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Venture and Faith in the Commercial Life of the Ottoman Balkans, 1500-1650 Author(s): Benjamin Braude Reviewed work(s):

Source: The International History Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Nov., 1985), pp. 519-542 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40105533 . Accessed: 04/12/2011 04:35
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Venture and Faith in the CommercialLife of the Ottoman Balkans, 1500-1650

Your mind is tossing on the ocean ; There where your argosieswith portly sail, Do over peer the petty traffickers. Should I go to church, And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks, Which touching but my gentle vessel'sside, Would scatter all her spices on the stream; Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks ...

The Merchant of Venice, I.i. All who lived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries knew the dangers of travel and trade. Economists have called such obstacles to trade, transaction costs. Despite its infelicity, the concept does provide a means of analyzing systematically the difficulties merchants had to overcome. These costs forced upon the merchants of the Ottoman Balkans a strategy, a certain method of commerce, rooted in the social order and dependent upon primordial ties.1 Their strategy carried with it certain implications for economic development in the Balkan provinces. To draw out these implications it is necessary first to explain the nature of transaction costs, and then the strategies used to overcome them. In essence transaction costs are the costs of doing business beyond the cost of the merchandise itself, that is, 'they arise not from the production
1 Abner Cohen, 'Cultural Strategies in the Organizationof Trading Diasporas', in The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa, ed. Claude Meillasoux (London, 1971), p. 274. The InternationalHistory Review, vii, 4, November 1985, pp. 519-690 cn issn 0707-5332 The InternationalHistory Review

Braude Benjamin of goods but from their transferfrom one owner to another.'2For instance, transactioncosts include the cost of transportingmerchandiseto its destinationand the priceof insuranceagainstthe riskof not reachingit. Transactioncosts also include the customsfees which toll collectorsmay exact legally, and the bribes, often much heavier, which officials may extort illegally.Transportation-related costs are obviouslyconnectedwith transfer of Other costs were any property. significantas well, notably the cost of credit, of contract negotiation and enforcement,of information, and of protection. In the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturiescreditarrangements were risky. Investmentin trade, particularly in the Mediterraneanand the Balkans, was not through joint-stock companies, but through partnerships,bottomry, or commendawhereinthe riskof any ventureweighed heavily on the few, not lightly on the many.3Should his fortunebe entrustedto one ship, a single mishapcould bankrupta merchantand cripplehis creditors. Further,the lack of ready communicationmeant that credit had to be grantedon the basis of tardy and inadequateinformation,when it could be grantedat all. The cost of contract negotiationincluded the cost of search, negotiation, and agreement.A distant sale involved an agent, factor, or some such personchargedwith the responsibility of selling merchandiseat the best price and returningthe profitin specie or in kind to his employeror partner. A local sale could be handled directly, but both entailed the time-consumingprocess of identifying a likely customer,fixing a price, and arrangingthe termsof payment. The paymentof creditors,the resolutionof disputesover contractsand and the assessmentof responsibility for goods lost or dampartnerships, in transit all involved the of law. The aged process many frontierscrossed international trade the of enforcement contracts. Litigation by stymied came high when it had to contend with differingjurisdictionsand con2 Clyde G. Reed, Transaction Costs and Differential Growth in Seventeenth Century Western Europe', Journal of Economic History, xxxiii (1973), 181; and Douglas C. North and Robert Paul Thomas, The Rise of the Western World (Cambridge, 1973), P- 938 Commenda is an 'arrangementin which one party invests capital and another party trades with it on the understandingthat they share the profits in an agreed ratio, and that any loss resulting from normal trading activities is borne by the investing party'. AbrahamL. Udovitch, Partnershipand Profit in Medieval Islam (Princeton, 1970), p. 273. Bottomryis a kind of mortgage 'wherebythe owner of a ship or his agent, borrowsmoney to enable him to carry on or complete a voyage and pledges the ship as security for repaymentof the money. If the ship is lost, the lender loses his money; but if it arrives safe, he receives the principal together with the interest ... stipulated'. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English
Dictionary (New York, 1971), s.v., bottomry.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

