Table of Contents
Conference Proceedings

List conferences




Trading Diaspora, State Building and
the Idea of National Interest

Ina Baghdiantz McCabe
Tufts University


One would expect people to remember the past and to imagine the future.  In fact when discoursing about history they imagine in terms of their own experience, and when trying to gauge the future they cite supposed analogies from the past: till by a double process of repetition, they imagine the past and remember the future.
                                                                                                 Sir Lewis Namier1

            This is a brief comparative study of several trading groups in the seventeenth century and of their participation in state-building in their host societies as øtrade diasporaÓ. The word state is used here in its sixteenth century meaning of a political body subject to common government and law.2   It is generally held that the three European East India Companies served national interest, contributed financially to state building, and followed the mercantilist policies dictated by their home states from their inception. It is also assumed that classical trade disapora such as the Armenians or the Jews remained outsiders to polity with only commercial profit in mind.  The question of any form of national interest remains moot for them and is never addressed, nor is their link to their host society assumed to be anything more than  the payments made for a right to conduct commerce as cross-cultural brokers.

            Defining trading groups remains an interesting problem, although definitions and categorization can often mislead. Most views of the Early Modern period are distorted by the habit of studying history within the framework of modern nation-states.  Indeed even such a category  as the concept of trade diaspora can  cause a serious misreading of the past. Contained within the concept of trade diaspora,  there is the idea that these groups remain outside the structures of the host country, alien and perhaps even at times hostile or in competition to the host countrys economic and national interests.  The examples discussed below  contradict this view. It has universally been assumed, save in one article by Subrahmanyam on the Iranians in exile and in my book on the Julfan Armenians, that trade diaspora do not participate in the political life of their host county or in state-building in Asia. In addition a brief discussion of the structure of the three East India Companies, (the Dutch, the English and the French) in the same period illustrates why one can argue that there is less difference than has been established between groups traditionally called  trade diaspora and what we erroneously perceive as ønationalÓ East India Companies serving the home societys interests abroad; as indeed they did in later centuries. Did these companies serve national interest in Early Modern times?  Did they contribute to state building in the seventeenth century? Can they be perceived as national companies from their inception as they have been?

            In the Early Modern period what was the role of the newly exiled Armenians in Iran, who were the Iranians in India, or for that matter the Europeans in India?  To better cope with these complexities, trade historians have come up with the notion of øtrade settlementÓ or øtrade diaspora.Ó The term  appears applicable to many groups. It could equally apply to the East India Company factors, such as the English in India and the Dutch in Southeast Asia. Yet, the term trade diaspora has been only exceptionally used for European factors. Therefore the question arises as to why the usage has been reserved by most scholars, with a few exceptions, for other trading groups and not  for European factors. The term øtrade diasporaÓ was first coined in 1971 by Abner Cohen to refer to øa nation of socially interdependent, but spatially dispersed communities.Ó  Even as he defined it, he was criticized for his usage of the word diaspora instead of the more neutral  term network.   He argues that the usage of the term stands

 ø A diaspora of this kind is distinct as a type of social grouping in its culture and structure. Its members are culturally distinct from both their society of origin and from the society among which they live. Its organization combines stability of  structure but allows a high degree of mobility of personnel... It has an informal political organization of its own....It tends to be autonomous in its judicial organization....Its members form a moral community. Ó3

            The Europeans unless they settled and went through a  form of ø nativizationÓ could not, one supposes, be seen as a group distinct from their society of origin. In the past ten years, much has been written about the usage, the meaning and the implications of the concept of diaspora.4  The criticism against Abner Cohen was that the term was a historically specific one.5 The notion of Diaspora, first used and coined in the classical world has acquired great importance in the late twentieth century6. The intensity of international migration and the phenomenon of globalization, the imminent demise of the nation-state have been crucial to the creation of the current debate about diaspora. The arguments are also fueled by the ensuing interest in different theoretical approaches to nationalism and post-colonial studies. Looking at the future of globalization some scholars are revisiting the past, going beyond the paradigm of the nation-state, trying to  date its origins,  and even including the weight of human imagination in a field once constrained to archival research.  Scholarship on  diaspora trading networks, would  have been entirely marginal and perceived as irrelevant in mainstream academic debates, be it ten years ago. The present and especially the future can now point to the problem of considering the nation as ønaturalÓ to historical discourse. As contemporary problems point the way beyond the nation-state, they demonstrate the need to change this parameter.  Paradoxically it is visions of the future beyond the nation-state, that are now encouraging a revisiting of the past. The nation-state, once the ubiquitous model for historical thought has masked many elements, perhaps not least is the participation of outsiders or foreigners in state formation during Early Modern times. This is  even  reflected in very valuable studies that hoped to transcend the ønationalÓ category.

