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After the Maghreb came under Muslim rule, the term Moors was transferred in European usage to refer to any non-Christian inhabitants of the area; and after North African Muslims conquered Spain, it came to refer equally to Muslims in Spain. Since North Africans were darker-skinned than Europeans (although not black), "Moor" eventually came to be applied indiscriminately by English speakers to blacks, Muslims, Saracens, Persians, or Indians. Shakespeare's Othello was "the Moor of Venice". During the 17th century, Africans were sometimes distinguished from others as blackamoors.
In Spanish usage, "Moro" (Moor) came to have an even broader usage, to mean "Muslims" in general (just as "Rumi", "from the Eastern Roman Empire", came to mean "Christian" in many Arabic dialects); thus the Moros of Mindanao in the Philippines, and the Moriscos of Granada.
Until the early twentieth century, "Moor" was often used by Western geographers to refer to "mixed" Arab-Berber North Africans, especially of the towns, as distinct from supposedly more pure-blooded Arabs and Berbers; thus the 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica defines "Moor" as "the name which, as at present used, is loosely applied to any native of Morocco, but in its stricter sense only to the townsmen of mixed descent. In this sense it is also used of the Mahommedan townsmen in the other Barbary states." But even then, it recognized that "the term Moors has no real ethnological value."
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