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Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I

Critics have long used Queen Elizabeth's public letters ordering the deportation of "blackamoors" as evidence of the extent to which racial prejudice pervaded the early modern English state. Uncovering an otherwise unattended history, I argue that the targeted subjects were West Africans captured from Spanish New World settlements and important primarily as "Spanish" subjects. Elizabeth defends her proposals by categorically derogating "black" subjects. But while her letters articulate a color-based racial discrimination, they also expose political and economic factors that complicate and compromise those terms, making clear that race is not her only or primary concern.

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