            Philip Curtin, in a world-wide study of cross-cultural trade, argues for a clear dichotomy between host societies and outside trading groups: øThe traders were specialists in a single kind of economic enterprise, whereas the host society was a whole society, with many occupations, class stratification and political divisions between the rulers and the ruled.Ó Curtin, who first started the debate, makes clear with other passages that he  sees trade Diaspora as exempt from political participation in their host societies.7 He uses the term trade network and trade diaspora interchangeably and argues that these groups were only cross-cultural brokers helping to encourage trade between the host society and their own. He is also a pioneer in the second problem discussed here. In his discussion of trade networks in 1984 he is a pioneer for including European militarized diaspora within the same category as the Armenians, the Banians, and the Fukein Chinese.

            The term Diaspora first found in the Greek translation of the Bible, was once exclusively reserved for the Jews. It implied a forcible scattering as it is described in Deuteronomy (28:25). As Robin Cohen argues that the old testament also carried the message that øscattering to other landÓ constituted punishment, for breaking with tradition.8 Soon it was applied to two more groups, the three classical Diaspora being the Jewish, the Armenian and the Greek. Today the term is used for nearly thirty different groups9.  The Armenians are considered a classical Diaspora.10 Based on the secondary scholarship available to him, Philip Curtin has argued that the Armenian trading diaspora was a self-contained and self-regulating body, a commercial organization divorced from political participation in state formation. 11

            The fact that the Armenians are perceived as a classical diaspora has played a significant role in enforcing this view. Even the best critic of this binary model conceived by Curtin, Sanjay Subrahmanyam  still follows this pattern for the Armenians.  He too has to rely on the usual secondary sources which see the Julfan Armenian as a foreign  trade diaspora, autonomous under Persian rule, protected but not politically integrated or active. Subrahmanyam still  concluded in his innovative study on the contribution of the Iranian merchant elite to the early state formation in Golconda, the Deccan and Thailand that : ø that this does not mean either that the ¥ Iranian model can be used as paradigmatic, or that it is one that does away entirely with the concept of diaspora community. Clearly the functioning of the Armenian community—significantly also the one chosen by Curtin to illustrate his theory—does correspond far more closely to the self regulated body, largely divorced from the world of politics...Ó 12 Nevertheless, despite his hesitation to include the Armenians, a dispora community,  in the model he finds for the Iranians, Subrahmanyam is the first to notice that an Asian trade diaspora, specifically the Iranians, participated in state-building.

            My work has been on the Julfan Armenians in the silk trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.13  New Julfa Armenians, mainly based in a suburb of the Persian  capital of Isfahan, formed trading settlements, which spanned the globe from Narva, Sweden to Shanghai, China. They had been deported to the new capital of Isfahan by the Safavid monarch, Shah Abbas,  in 1604.  I have argued that the Julfan Armenians in Iran  made both economic and political contributions to the governments of their host society and were part of its administration, as members of the Royal Household. They were in competition with the English East India Company and the VOC, who gained a minimal share in the trade. Their unusual success in Iran has been  explained by platitudes and prejudices such as their Christianity, their hard work, and even by their avarice.  My recent research on the Julfan Armenians has uncovered their clear participation in Safavid Irans political economy.  Their integration into the Safavid Household despite their Christianity,  made them the financial wing of the Royal Household.  Studying them contributes to a better understanding of the yet relatively unstudied Safavid Royal Household system.  From the mid-sixteenth century on increasingly this was becoming a household of administrators who were converted Caucasian royal slaves14.  It was never suspected that there could be a link between the Christian merchants, perceived as foreign by scholars, and the converted administrators. These royal merchants controlled the Iranian silk trade for half a century, although prior to their arrival in Iran, they already were the most renown silk traders on Ottoman markets.15