of the state in structradictoryconceptsof law. The limited effectiveness when the parties to a law that even and the meant turing enforcing there was limited hope of or residents the same were city empire dispute of justice. The gatheringof commercialintelligencewas also expensive.In those days of inelasticproductioncosts, profitswere made not through manuor technological but throughthe simple innovations,4 facturingefficiencies of low This could be done by hoarding and sellinghigh. expedient buying and sellingin times of famine and shortage,but it was more likely to be accomplishedby buying goods where they were cheap and transporting them to where they were dear.5Such a venture, to be profitable,had to dependon the kind of intelligencethat was alwaysalert to shifts of price; and so an intricatenetworkwould be constructed, reportingthe wrecksof the wool the arrival of depredationsof brigands, the ships, shipments, attacksof corsairs,and the failure or plenty of harvests.If the network was large and wealthy, such reportsmight appear in the Fugger newsof some merchant family;6 if the traders letters or the correspondence were humble,tidbitsof such informationwould be among the attractions
* Revisions in Mercantilism,ed. D.C. Coleman (London, 1969), p. 14. 5 BenjaminZe'eb (ft. late 15th, early 16th century), She'elot uteshubot (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1959), question 378; and Isaac ben Samuel Adarbi (c. 1520-84), Dibrey Ribot (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Szdilkiew, 1833), question 341. Responsais the technical term for the legal opinions of Rabbinic authorities on questionsof Jewish law. Should a question of law not be adjudicated to the satisfactionof all parties to a dispute, either the disputantsor the judges themselves, who were usually rabbis,could appeal the question to another rabbi whose stature and knowledge of the law were widely recognized. The value of these sources is not limited to the history of Jewish law or to the internal history of the Jewish community. Indeed, these sources shed considerable light on general social conditions, risks of voyage, organizationof trade, the workings of government, and a host of other day-to-day problems. Since the question may often contain verbatimcourt testimony,the source offers a real slice of life. The responsa literature of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire is particularlyrich from this period since, among other reasons, the establishmentof Hebrew printing in Venice, Salonika,and Istanbul helped preservethese works. For an introductionto responsa as a historical source, see Solomon Freehof, The Responsa Literature (Philadelphia, 1959). Examples of other studies drawing upon such sources are Haim Gerber,Economic and Social Life of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th Centuries (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1982); Isaac Samuel Emmanuel, Histoire de Vindustriedes tissus des Israelites de Salonique (Paris, 1935) and A. Hananel (in vol. ii, Hannanel) and E. ESkenazi,Fontes hebraici ad res oeconomicassocialesque terrarumbalcanicarumsaeculo XVI pertinentes, i (Sofia, 1958), and Fontes ... saeculi XVII, ii (Sofia, i960). This work is in Bulgarian, despite the Latin title page, with photo-copies of the sources and summariesin Russianand French. 6 Jose Gentil de Silva, Strategie des affaires a Lisbonne entre 1595 et 1607 (Paris, 1956); and The Fugger News-Letters... 1568-1605, ed. Victor von Klarwill, tr. Pauline de Chary (New York, 1925).


