French actors mediated North African cultures and shaped French perceptions of others in the Mediterranean world during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Francophone intermediaries experienced predominantly Muslim cultures as consuls, diplomats, military officers, naval captains, merchants, travelers, and prisoners in North Africa and across the Mediterranean during this period. This article reconsiders issues of race and conflict in the early modern Mediterranean by globalizing Francophone sources on the figure of the “Moor” and the conceptual space of the “Barbary Coast” in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. After introducing French cultural intermediaries in the Mediterranean, the article analyzes their depictions of North Africans through conflict narratives, geographic works, and ethnographic descriptions. New evidence of racial distinctions in the early modern French Mediterranean suggests that conflict reshaped French understandings of Muslims and produced racialized conceptions of “Moors.” This finding supports recent historical interpretations of race as a category of differentiation already articulated and operative in the early modern world.

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