            Vladimir Minorsky was the first to portray the New Julfan as an elite, a foreign bourgeoisie, autonomous and protected by the Safavids (1501-1722).16   Although their economic role in Iran was clearly of tremendous import by all accounts, no official political links to the Safavid power structure  were evident before the reading of three neglected Safavid edicts. These edicts, translated and published for the first time in, The Shah's Silk for Europe's Silver, demonstrate the direct participation of the Julfan elite in the Safavid political administration and their elevated political rank—one on par with their economic power. The New Julfan leader, Khw¹ja Nazar, was the sh¹h s banker and ran the Armenian organization of the silk trade. The leading families of New Julfa were in fact one of the pillars on which the organization of the Safavid  Royal Household (kh¹óóa-yi sharifa) rested. Their financial contribution was essential in more ways than one to shaping the history of Iran in the first half of the seventeenth century. The Royal Household relied heavily on the deportees of the Caucasus, some of them were even converted Julfan Armenians.17 The mechanism of this political role is explored in The Shah's Silk.18  where one of the major arguments is the contribution of this trade diaspora to Irans centralization and state-building in the first half of the seventeenth century.  They contributed both as administrators themselves and as financiers. It is  interesting to note that at this time many prominent Iranian merchants were leaving Iran  to emigrate to India, a land that was then viewed as a land of opportunity.  In Safavid Iran, wealthy landowners were also merchants, the successful curbing of their feudal power by the Safavids was a factor in their leaving with their surplus capital for other shores.  The Safavid monarchs monopolization of the silk trade in 1617 and his integration of the Armenian merchants within the court was probably also  a major reason why opportunities declined for local merchants in Iran.  The revenues of silk were centrally collected under the responsibility of the head of the Julfan community, much of it went to the salaries of the army. At first the army was provided by the amirs, or feudal lords, and the Safavids were dependent on them   The Caucasian administrator of the royal household, were paid  salaries through a centralized mint system, much of the cash was brought in by the silk trade. There is direct financing of the administration by the Julfans and a communality of interest with the Caucasian administration that dominated the court and made it powerful for near half a century.19

            Another  recent study on the political economy of Iran in the seventeenth century, still argues, that the Armenians were a commercial bourgeoisie based upon Minorskym herzig and others. The fallacious notion that there are no Safavid sources on economy persits in this argument. 20.   Only Safavid edicts demonstrate their participation in polity.21. Foreign company factors were not privy to a countrys political mechanisms.  There is, however,  another  major factor at work in disguising the Armenian political role in Iran:  that is, as demonstrated before, the general views held about trade diaspora.

            K. N. Chaudhuri postulates that the øtrade diasporas,Ó or settlements of a nation in diaspora, necessarily have a different outlook from merchants belonging to a nation, the assumption being that only the latter serve national interests. This immediately begs the question: how do the Armenians in India and Iran fit into this schema? How did they differ from the European factors in India ? Did the East India Companies serve national interest in the seventeenth century?  Merchants and traders in this period  conducted business through closely knit groups, irrespective of their location. In the groups considered, Jewish and Armenian merchants alone had no proper homeland to which they eventually hoped to return. Were the behavior and outlook of these particular members of a nation in diaspora  likely to be very different from those traveling merchants with solid connections at home? According to Chaudhuri, the Armenians living in Kashgar, Delhi, and Hugli in the seventeenth century could point to their own suburb in Isfahan, the little town of Julfa on the far side of Zayandah-Rud. Was it a national home?  New Julfa, in Iran, was a second home, far from their original town of Julfa, which was burnt to ground. The creation of an entirely new calendar used in their world-wide silk trading network  and dating from their settlement in Iran seems to indicate that they saw this new settlement as a new beginning. The titles held by their provost indicate that they saw themselves as a kingdom within a kingdom.22

            When the Armenians settled elsewhere, did they serve the interests of their host provinces such as Gujarat, Bengal, or the Netherlands, Russia, or especially the interests of Safavid Iran?  It seems clear that up to 1646, they served the Safavid and the organization under their provost over anything else. This changed, as they lost their status and privilege in Iran. They also, much later,  contributed to the state-building efforts of Peter the Great, albeit in a smaller scale  and as outsiders close to court circles.  They  received peerage, land and nobility in Russia, but they were never an entire wing of the court. Did they only serve the state building efforts of the Safavids ,or those of Peter the Great? Or did they manifest ønationalÓ interests of their own, despite the absence of a homeland? Could it be that the merchants sole aim, beyond simple survival, was the expedient pursuit of lucre, that they had no underlying political goals?