Braude Benjamin of the regionaltrade fairs, where news was exchangedlike pieces of cloth or lavishfurs. In the mid-sixteenth century,for example,merchantswould hear the latestaccountsof brigandagethroughoutMacedoniaand Thrace from their colleagueswho attendedthe fair at Moskolor.7 The costs did not end here, for every merchanttravellerfaced the risk of death and, saving that, of captivitywhich might be as bad as death for his loved ones. The tradersellinghis wares and collectinghis debts in the villagesof Wallachiacould end up in Bucharestat the bottom of a well.8 Or he might surviveto be taken prisonerin chains.9If he was lucky, he would escapewith his life and freedomonly at the cost of his goods. The picturethat emergesfrom the sourcescontradictsthe conventional picture of a Pax Ottomanica reigning over the sixteenth-centuryBalkans.10 The assumptionthat brigandage was a phenomenon unique to Whatever the eighteenthand nineteenthcenturiesis an oversimplification. the level of violence in the so-called declining years of Ottoman rule, a high level of civil disorderprobablyexisted in all periods.The claim that earlieryears were peaceful and secure stems from a tendency to idealize the reign of Suleimanthe Magnificentand the unwarrantedassumption could that Ottomanmilitarypower,which subjugatedforeignadversaries, controlinternalviolence as well.11 In fact, the level of risk was so high that in one year the Jewish communitiesof Monastirand Belgradepromulgateda ban against attending the fair at Struga,citing as one of the reasonsthe dangerof banditson the road.12In at least two separate cases in the mid-sixteenthcentury, the most respected legal authority of Ottoman Jewry, Rabbi Samuel de Medina, ruled that travel was so riskythat it should be avoided. In one instance,a mothermade a death-bedwish that her son bury her remains in Palestine.Normallysuch a wish would have taken precedenceover any other, but Samuel de Medina concluded that the danger of travel by land or sea was enough to overruleher request.13 In another instance, a
7 Samuel de Medina (.1506-89), She'elot uteshubot (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Salonika, 1593-8?), section iii, questions 35, 47, 52, 85, 196. 8 Ibid., question 54; same case in Adarbi, Responsa, question 15, and in Joseph Caro (c. 1488- 15 75) Beyt Yosef (Mantua, 1730), folio 54, columns a and b, question 12 in section on laws concerning a witness who spontaneouslyand without ulterior motive offers testimony. 9 Medina, Responsa, section iii, question 59. 10 Leften Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1433 (New York, 1958), pp. 112-15. 11 Fernand Braudel, The Mediterraneanand the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (London, 1972), i. 744; and Michael Cook, Population Pressurein Rural Anatolia, 1450-1600 (London, 1972), pp. 30-1. 12 Medina, Responsa, section ii, question 155. 13 Ibid., question 203.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650 widow sought to leave her late husband's family and return to her own some distance away, taking with her an infant daughter. Her husband's family challenged the plan, citing, among other reasons, the danger of the routes. Both the leading jurist of Egyptian Jewry, David ibn Abi Zimra, and Samuel de Medina agreed that this was just cause to separate the infant from her travelling mother.14 The Ottoman sources reveal that all travellers suffered depredations. The Seat of Felicity repeatedly addressed decrees to the provincial officials of Skopje, Pirlepe, Prizrin, and Monastir to suppress the bandits who flourished in the villages of Macedonia.15 Merchants stopped going to the Dolia Fair because of the threat of robbery.16Brigands flourished in the regions of Tirnova, Lesnova, and Egri Dere.17 River pirates attacked travellers along the Danube.18 For the merchant, death or captivity was the ultimate transaction cost, and the strategy devised to reduce, if not to overcome it, was the method also used to overcome the others (information, enforcement, negotiation, and credit). It was the ethnic trading network. Ethnicity is a slippery term. Attempts at definition have been more evasive than substantive. One might call an ethnic group a nation without army, navy, or seat at the U.N. Fredrik Barth has written that ethnic identity is an ascriptive term, which is one way of saying that ethnics are whoever and whatever they and others say they are.19Clifford Geertz has described ethnic ties as 'a primordial attachment'. By that he means 'one that stems from the "givens",' that is, the assumed givens of social existence: immediate contiguity and kin connection mainly, but beyond them the giveness that stems from being born into a particular religious community, speaking a particular language, or even a dialect of a language, and following social practices. One is bound to one's kinsman, one's neighbor, one's fellow-believer, ipso facto; as a result not merely of personal necessity, common interest or incurred obligation, but at least in great part
14 Ibid., section iii, question 123. 15 DushankaShopova,Makedonija vo XVI i XVII Vek, Dokumenti od Carigradskite Arhivi [Macedonia in the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, Documents from the Istanbul Archives] (in Macedonian, with transcriptionsinto Modern Turkish) (Skopje, i955)> PP- *5>27-8, 32-3, 53, 65-6, 78. 16 Shopova, Makedonija, p. 89; and Isaac S. Emmanuel, Tombstones of Salonica (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1963), i. 204-13. 17 Shopova, Makedonija, pp. 90-1. 18 Mustafa Cezar, Osmanli Tarihinde Levendler [Irregular Military Forces in Ottoman History] (in Turkish) (Istanbul, 1965), p. 14; and Medina, Responsa, section iii, question 44; same case in Samuel Qal'ay (c. 1500-82), Mishpatey Shmuel (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Venice, 1599), question 80. 19 Ethnic Groupsand Boundaries,ed. Fredrik Barth (Boston, 1969), pp. 9-38.


