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Peter A. Mark
Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT 06459-3208)
Two Sephardic Communities in Seventeenth-Century West Africa: Portuguese Jews on Senegal's Petite Côte

My project studies 2 Jewish communities in early 17th-century West Africa. Inquisition records in Lisbon's National Archives provide extraordinary detail about Portuguese-speaking merchants from Lisbon and Amsterdam who settled in Senegal before 1612. These Sephardic communities, with their own rabbi and synagogue, maintained close contact with Portugal and the Low Countries. Having published an account of the African Jews, I now address several historical questions: What was the role of women? How was Jewish identity passed to the offspring of marriages between Sephardic men and Senegalese women? How did Jewish merchants in Senegal maintain friendly rapport with local Muslim rulers? What became of these communities after 1630?

Project fields:
African History

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
12/1/2005 – 8/31/2006