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Title: Contest and Rivalry in Mediterranean Maritime Commerce in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century
Subtitle: The Jews of Salonika and the European Presence
Author(s): ROZEN, Minna
Journal: Revue des Études Juives
Volume: 147    Issue: 3-4   Date: juillet-décembre 1988   
Pages: 309-352
DOI: 10.2143/REJ.147.3.2012877

Abstract :
This article is based on archival sources (Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, Archives Nationales de France, the Public Record Office of Great Britain) and on Hebrew documents, mainly Responsa literature from the eighteenth century. It successively deals with the first steps of west European nations in the Salonika trade; the French consulate and the Jews of Salonika; the Jews of Livorno («Francos») under the auspices of the French consulate in Salonika; the competition over the Jewish protégés; the status of Francos in west European trade. The main innovations of this research are: (1) The use made of the above sources to describe and analyze the relations between Salonika Jews and especially the Francos, and the French and British consulates; (2) The use of the French statistical material to evaluate the role of the Ottoman Jews in European Trade. This has never been done before in the historiography of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire. This study reexamines and modifies two common but contradictory views that have dominated Jewish and non-Jewish historiography. (a) Jewish historiography using Hebrew sources draws a picture of severe economic deterioration affecting the Salonika community during the eighteenth century. This picture needs correction. Our research shows that though the cloth industry of Salonika had declined significantly, and the community as a whole suffered from great financial pressures, the demographic weight of Salonika Jewry enabled the community to wield economic and political power. When new forces appeared in the port of Salonika, namely the European nations, the native Jews were able successfully to make use of their connections with the Ottoman authorities and their remaining financial resources, in order to face the changes that had taken place in the city. (b) The second stereotype found in European historiography, based upon consular correspondance which was written without recourse to any statistical material, depicts the Jewish merchant as dominating the trade of Salonika, and especially that with Italy. This picture, too, is invalidated by the statistical material. The Jewish merchant in eighteenth-century Salonika played an important role in the trade with western Europe, but he certainly did not dominate it. It would be much more accurate to say that he managed to adapt himself to the circumstances of the changing times.

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