Hostname: page-component-546b4f848f-bvkm5 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-01T05:01:00.768Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Amsterdam's Greek merchants: protégés of the Dutch, beneficiaries of the Russians, subjects of the Ottomans and supporters of Greece

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2018

Hasan Çolak*
TOBB University of Economics &


Merchant diasporas have long attracted the attention of scholars through the narrow prisms of ‘nations’ and states. The history of Amsterdam's Greek Orthodox merchants, together with the other cases—who left the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century and established a seemingly controversial range of networks involving the Dutch, Russian, Ottoman and Greek states there—is an oft-quoted example. This article draws attention to some of the problematic aspects of these perceptions of the relations between states and diaspora merchants. The main tenet of the article is that nation- and state-centred perspectives are limited in explaining the full scope of flexibility and pragmatism displayed by the diaspora merchants.

Copyright © Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham, 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Andriotis, N., ‘Το Χρονικό του Άμστερδαμ’, Νέα Eστία 10 (1931) 851 Google Scholar. I have used the English translation provided in Clogg, R., ‘The concerns of a Greek merchant: the journal of Ioannis Pringos of Amsterdam’, in Clogg, R. (ed.), The Movement for Greek Independence 1770–1821: A Collection of Documents (London 1976) 4344 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an introduction in Dutch, see Antoniadis, S., ‘Het dagboek van een te Amsterdam gevestigde griekse koopman’, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 69 (1956) 5766 Google Scholar. The most detailed study on Pringos is Skouvaras, V., Ιωάννης Πρίγκος (1725;–1789): Η ελληνική παροικία του Άμστερνταμ, η σχολή και η βιβλιοθήκη Ζαγοράς) (Athens 1964)Google Scholar.

2 In this article, the term ‘Greek merchant’ refers to both Greek-speaking and Greek Orthodox merchants. The Greek merchants in Amsterdam largely differed from the case of some other Greek diasporas which involved Greek Orthodox converts to Catholicism, and Orthodox merchants who spoke other languages than Greek.

3 Kordatos, G., Ρήγας Φεραίος και η Βαλκανική ομοσπονδία (Athens 1945) 728 Google Scholar.

4 Stavrianos, L. S., ‘Antecedents to the Balkan revolutions of the nineteenth century’, The Journal of Modern History 29/4 (1957) 342–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Lewis, B., The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London 1961) 448 Google Scholar.

6 Clogg, R., ‘The Greek mercantile bourgeoisie: “progressive” or “reactionary”?’ in Clogg, R. (ed.), Balkan Society in the Age of Greek Independence (London 1981) 104 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Kasaba, R.Was there a compradore bourgeoisie in mid-nineteenth century Western Anatolia?’, Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 11/2 (1988) 215–28Google Scholar.

8 On the reluctant attitude towards diaspora studies in Greek context, see Tziovas, D., ‘Introduction’, in Tziovas, D. (ed.), Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture (Farnham 2009) 115 Google Scholar.

9 Katsiardi-Hering, Olga, Η ελληνική παροικία της Τεργέστης (1751-1830) (Athens 1986)Google Scholar.

10 For a recent edited volume displaying the current state of research see Katsiardi-Hering, O. and Stassinopoulou, M. A. (eds), Across the Danube: Southeastern Europeans and Their Travelling Identities (17th-19th C.) (Leiden 2017)Google Scholar. For two literature reviews on diaspora studies in the Greek context, see Chassiotis, I. K., Επισκόπηση της ιστορίας της νεοελληνικής διασποράς (Athens 1993)Google Scholar, and Korma, L., ‘The historiography of the Greek diaspora and migration in the twentieth century’, Historein 16 (2017) 4773 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Liakos, A., ‘Historical time and national space in modern Greece’, in Tadayuki, H. and Fukuda, H. (eds), Regions in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present (Sapporo 2007) 215–16Google Scholar.

12 Baghdiantz McCabe, I., Harlaftis, G. and Pepelasis Minoglou, I., ‘Introduction’, in Baghdiantz McCabe, I., Harlaftis, G. and Pepelasis Minoglou, I. (eds.), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History (Oxford 2005) xvi Google Scholar.

13 Op. cit., xx. Harlaftis, I. G., ‘Mapping the Greek maritime diaspora from the early eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries’, in Baghdiantz McCabe, Harlaftis and Minoglou, Pepelasis (eds.), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks, 148 Google Scholar.

