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Significant Others: Mixed Marriage in Early Modern Spain

April 25, 2022 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

This image is a painting of the Moriscos leaving the port on boats in Valencia.
Pere Oromig. “Embarque de los moriscos en el grao de Valencia.” 1612 – 1613. 109 × 173 cm. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Fundación Bancaja.

Elizabeth Neary

IRH PA (2020-)

Department of Spanish and Portuguese, UW-Madison

Scholars have written extensively about the Muslim and Christian divide in medieval and early modern Spain, however, it may surprise some to learn that throughout the 16th century both monarchical and ecclesiastical authorities encouraged mixed marriage between Moriscos and Old Christians. Morisco was a term used to describe individuals who converted from Islam to Catholicism by choice, force, or coercion and their descendants; they made up a substantial minority group in Spain in the 16th century. Eventually, between 1609 and 1614 the Crown expelled all Moriscos from Spanish lands. Scholars are beginning to realize that there were far more mixed unions than previously recognized. Not only did such unions exist, but they also forced authorities to grapple with the question, who is a Morisco? In this paper, I will examine mixed marriages between Moriscos and Old Christians leading up to and during the Morisco expulsions. My presentation will be organized around two questions: what information about mixed marriages can be gleaned from archival documents? And, how do these unions inform our understanding of assimilation, identity, and belonging in 16th and 17th century Spain?

Elizabeth Neary is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at UW–Madison and has been the Project Assistant at the IRH since 2020. She specializes in cultural exchanges between Christians and Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula during the 16th and 17th centuries. Her dissertation, “Significant Others: Mixed Marriage in Early Modern Spain,” examines marriages and romantic relationships between Old Christians and Moriscos in early modern Spain. More broadly, her research engages with themes of religious difference, national belonging, and ethnic othering. Elizabeth has carried out research in Spain and Morocco thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Department of Education FLAS Award, the IRIS Graduate Student Fieldwork Award, Phi Kappa Phi Zillman Award, and the Nave Field Research Grant.


April 25, 2022
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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