            What then of national interest for the stateless Armenians? What were their goals beyond profit?  Surplus capital necessary to state formation was amassed by the Julfans for Iran.  These were outsiders who didnt remain outside the administration, they were in allegiance with the administrators of the court who were also of Caucasian origin.  After losing their role in the administration of the Royal Household,  the Armenians of New Julfa  formed their own company, and its capital and organization can be compared advantageously to that of the European companies.  It has not been believed that Asian merchants, no matter how great their accumulated wealth, were capable of establishing a worldwide organization. The argument of wealth does not suffice when confronting orientalist scholarship, which argues for a lack of ørational organizationÓ among the Asian merchants: øThe peddler might have well possessed the habit of thinking rationally. But he had no possibility of making a rational calculation of his costs in a modern sense so long as the protection costs and the risk remained unpredictable and the market non-transparent.Ó23 The orientalist view contrasts them with the Europeans, who corresponded with a companys home base every few weeks, coupled with the argument that transport insurance and customs costs on the European side were predictable, presumably through an amalgamation of data. Given the difficulty that the Companies had establishing themselves in India and in Persia, it is arguable whether they had accurate knowledge of the market, as the author supposes. It is wrongly assumed that the Asian merchants only knew of the prices as they reached the markets, and that they had no planning or organization with which to analyze the market. There is clear proof to the contrary. 24

            There certainly was  a øcomprehensive and coordinatedÓ organization for the Armenians; its headquarters were in New Julfa,  a suburb of the capital of Safavid Iran. It had jurisdiction on other Julfans settled across the world from  Paris to Tibet.  As we have seen, the Armenians have a very important role in the economic and political history of Safavid Iran. Their integration was conscious policy by a dynasty that strove for absolutist power over many feudal strongholds. Nevertheless, as the economic agents of Safavid royal power in the first half of the seventeenth century, the Armenians, merchants and silk growers or simply taxable Christians, cannot be disassociated from the political economy and history of Safavid power in Iran. That they served Irans interest is now established by documents, that they served their own  national interest as they served Irans is equally certain.  The trading organization of the New Julfans was so elaborate that, allied with the administrative role of the church,  it served as an infrastructure for the diffusion and preservation of a common cultural  identity.  Through the financing of scriptoria and presses and the diffusion of books in Armenian to  remotest churches and diaspora.  This form of support and diffusion was a role played by early states.25  As such the trading network served Armenian interests well, be they financial, administrative, political and cultural.  I have studied their financial support of the first Armenian printing presses elsewhere, but it remains one of the most important stages in forming a cultural canon that would later serve a national discourse.26  The books were financed by merchant money and carried and diffused through their merchant network. This merchant  network was instrumental in rebuilding the main churches of historic Armenia, and in financing the church.  It can be argued that their wealth and Safavid protection saved the Apostolic Church of Edjmiadzin from conversion to Catholicism. Therefore there is no question that while they served the state building aims of monarchs such as Peter the Great or the Safavids they also looked after their own ethno-national interests, interests that were well beyond immediate financial gain. The political autonomy they obtained in diaspora both in Lvov, Poland and New Julfa in Iran was due to their commercial skill. Their contribution as bankers to the king of Poland, or even to the Venetian Doge, gave them the autonomous jurisdiction common to trading diaspora as defined by Abner Cohen.  The political aspects of this autonomy are very important.  Nowhere, however,  were they directly integrated in the administration of an early state as they were in Iran.  Nowhere did they achieve the same wealth or success. In Venice and Poland the network was not entirely the Julfan one, although there were  serious cross-overs and links, both of these diaspora converted to Catholicism.