14 Seirinidou, V., ‘Grocers and wholesalers, Ottomans and Habsburgs, foreigners and “our own”: the Greek trade diasporas in Central Europe, seventeenth to nineteenth centuries’, in Faroqhi, S. and Veinstein, G. (eds), Merchants in the Ottoman Empire (Paris 2008) 8197 Google Scholar, and Grenet, M., ‘Entangled allegiances: Ottoman Greeks in Marseille and the shifting ethos of Greekness (c. 1790-c. 1820)’, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 36/1 (2012) 5671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

15 Murphey, R., ‘Merchants, nations and free-agency: an attempt at a qualitative characterization of trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1620-1640’, in Hamilton, A., de Groot, A., van den Boogert, M. (eds), Friends and Rivals in the East: Studies in Anglo-Dutch Relations in the Levant from the Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century (Leiden 2000) 2559 Google Scholar.

16 İnalcık, H., ‘Imtiyâzât’, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn, III (Leiden 1971) 1178–89Google Scholar. van den Boogert, M. H., The Capitulations and the Ottoman Legal System: Qadis, Consuls and Beratlıs in the 18th Century (Leiden 2005) 1963 Google Scholar.

17 Boogert, The Capitulations, 8.

18 For a facsimile publication of an interpreter's berat see Almkvist, H. P., Ein türkisches Dragoman-Diplom aus dem vorigen Jahrhundert: Nachträgliche Bemerkungen (Upsala 1895)Google Scholar. For a few of the berats given through the mediation of the Dutch see Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archive [hereafter BOA] BOA.A.DVN.DVE.d.22/1; 83, 130, 425, 458, 519.

19 Erdbrink, G. R. B., At the Threshold of Felicity: Ottoman-Dutch Relations during the Embassy of Cornelis Calkoen at the Sublime Porte, 1726–1744 (Amsterdam 1977) 132–3Google Scholar. In the Ottoman registers in question there is also reference to two other Karatzas registered as interpreters for the Dutch ambassador: Yorgaki Karaca whose berat was renewed in 1695, and his grandson, another Yorgaki Karaca, who replaced his grandfather upon the latter's death in 1734. BOA.A.DVN.DVE.d.22/1; 236 and 248.

20 K. Theodoridis, ‘Ολλανδοί πρόξενοι και προστατευόμενοι στη Θεσσαλονίκη του 18ου αιώνα: Η υπόθεση του Αναστασίου Κανέλλη’, Μακεδονικά 41 (2016) 181–194.

21 Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 127.

22 Lewis, B., The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London 1961) 448 Google Scholar.

23 Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 202–3; Kadı, I. H., Ottoman and Dutch Merchants in the Eighteenth Century: Competition in Ankara, Izmir and Amsterdam (Leiden 2012) 237–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 Kadı, Ottoman and Dutch Merchants, 198–237; 145–70.

25 Osmanağaoğlu Karahasanoğlu, C., ‘Zimmi esnaf ve tacirlerin yabancı devlet vatandaşlığı iddialarının Osmanlı hukukuna etkisi’, in Demirel, F. (ed.), Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet'e Esnaf ve Ticaret (Istanbul 2012) 105–26Google Scholar.

26 Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 201.

27 Kadı, Ottoman and Dutch Merchants, 226–8.

28 Slot, B. J., ‘Commercial activities of Koraïs in Amsterdam’, Ο Ερανιστής 16 (1980) 55139 Google Scholar. See also Kremmydas, V., ‘Ο Κοραής στο Άμστερδαμ. Η μύηση στους κόσμους του Διαφωτισμού και οι αντιστάσεις’, in Loukos, C. (ed.), Κοινωνικοί αγώνες και Διαφωτισμός: Μελέτες αφιερωμένες στον Φίλιππο Ηλιού (Irakleio 2007) 113 Google Scholar.

29 Goffman, D., ‘Izmir: from village to colonial port city’, in Eldem, E., Goffman, D. and Masters, B. (eds), The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir, and Istanbul (Cambridge 1999) 79135 Google Scholar.

30 Çolak, H., ‘Bir ev iki dünya: on sekizinci yüzyıl Amsterdam Osmanlı Rum tüccar cemaatinde yol ayrımı’, in Çolak, H., Kocabıyıkoğlu Çeçen, Z. and Demirakın, N. I. (eds), Ayşegül Keskin Çolak'a Armağan Tarih ve Edebiyat Yazıları (Ankara 2016) 6379 Google Scholar.

