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Trade and Institutions in the Medieval Mediterranean
The Geniza Merchants and their Business World


Part of Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series

  • Date Published: March 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107519299

£ 26.99

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About the Authors
  • The Geniza merchants of the eleventh-century Mediterranean - sometimes called the 'Maghribi traders' - are central to controversies about the origins of long-term economic growth and the institutional bases of trade. In this book, Jessica Goldberg reconstructs the business world of the Geniza merchants, maps the shifting geographic relationships of the medieval Islamic economy and sheds new light on debates about the institutional framework for later European dominance. Commercial letters, business accounts and courtroom testimony bring to life how these medieval traders used personal gossip and legal mechanisms to manage far-flung agents, switched business strategies to manage political risks and asserted different parts of their fluid identities to gain advantage in the multicultural medieval trading world. This book paints a vivid picture of the everyday life of Jewish merchants in Islamic societies and adds new depth to debates about medieval trading institutions with unique quantitative analyses and innovative approaches.

    • Overturns widely held views that the Islamic economy was a passive middleman in trade between medieval Europe and Asia
    • A major contribution to debates about the institutional bases of economic growth
    • Sheds new light on the transition between the ancient and medieval Mediterranean economy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Goldberg brilliantly combines a historian's knowledge of detail and an economist's conceptual framework to enrich our understanding of transactions and their governance. She shows how the many-dimensional relationships among traders interact with multiple institutions enforcing property rights and contracts; this brings the research frontier closer to relevance and applicability. Her book is a must-read for researchers and students not only in medieval and economic history, but also in institutional and development economics.' Avinash Dixit, John J. F. Sherrerd '52 University Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Princeton University, New Jersey

    'Anyone interested in the history of the Mediterranean and its implications for the development of capitalism will have to read this book. It offers an exacting and innovative reading of a difficult and fascinating trove of records that have generated heated scholarly debates for over a century.' Francesca Trivellato, Yale University, Connecticut

    'Succeeds in painting a coherent and compelling picture of a trading community, while still maintaining technical precision. The result is that one learns, and even enters, a world of foreign categories and remarkable social-economic mechanisms.' Joshua Holo, H-Judaic

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107519299
    • length: 450 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 13 b/w illus. 22 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: two tales
    Part I. Institutions:
    2. Merchants in their community
    3. The uses of commercial correspondence
    4. The nature of merchants' trade
    5. The human landscape: business relationships, institutions of law and government
    6. Conclusion to Part I
    Part II. Geographies:
    7. The geography of information
    8. Commodities in a regional market
    9. Individual geographies of trade
    10. The contracting geography of the eleventh-century merchant network
    11. Conclusion: the Mediterranean through the eyes of Geniza merchants
    Glossary of terms

  • Author

    Jessica L. Goldberg, University of Pennsylvania
    Jessica Goldberg is Assistant Professor of Medieval History at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies the medieval history of the Mediterranean basin, Christian Europe and the Islamic world specialising in economic and legal institutions and culture.

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