            The question of serving national interests, is not a simple one for the Early Modern period‹even when referring to the European Companies as serving nation-states. Traditional views contrast the Europeans, seen as peoples with homelands, to the Jews and Armenians in Diaspora. Yet Bruce Masters, quite exceptionally, classifies the English Levant company with trade diaspora: øThe Armenians, the Sephardi Jews, and Syrian Christians, Catholics and otherwise, all represent trading diaspora in the sense of the term suggested by Curtin. To them might be added the English Levant Company factors, who supply an illustrative example of the metamorphosis of a trading diaspora, supported by the bonds of religion or  ethnicity, to one built on starkly profit motives, the forerunner of the multinational corporation as it were.Ó27  He does not see it as serving national interest, or national interest  as a bond in the Levant Company, rather profit is the binding element . He does not commit the usual error of seeing the companies as national ones serving the state. As for defining trade diaspora, we have already disagreed over Curtins model for the Armenians of Julfa, who are,  in the main, the ones discussed by Bruce Masters in Aleppo although he identifies other groups of Armenians trading there. 

            While the trade of the Sephardi Jews expelled in 1492 from Spain deserves further study, such as in the Ottoman Empire, some new  light is being shed on specific communities of these Sephardi Jews, such as the very important one of Amsterdam. New studies contradict Curtins model  and Masters views on the Jews.  A large group of the Jews exiled from Spain  first settled in Portugual as New Christians after 1492.  In the seventeenth century  as the inquisition threatened even New Christians, they left for Holland.  In Amsterdam, where, hanks to Protestantism,  there was religious freedom from the inquisition , they slowly but surely returned to practicing Judaism.  A masterful study of the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam in this crucial century of state formation in the States General sheds light on their many endeavors. While this new study dismisses over-amplification of their commercial role, such as Braudel quoting a generalization that ø it was only in imitation of the Jews who had taken refuge among them, and who had set up counting houses everywhere, that the Dutch began to set  up their own and send their ships all over the Mediterranean.Ó28 It uncovers the many layers of their participation in Dutch society,  many of which are political and go well beyond the purely commercial.

            Some contributions are very important, such as the overwhelming contribution of the Portuguese Jews in the colonial settling of Brazil for the Dutch West India Company29, the introduction of sugar growing and the entire sugar production of Surinam, where they were the main settlers for the Dutch. There also was the quasi- monopolization of the import, manufacturing and distribution chocolate, a new product,  which  like sugar, did not fall under established guild rules.30  Perhaps even more strikingly, there is the direct the financing of William of Oranges conquest of England, as well as of his Irish wars. In this war for the throne of England, they played an active and direct political role as purveyors of food and equipment to the army. The Jewish firm Machado&Pereyra, which held investments from many prominent Portuguese Jews, was entirely responsible for horses and provisions to the Dutch army.  The provisioning of Williams Irish campaign against James, the Catholic contender to the throne of England,  according to one source required at least twenty eight bakers, 700-800 horses, 300-400 wagons.31 

            Just as in Iran, where the Armenians and the Safavids had common interests against the Spanish, Portuguese and French Catholics, the Portuguese Jews found common interests with the Protestant Dutch against the Catholic powers of Europe.  Both groups had their own ethno-national interests in common with the new states forming in Iran and the States General, both of which gave them religious freedom and a chance for participation.  As the Jews helped the Dutch in their state-building, they rebuilt an identity that they had to hide for two centuries as New Christians. Much has been made of this community as the first community of Modern Jews, who nicknamed Amsterdam øMokumÓ ( from the Hebrew word for place) and made the Amsterdam-Jerusalem analogy32.  Finding a second home, religious freedom, and prosperity are common parallels with the Armenians of New Julfa.

            Among the Amsterdam Jews was also a prominent banking family, as important  as the family of Nazar, head of the Julfans was in Iran.  Although, unlike the Julfan Armenians,  ten percent of Amsterdams bankers were Jewish, the Suasso stand alone in their unparalleled wealth. Later,  their house became the residence of the Queen of the Netherlands. Franciso Lopes Suasso lent the astronomical sum of 1.5 million Gulden to William of Orange in 1689 as he ascended the throne of England. Recently published figures of Portuguese Jewish trade shows a participation quite disproportionate with their number33.. Even within the West India Company where their physical representation was no larger than 5% among the main investors, but their investment were very large; sufficiently large for  them to have political clout.  At their request the Dutch West India Company reprimanded Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of the New Netherlands for his anti-Jewish measures34.

            In studying the Sephardi networks, as for the Armenians,  kinship and religion are taken into account by scholars  to explain network solidarity. For the  European Companies  would solidarity be national one?  The evident link between long-distance trade and the creation of surplus capital and state formation need not be stressed here. France, England, and the Dutch Republic were at different stages of state formation. The Dutch had just won their independence at the end of the sixteenth century. In their case, the commercial success of the Dutch East India Companies and other trading groups and the formation of the Dutch Republic were parallel processes. Economic and political power in the Dutch Republic were in the same hands, and the City Council of Amsterdam was also entirely a group of merchants. The Dutch Republic, with its Calvinism and overt capitalism, seems the perfect example in support of Max Webers thesis of the link between Protestantism and capitalism.  Yet, as Sephardi Jewish participation clearly demonstrates, even in the most homogenous of European  companies, there was no ethnic or religious uniformity to argue for such a thesis. Bruce Masters in including the English Levant Company in the category of diaspora traders, defines it as an ancestor of the multinational corporations, having only profit as an aim for solidarity. He may well have been the first not to be misled by the national  names of these Companies. A brief discussion of three East India Companies, in the same period illustrates why one can argue that there is less difference than has been established between groups traditionally  called trading diaspora and the ønationalÓ West and East  India Companies who had a home society.

            The three main European groups in question‹the French, English, and Dutch, each had very different histories. The European Companies had in each case a different relationship with their governments. Oftentimes, their interests could even be at odds with the state. A striking instance is the assistance that the English East India Company provided the Persians in capturing Hormuz away from the Portuguese in 1622. At the very time they were fighting the Portuguese, the English Crown was hoping for a rapprochement with Lisbon and the Spanish Crown. The English Companys directors safeguarded their independence from the court, and from national interest. In contrast to the VOC and the Dutch West India Company which was run by the same group as ran the city council of Amsterdam, the English East India Company often acted as a state within a state.  The aims and interests factors abroad were different from that of the Crowns. This form of conflict of interest has often been brought up for its significance for the issue of colonization by both the French and the English.

             As for the contribution of the companies to Early Modern State building:  although  France and England both proclaimed to be mercantilist. They were avid to amass bullion from foreign trade for the state, to finance it  in its new seventeenth-century incarnation as war machine.  How much of this foreign company trade benefited state-building is the object of debate.35 So pervasive was the practice of factors trading for their own interest, that the English East India Company had to formally allow it beginning in 1660. This clause is what permitted the great fortunes of Elihu Yale and Lord Bryce.  European adventurers who had broken their ties with their initial national companies were common in India; they hired themselves out, and worked for rival companies or armies. Many of them also worked in the troops of local potentates. It seems they created a very poor image of the Europeans and were much disdained by the locals.36   The great role played by  some Frenchmen in the local armies  and courts of some potentates would deserve further study.

            The French East India Company, formed in 1664, had Louis XIV as a major investor and was under Colberts direction. It was far more of a royal company, although many of its directors were not French. In France, most capital was generated by regional merchant organizations, and the failure of the French India Company masks the success of other French merchants in Asia. The failing French East India Company was bailed out by the association of the merchants of St. Malo, a regional group which for a while became the new French East India Company. The other successful group in France were the merchants of Marseilles.  They had actively resisted joining Colberts royal Company, fearing that  this centralization would destroy their commercial success.  Indeed, French factors abroad had their hands tied as they did not have the independent authority of the English factor. Thus, the idea of national company with national interests in the French case is misleading, unless one merges royal and national interests. There is a difference in all three cases between the interests of the East India companies and their respective governments, although the Dutch come the closes to some unity of political and commercial purpose.