31 Augustinos, O., ‘Philhellenic promises and Hellenic visions: Korais and the discourse of the Enlightenment’, in Zacharia, K. (ed.), Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity (Aldershot 2008) 182 Google Scholar.

32 Trencsényi, B. and Kopeček, M. (eds), Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770–1945): Texts and Commentaries, I. Late Enlightenment – Emergence of the Modern ‘National Idea’ (Budapest 2006) 145 Google Scholar.

33 Iliou, F., Γράμματα από το Αμστερνταμ (Athens 1976) 41 Google Scholar.

34 Slot, B. J., ‘Een Amsterdamse Griek in de pruikentijd’, De Tweede Ronde 4 (1983) 7984 Google Scholar.

35 Iliou, Γράμματα, 13.

36 Op. cit., 7.

37 Op. cit., 27.

38 Op. cit., 12.

39 Op. cit., 19.

40 Schutte, O., Repertorium Der Nederlandse Vertegenwoordigers, Residerende in het Buitenland, 1584–1810 (The Hague 1976) 347 Google Scholar.

41 Schutte's list of Dutch diplomatic representatives includes a number of Greek names, especially for the islands in the Eastern Mediterranean. Slot has studied some of them: Slot, B. J., ‘Oλλανδοί πρόξενοι Μήλου-Κιμώλου’, Κιμωλιακά 8 (1978) 157267 Google Scholar.

42 Nanninga, J. G. (ed.), Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van den Levantschen Handel, 1765–1826 (The Hague 1966)Google Scholar, IV, 1727–1765, part 1, 263-5, 324-6, 517-19, and part 2, 1358, 1362.

43 Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief: 5001/399.

44 Iliou, Γράμματα, 71.

45 Centrum voor Familiegeschiedenis: VFADNL104506: fiche 5339, 1.

46 Nationaal Archief [hereafter NA], NA.1.02.20, 874.

47 Kadı, I. H., ‘On the edges of an Ottoman world: non-Muslim Ottoman merchants in Amsterdam’, in Woodhead, C. (ed.), The Ottoman World (London 2011) 285 Google Scholar.

48 Skouvaras, Ιωάννης Πρίγκος, 60-2.

49 Op. cit., 59.

50 Op. cit., 80. The omitted matter is left out as illegible by Skouvaras.

51 Op. cit., 90.

52 van Schaik, V. F. H. E., ‘De Russisch-Griekse kerk van de Heilige Catharina te Amsterdam van 1763-1866’, Jaarboek Amstelodamum 48 (1956) 241 Google Scholar.

53 Schaik, ‘De Russisch-Griekse kerk’, 241.

54 Op. cit., 238.

55 Op. cit., 236-7.

56 Clogg, ‘The concerns’, 42.

57 Op. cit., 43.

58 Skouvaras, Ιωάννης Πρίγκος, 188.

59 His library in Zagora includes only Voulgaris’ Greek translation of Voltaire's Essai historique et critique sur les dissensions des églises de Pologne, which was offered later, when he returned to Zagora, by the co-donator of the library, Kallinikos, the former Patriarch of Constantinople. Skouvaras, Ιωάννης Πρίγκος, 316–18. Mackridge, P., Language and National Identity in Greece, 1766-1976 (Oxford 2009) 84 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

60 Davison, R. H., ‘“Russian skill and Turkish imbecility”: the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji reconsidered’, Slavic Review 35/3 (1976) 463483 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

61 Clogg, ‘The concerns’, 45.

62 Op. cit.; 44.

63 Bağış, A. İ., Osmanlı Ticaretinde Gayri Müslimler: Kapitülasyonlar, Avrupa Tüccarları, Beratlı Tüccarlar, Hayriye Tüccarları, 1750-1839 (Ankara 1998) 45–6Google Scholar.

64 E. L. Menchinger, ‘An Ottoman historian in an Age of Reform: Ahmed Vâsıf Efendi (ca. 1730-1806), unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2014, 255.

65 G. Harlaftis and S. Laiou, ‘Mapping the Greek maritime diaspora from the early eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries’, in McCabe, Harlaftis and Pepelasis Minoglou (eds), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks, 24.