Benjamin Braude by virtue of some unaccountable absolute import attributed to the very tie itself.20 Despite the difficulties of the term, most would agree that four traits determine ethnicity: race (or blood ties), language (or dialect), culture (social practice and values), and religion.21 The precise importance of each trait in ethnic affiliation varies from society to society. In the world of Islam, religion has been the trait that determines ethnicity. Thus the Ottoman government regarded the Greek of the Morea, the Serbian of Belgrade, and the Bulgarian of Sofia equally as rumi (from Romaioi, literally Romans; in Byzantine usage, Greeks) for all were communicants of the Greek Orthodox Church. For the most part, nonMuslims accepted the corollary of this criterion; in Jewish and Christian sources a convert to Islam became a Turk.22 Current popular usage notwithstanding, minority status is not a trait of ethnicity. Members of the majority culture often assume that they alone have no ethnic identity, but one need not be of a minority to be ethnic (though there must be minorities for there to be ethnicity) . It is the feeling of distinctiveness, of boundary, that gives strength to ethnicity, which ultimately depends on the awareness of the divide between 'us' and 'them5. If the more the minorities the stronger their identity, Rumelia (Ottoman Europe) was the heartland of ethnic sentiment, for the Balkans were an ethnic hodgepodge: Muslims, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, and Jews, as well as Protestants, Catholics, and gypsies. Within any group there could be further subdivisions, often linguistic; Muslims could be Turks, Persians, Arabs, or proselytes from Christianity, Judaism, or paganism. The devsirme system, which selected young male Christians for conversion to Islam and advancement to careers in the government, filled the Ottoman bureaucracy with many who were still attached (both practically and sentimentally) to their regions of birth or their former coreligionists.23
20 Clifford Geertz, 'The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States', in The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), P. 259. 21 A somewhat different definition appears in Urban Ethnicity, ed. Abner Cohen (London, 1974), pp. ix-xxiv. 22 This terminology appears consistently in the responsa literature, and in Christian documents from the Ragusan archives, Bogumil Hrabak, 'Domaci trgovci u Novom Pazari u xvi veku', [Domestic Traders in Novi Pazar in the XVIth century] (in Serbian) Istoriski Glasnik, nos. 3-4 (1951), pp. 99-104. 23 Metin Ibrahim Kunt, 'Ethnic-Regional (Cins) Solidarity in the SeventeenthCentury Ottoman Establishment', International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies,

