Nat Cutter

Nat Cutter (PhD in History, 2022), ‘Barbarian Civility: British Expatriates and the Transformation of the Maghreb in English Thought, 1660–1714′

This thesis explores the role of British expatriates living in Ottoman Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripolitania, in a transformation of British-Maghrebi diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations in the later Stuart era. This period, 1660–1714, represented a distinct transitional period in which pragmatic cooperation, detailed knowledge, and material exchanges decreased the envy, enmity and ignorance of earlier periods of conflict, without resulting in the controlling Orientalist domination that characterised later periods. Drawing primarily on a large, little-studied collection of correspondence collected at the British consulate in Tunis, as well as English periodical news, State Papers Foreign, and numerous other government and official records, I highlight how expatriates acted as mediators in trade, diplomacy, and material culture, formed networks of influence and information, and transmitted their pragmatic, nuanced, well-informed views of the Maghreb to British audiences. My introduction presents a survey of relevant literature, sources, and historical context, followed by an outline of key theoretical interventions: the contested term ‘expatriate’ in historiographies of British-Maghrebi relations, the biblical-theological lens of ‘exile’ through which many expatriates viewed their more difficult or isolating experiences, and the concept of ‘equivalence’ in which expatriates and their correspondents viewed Maghrebi institutions, individuals and cultures as essentially equal in legitimacy, and sometimes superior in value, to European equivalents.

In Part 1, by exploring the origins, expectations, and interpersonal relationships of British expatriates in the Maghreb, I argue that expatriates were governed fundamentally by self-interest, viewing the Maghreb as a site suitable for personal and professional advancement – not just for wealthy men, but for apprentices, women, and children as well. In Part 2, by examining expatriate material cultures and religious interactions, I show how they ably, often enthusiastically, embraced British, European and Maghrebi traditions without abandoning their essential loyalties to Britain, such that they could act as trusted mediators in negotiation, exchange, and information. In Part 3, I explore expatriates’ professional activities relating to networking, commercial diplomacy, and the Mediterranean corsairing economy, showing how they built robust and varied connections of trust such that they could exploit opportunities to enrich themselves and overcome opposition, in the process deliberately promoting peace and trade between Britain and the Maghreb. In Part 4, I show how expatriate views of the Maghreb and its people reached wider audiences in Britain, by two routes: first, the networks of information that brought expatriate testimony on Maghrebi news to British newspapers, and second, the creation, publication, and influence of The Present State of Algiers, a little-studied but significant longform text produced by a British consul. As a whole, my thesis highlights the significant influence of the actions and networks of British expatriates living in the Maghreb on improving British-Maghrebi relations and increasing public understanding of the Maghreb in British society.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Richard Pennell, Dr Una McIlvenna