66 Op. cit.; Masters, B., ‘The Sultan's entrepreneurs: The Avrupa Tüccarıs and the Hayriye Tüccarıs in Syria’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 24/4 (1992) 579–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

67 Kadı, ‘On the edges of an Ottoman world’, 284-5. For the Dutch correspondence on this issue see NA.1.02.20/908.

68 Kadı, ‘On the edges of an Ottoman world’, 285. On this issue see also van den Boogert, M., ‘Ottoman Greeks in the Dutch Levant trade: collective strategy and individual practice (c. 1750-1821)’, Oriente Moderno 86 (2006) 142–6Google Scholar.

69 Kadı, Ottoman and Dutch Merchants, 305.

70 Philliou, C., Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution (Berkeley 2010) 45 Google Scholar.

71 Op. cit., 5-37.

72 E. Bayraktar Tellan, ‘The Patriarch and the Sultan: the struggle for authority and the quest for order in the eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Bilkent University, 2011; Çolak, H., The Orthodox Church in the Early Modern Middle East: Relations between the Ottoman Central Administration and the Patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria (Ankara 2015)Google Scholar.

73 BOA.A.{DVNS.ŞHB.d.1, 1.

74 See respectively BOA.A.{DVNS.ŞHB.d.1, 3–4; 9; 2–3; 6; 3–4; 4–5; 6; and 7. See also Findley, C. V., ‘The foundation of the Ottoman Foreign Ministry: the beginnings of bureaucratic reform under Selim III and Mahmud II’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 3/4 (1972) 397 Google Scholar.

75 G. D. Frangos, ‘The Philike Etaireia, 1814–1821: a social and historical analysis’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1971.

76 Koster, D., ‘Dutch Philhellenism and the Greek merchants of Amsterdam’, Pharos, Journal of the Netherlands Institute at Athens 6 (1998) 54-7Google Scholar.

77 See, for instance, St Clair, W., That Greece Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence (Cambridge 2008) 25 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

78 Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie en Heraldiek, Nederland's Patriciaat (The Hague 1919) 241.

79 Koster, ‘Dutch Philhellenism’, 33, Wagner-Heidendal, L., Het filhellenisme in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (1821–1829): een bijdrage tot de studie van de publieke opinie in het begin van de negentiende eeuw (Brussels 1972) 99101 Google Scholar, Ringeling, J. H. A., ‘Het Eerste Philhelleense Comité in de Nederlanden: Amsterdam 7 Februari 1822’, Amstelodamum 51 (1964) 145-55Google Scholar, Renting, R. A. D., ‘Nederland en de Griekse Vrijheidsoorlog’, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 67 (1954) 2149 Google Scholar.

80 Koster, ‘Dutch Philhellenism’, 36.

81 Op. cit., 53.

82 NA., 10.

83 Nanninga (ed.), Bronnen, IV, part 2, 1048. Kadı, Ottoman and Dutch merchants, 229.

84 Nanninga (ed.), Bronnen, IV, part 2, 1074–5. Koster, ‘Dutch Philhellenism’, 53.

85 Foropoulos, N. L., ‘Στέφανος Παλαιολόγος, ένας λησμονημένος Πάτμιος αγωνιστής’, Δωδεκανησιακά Χρονικά 10 (1984) 139170 Google Scholar, Koster, ‘Dutch Philhellenism’, 36, 48 and 49.

86 Τα Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας, Vol. 11. Λυτά έγγραφα Υπερτάτης Διοικήσεως & Εκτελεστικού - Α΄ & Β΄ Βουλευτικής Περιόδου (1822–1823–1824) (Athens 1978) 205-6.

87 Koster, ‘Dutch Philhellenism’, 54–7.

88 Op. cit., 49. Koster mentions in one instance that Tomasachi and Palaiologos ‘were not ignorant of their own commercial interests’ and that ‘philhellenism also meant business’ (op. cit., 40). However, their ‘patriotic activities’ and ‘patriotic feelings’ set the tone of his narrative (op. cit., 40, 36, 48 and 49).

89 Op. cit., 57 and 56.

90 Slot, B. J. and Koster, D. (eds), Dutch Archives and Greek History: A Guide to Dutch Archives and Libraries Concerning the History of the Greeks and the Greek World between 1250 and 1940 (Athens 2007) 69 Google Scholar.