v (i974) 233-9.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

In the early sixteenthcentury,the Balkanswere 81% Christian, 18% Muslim, and 1% Jewish. The countrysidewas Christian.Most Muslims lived in cities, though they formed rural concentrationsin Thrace and Bosnia, and on the shoresof the Black Sea.24Jews were overwhelmingly urban-they formed the largest single element in the Balkan entrepot, Salonika,and they were scatteredin much smaller settlementsthroughout the townsof the peninsula. which led to the creation Ethnic diversityraised ethnic consciousness, of informalassociationsabove and beyond an ethnic group's elementary Balkan town, such needs would include a needs. In a sixteenth-century site for worshipand learning (a mosque, church, or synagogue) and an individualto give religiousinstructionand leadership (an imam, priest, or rabbi). And, as the Ottoman governmentdealt with individualsprimarilyas membersof an ethnic community,each communityalso needed a local leader, lay or religious,to treat with authority, for example, to bribe the tax-collector.Beyond these elementaryneeds, however, there arose informal associationswhich among the peoples of the Balkans of these was the naturallytook an ethnic form. The most characteristic ethnictradingnetwork,which may best be definedas a far-flungdiaspora composedof communitieswhich shared distinctivevalues of culture, ties of blood, language, and religion, and were in addition linked by commerce. The function of this networkwas mutual advancementand protection,which it providedin a varietyof ways. The redemptionof captives being held for ransom proceededon ethnic and religiouslines. Membersof the Greek clergy travelled so widely in searchof funds to redeemtheir brethrentaken in Turkishraidson Morea and Crete that they reached El Greco's Greek communityin Toledo.25 The Jews of Mantua sent money to redeem captives in Hungary and In Jewish law the ransoming later respondedto an appeal from Zante.26 foremost of prisoners, among the duties carriedout pidyon shvuyim,was Emissarieswere sent far and wide to by the congregationsof Israel.27
24 N. Todorov, 'Za demografskotosustoinaie na balkanskaiapoluostrov prez xv-xvi v.J [The Demographic Situation in the Balkan Peninsula during the XVth and XVI th Centuries] (in Bulgarianwith French summary) Godishnik na Sofiiskiia Universitet,Filosofsko-Istoricheski Fakultet, liii (1959), 215, 230-2; and Omer Liitfi Barkan,'Researchon the Ottoman Fiscal Survey',in Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East, ed. Michael Cook (London, 1970), p. 170. 25 Gregorio Maranon, El Greco y Toledo, 2nd ed. (Madrid, 1958), p. 162. 26 Shlomo Simonsohn, History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua (Jerusalem, 1977), PP- 461-2. 27 Eliezer Bashan, Captivity and Ransom in MediterraneanJewish Society (13911830) (in Hebrew) (Ramat-Gan, 1980), pp. 19-27.


Benjamin Braude raise special funds for the purpose. Jewish communities located in major market centres such as Constantinople or Lvov were entrusted with the responsibility of locating, redeeming, and returning home captives who came their way, and so efficient was their network that in at least one instance a captive feigned Jewishness in order to hasten her freedom.28 The whole process of taking and freeing captives itself became a business - in fact a branch of the slave trade. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries along the Hungarian marchlands of Christendom and Islam, the likelihood of capture in border raids was such an accepted risk that in the words of one scholar there were individuals who became 'professional prisoners'.29Certain Muslims, for example, would regularly allow themselves to be captured in order to help redeem their fellow Muslim prisoners. Once captured, the professional prisoner would offer his services as a ransom collector, and together captive and captor would set the amount of ransom to be demanded for each prisoner. The professional prisoner would then be returned to the territory of Islam in order to gather the agreed sums. To support himself he would add a commission to the ransom demand and collect the total from the friends and relatives. A comparable system evolved in the Mediterranean, where Christian and Muslim corsairs maintained a lively trade in prisoners. Christian orders, such as the Redemptionist Fathers, devoted their time to ransoming Catholic captives. They were not as effective, however, as their Jewish counterparts who, for a considerable fee, would ransom non-Jews as well.30 The role of the state in this process was exceptional. It was only when the captives had official status or considerable influence that Christian or Muslim governments would bestir themselves to free or exchange prisoners. In 1575, when two Ottoman sancakbeys (district governors) were among the Muslim prisoners held in Rome, their exalted status prompted the Grand Vizier, Mehmed Sokullu, to exchange them for various infidels imprisoned in the fortresses of the Dardanelles.31 The social basis for redeeming captives was a system of ethnic ties which bound distant communities into a mutual-help network. For a fee a prisoner could be redeemed through a network other than his own, and in unusual cases a government might intervene, but normally he had to
28 Mordecai Halevi, (/?. seventeenth-century Egypt) Darkey Noam (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Venice. 1697). section iii, questions 14, 15. 29 Peter F. Sugar, 'The Ottoman "Professional Prisoner" on the Western Borders of the Empire in the Sixteenth Century', Etudes balkaniques, vii (1971), 82-90. 30 Peter Earle, Corsairs of Malta and Barbary (London, 1970), pp. 86-9.

