experience for them. There was no general turn to increasing prejudice and antipathy against the people associated with a desire to dominate them and expand England's nascent empire, as has been argued by other scholars. Instead, the thesis demonstrates that early modern Britons not only possessed a well-developed capacity to consciously accommodate cultural difference in furthering their interests, but some were also susceptible to subconscious processes of positive acculturation in their encounters with other peoples. Moreover, the behaviour of Britons in Morocco was more likely to be based on pragmatism and cultural self-consciousness, than driven by incipient imperial and colonial aspiration.


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