Early Modern Exchanges


MREMS: Gift or loot? Habsburg-Hafsid relationships through material culture exchanges

21 June 2023, 3:00 pm–4:00 pm

Battle of Tunis 1535 Attack on Goletta by Frans Hogenberg

Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (MREMS) seminars are lively and informal. All staff and students are warmly invited to attend.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students




Victoria Rasbridge


IAS Common Ground
G11, ground floor, South Wing
UCL, Gower Street, London
United Kingdom

Gift or loot? Habsburg-Hafsid relationships through material culture exchanges
Alicia Sempere Marín, Universidad de Murcia (Spain)

In 1535, the successful victory in Tunis of the imperial troops commanded by Emperor Charles V against the Ottoman enemy became a decisive turning point in Habsburg hegemony and its Mediterranean politics. Charles V started to be considered and glorified as the “new Scipio” thanks to his triumph against the infidels, and a vassalage treaty was signed between him and the newly re-instituted king of Tunis, Mulay Hassan. 

In this paper we aim to analyse the exchanges of material culture that took place around this important event, which occurred in the shape of not only diplomatic exchanges of gifts or spoils of war. More specifically, we focus on the study of a unique treasure, misinterpreted until now as a war loot, which once belonged to Mulay Hassan and was sent to the Spanish court. Its analysis will help shape the collecting interests of the sultan, mainly based on rich textiles, feathers and other sumptuary objects made of gold and silver. Moreover, thanks to unpublished documentary evidence found at the Archivo General de Simancas (Valladolid), we have been able to trace the nature, origin, reasons, and different stages of the treasure’s journey, until it appears registered in the last possessions of Charles V which were auctioned after his death. This way, we aim to deepen into the causes behind this type of cross-cultural transfer, which go further than the collecting interest to engage with political and economic issues.

There will be refreshments for PGRs and MREMS attendees after the talk. Please register to attend: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/651880922387

Seminar Convenor: Victoria Rasbridge (victoria.rasbridge.19@ucl.ac.uk)

This seminar will be followed immediately by Unveiling London Bridge: The Power Play of Privatization and Architectural Metamorphosis. The IBridge, led by Dr. Solmaz Sadeghi, examines early modern inhabitable bridges, walled-off paths, and gated communities to reveal public privacy beyond the privatization of public paths during the transitional age of alcoves.

Image credit: Battle of Tunis 1535 Attack on Goletta by Frans Hogenberg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons