|The Economy of Ransoming in the Early Modern Mediterranean|
|This paper, based on source material from French, Italian, and Spanish archives, explores the historical dynamics of a particular sector of early modern trans-cultural exchange in the Mediterranean, one which was closely linked to corsairs' activities by both Christian and Muslim powers in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this perspective, the frictions and conflicts across religious differences are considered as resources for intense interaction, creating new opportunities through the mediation of exchange and ransoming of captives. The paper argues the importance of the analytical distinction (existing in the contemporary Mediterranean languages) between slaves and captives, due not to a difference of status but of destination (to be ransomed), thus avoiding mixing up the traditional slave trade in the Mediterranean since ancient times and the distinct phenomena of “ransom slavery” in the early modern period.
This is not to claim a kind of a very specific and somewhat exceptional sector of “captives trade”. On the contrary, the paper tries to show the intimate links between ransoming and trade in the exchange between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Attention will be paid especially to the actors and brokers of intercultural exchange, their particular capacities and resources and their integration in the networks of early modern Mediterranean trade.
Some long-term figures and practices (alfaqueque, alafía, albarano) illustrate how ransoming and trade have been closely linked, allowing a closer look to how, by gestures, anticipating action, etc., an “untrusted credibility” was to be established. Challenging a somewhat romantic picture of what should have been cross-cultural exchange in the early modern Mediterranean, the paper questions notions as third space, middle ground, or hybridity, and tries to give a more sober and realistic view of trans-cultural Mediterranean trade and its real, yet surprising, impetus to the historical dynamics.|