             In the end, the perception that these commercial companies were ønationalÓ companies, which served the interest of nation states, is fallacious. All these fallacies arise from a nineteenth century writing of history as a national histories.  In the Early Modern period this nineteenth century model does not hold. Furthermore, the interests of participating individuals over and against those of the Company complicates the equation. Many of the men at the service of the European companies were out for their own fortune, some of them even working for rival companies to the detriment of their national companies. One well-known example is the Dutch man FranÆois Caron, of the reformed religion, born in Brussels. He was one of the first directors of the French East India Company, after years of work in the Dutch East India Company.37 Hired by the French specifically for his knowledge and experience, he was naturalized French and given a patent by Louis XIV in 1665.38  Next to him the other director was an Armenian, Marcara, a New Julfan was also naturalized French, which implied conversion to Catholicism for both directors. Colbert had recruited them from the two most successful groups in Asia in order to compete with the English and the Dutch.39 In no way can one even invoke the idea of national interest in this early period. Things change considerably, however, in the middle of the eighteenth century, as for a number of highly debated reasons, the balance of power shifts in favor of Western dominance over Asia.40


1Daniel M. Swetschinski, The Reluctant Cosmopolitans: the Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam.  The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization: London, 2000, p.1.

2Joseph R. Straye,  On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State, Princeton, 1970.

3Abner Cohen, øCultural Stategies in the Organization of Trading DiasporaÓ, in LEvolution du Commerce en Afrique de LOuest, Claude Mesailloux, (ed.) Oxford, 1971, pp..266-281.

4Some of the best articles on the subject have been gathered in a hefty tome edited by Robin Cohen and Steven Vertovec. The volume has the advantage of gathering articles written in English on both sides of the Atlantic: Migration Diasporas and Transnationalism, The International Library of Studies on Migration, 9. Cheltenham, UK, 1999. Will be subsequently refered to as MDT.
It contains many articles from the main scholarly journal devoted to the subject: Diaspora a Journal of Transnational Studies,  Khachig Tðlðyan, editor. The journal explores many theoretical approaches to the subject and is multidisciplinary.  Its contents clearly demonstrate that the term Diaspora is now applied to near thirty groups.

5Abner Cohen adds a footnote  making it clear that he was criticized during the conference of 1969, published in 1971 see footnote 2 on page 267.

6Robin Cohen, in MDT, .p. 267.

7Philip Curtin, Cross Cultural Trade in World History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984. Quotation from page 5.

8Robin Cohen, MDT, p.267.

9See DMT and Diaspora.

10The debate as to when the Armenians start being entirely in diaspora without a homeland has no place here, but the artificial date traditionally used  by Armenian historiography has been the fall of the Crusading Kingdom of Cilicia in 1375. This small and fleeting kingdom, away from the lands of historic Armenian, was certainly  not home to most of the Armenians.  Another favorite date is 1071 the Seljuk invasion of historic Armenia, but the same holds true for this date as  many Armenians already lived out of historic Armenia even by this date, for example many has left for Rome, Constantinople, and Egypt well before that. 

11Philip Curtin, Chapter 9, pp.179-207.

12Sanjay Subrahmanyam øIranians abroad: Intra Asian Elite Migration and Early Modern State Formation.Ó, The Journal of Asian Studies, Volume LI no.2 ,1992, pp.340-363. Quotation from p. 359.

13Ina Baghdiantz Mccabe The Shahs Silk for Europes Silver:  The Eurasian Silk trade of the  Julfan Armenians  in Safavid Iran and India(1590-1750). University of Pennsylvania(Series in Armenian Texts and Studies), ScholarsPress, 1999.

14Kathryn Babayan, øThe waning of the Qizilbash: The spiritual and the temporal in seventeenth century IranÓ, unpublished dissertation, Princeton University , 1993.

15Bruce Masters, øMerchant Diasporas and Trading ¥NationÓ, chapter three in The Origins of Western Economic Dominance in the Middle East, New York University press: New York, 1988.

16Minorsky Vladmir. Tadhkirat al-Mul˜k, a Manual of Safavid Administration,  Gibb Memorial Series, vol. 16, London, 1943.

17Annex in Ina Baghdiantz McCabe and Chapter five.

18 Ina Baghdiantz McCabe 1999. Several Safavid edicts in the Appendix of the book are translated for the first time through the help and expertise of my colleague Kathryn Babayan of the University of Michigan.

19 See Baghdiantz McCabe for a demosntration of this mutal dependance.  Also explored in the forthcoming: Slaves of the Shah; New Elites of Isfahan. Kathryn Babayan, Sussan Babaie and Ina Baghdiantz McCabe Tauris, London, 2001.

20Rudolph Matthee The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran : Silk for Silver, 1600-1730 (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization), Cambridge, 2000. R. Matthee despite his pertinent  arguments against  Eurocentric views and orientalist methods uses a good amount VOC documents and overlooks the Safavid documents related to Armenian trade and for the Armenians relies on the conclusions of Edmund Herzig ø The Armenian Merchants of New Julfa, Isfahan: A study in Pre-modern Asian trade.Ó  Ph.D.  dissertation Oxford University, 1991, who did not examine the pertinent Safavid edicts that spell out the Armenian participation in government.

21 These documents were  published for the first time in the Annex of Baghdiantz McCabe, Ina The Shahs Silk for Europes Silver:  . They  were in the archives of all saviours at New Julfa, as they were difficult for me to translate alone, they were  translated with the collaboration of Kathryn Babayan, and some of the translations are hers alone.

22Baghdiantz McCabe, see document in Annexe A, pp. 366-67.

23 Niels Steensgaard, Carracks, Caravans and Companies: The Structural Crisis in the European-Asian Trade of the Early Seventeenth Century (Copenhagen, 1973), reprinted as The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century: The East India Companies and the Decline of the Caravan Trade (Chicago, 1973), p. 58.  Quoted below was an accepted definition of Armenian trade :
      øA peddling trade: buying and selling in small quantities on continuous travels from market to market. But if Hovhanness journal and the indirect evidence does not deceive us, a peddling trade that makes use of very sophisticated organizational forms such as commenda, bottomry, partnership and combined credit transfers by means of bills of exchange [sic] Nevertheless the ordinary entrepreneur operates on the peddlar level, and there is nothing in the sources to indicate the existence of comprehensive coordinated organizations‹of an Armenian, Turkish or Persian version of Fugger, Cranfield or Tripp.Ó

24 Steensgaard (1973)a, p. 30.

25See Chapters 2 and 3 in Benedict Anderson,   Imagined Communities., London, 1983.

26øMerchant Capital and Knowledge: the Financing of Early Armenian Printing Presses by the Eurasian Silk TradeÓ in Treasures in Heaven. Armenian Art Religion and Society. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1998. pp.58-73.

27Bruce Masters, p.104.

28, Daniel M. Swetschinski, The Reluctant Cosmopolitans: the Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam, p.108.

29Ibid., pp.114-117.

30Swetschinski, pp.126-129.

31Ibid., p.139.

32See the song  with the verse øAmsterdam she [is} Jerusalem!Ó,  in Swetschinski,  p.2.

33For 1634 Vlessing  finds that they controlled 4 to 8% of the entire trade that year and 10-20% of the Amsterdam trade excluding the comapanies. Quoted in Swetschinski, p.113

34Swetschinski, p.117.

35James Tracy, (ed.)The Political Economy of Merchant Empires: State Power World Trade in 1350-1750,. Cambridge, 1991.

36 Philippe Le Tr¹guilly, Monique Moraz¹, LInde et la France: Deux siœcles dhistoire commune XVII i¹me -XVIII iœme siœcles,  (Paris, CNRS, 1995), pp. 53-64.

37 FranÆois Caron is the author of a travel account in Dutch of which there is an English translation, unfortunately it contains little about the author which is typical of the style of the travel accounts of the time. It was compiled for the use of the Dutch East India Company for use in the Far East. See next note.

38 A True description of the Mighty Kingdoms of Japan and Siam by FranÆois Caron and Joos Schouten (London, 1663; reprint, London, 1935), xv.

39On this see Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, chapter 10.

40See Bruce Masters and also several relevant articles in James Tracey, 1991.


Copyright Statement

Copyright: © 2001 by the American Historical Association. Compiled by Debbie Ann Doyle. Format by Chris Hale.

Previous Table of Contents Next