31 Nicolaas H. Biegman, The Turco-RagusanRelationship, according to the Firmans of Madrid III (1575-1595) Extant in the State Archives of Dubrovnik (The Hague, 1967), pp. 145-6.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650 depend upon his own ethnic brethren. Although in many respects less elaborated, this same network was the basis for reducing other transaction costs as well. Loss of property, through extortionate demands by tax-collectors or rapacious attacks of brigands, was more difficult to control. For a merchant robbed on a journey the ethnic trading system provided a local community ready to defend his interests and plead his grievances. A petition to the local constabulary and a search of the market for signs of the stolen merchandise might not return the goods, but at least the merchant could rely on the psychological reassurance that something was being done in his cause. Of course there was no way to bring any one back from the dead, but the system of blood money had at least the effect of diminishing the returns of murder and robbery; if caught, the criminal faced both the wrath of local Ottoman authorities and demands for compensation to the family of the victim, a risk of double jeopardy.32 In the summer of 1558, the body of an itinerant peddler, Mordecai de Boton, was found on the banks of the Vardar near the village of Batinsa, on the route to Monastir. The local cavalry had seized the murderers and kept them in custody until the victim's relatives arrived. The soldiers bastinadoed the rest of the village as well, one of whom later said to a Jewish acquaintance, 'May God smite those who killed Mordecai, for from the day they killed him we have found no rest for the soles of our feet. Perhaps you know if Daniel, his brother, will still demand his blood money.'33 Thus the practice of blood-money constantly reinforced the solidarity of the victim with his community. All too often, though, the criminal escaped punishment and then there was only recourse to prayer. Pleas for revenge may appear as pious formulas in the testimony to murder and pillage, but their formulaic wording did not diminish their significance, or their impact upon those invoking and hearing them.34 These prayers were yet another means of reinforcing the sense of group solidarity which was so important in maintaining the morale of a merchant community. One appealed to God to ward off imminent dangers as well as to seek solace for harm already suffered. The accounts of prisoners in captivity
32 Medina, Responsa, section iii, question 44. 33 Ibid., question 57. For the location see also Hananel and ESkenazi,Fontes, 1, 84. For further details on the bastinado see Uriel Heyd, Studies in Old Ottoman CriminalLaw, ed. V.L. Menage (Oxford, 1973), pp. 271-5. 34 Medina, Responsa,section iii, question 44 ; same case in Qal'ay, Responsa,question 80; and Adarbi, Responsa, question 307.


Braude Benjamin or sailors and passengersat sea are filled with supplicationsto the Almighty. These prayerswere not a source of unity among the afflicted, however, for the act of prayer with its varied appeals to saints, janun, theotokos,and Trinity, Allah, and the Holy One blessedbe He, divided the supplicantsby rite and ritual, dialect and language.35 In distresseach communion with God, but it was with his own God. Even external sought threats failed to overcome the divisions between groups; rather, such threatsstrengthenedthe barriers. Each group used its own language not only for prayer but also for the transmission of commercialintelligence.A trading diaspora, urban, settledamidstan alien population,and spreadthinlyovera largearea,was an ideal vehicle for gatheringnews, which was transmittedby whatever means came to hand. Thus two Jewish merchantsexchanged the latest to the reportsof cloth and silk on the back of an Ottomanletter addressed As both were with connections to the English.36 Ladino-speakers English, they were confident that their correspondencewould remain inviolate and confidential.If there was no 'diplomaticpouch' there were the pigeons that carriedreportsfrom Iskenderunto Aleppo.37 As there was no regulatedpostal system,a merchant could add his letters- with a bit of baksheesh -to the frequent express messagesdispatchedby the Seat of Felicity to its servantsthroughoutthe Empire. Thus seventeenth-century merchantswere able to communicatewith their agentsin such outpostsas Izmir,Ankara,or Belgrade.38 Each trading network provided not only its own distinct system of market intelligence,but also of law. The jurisdictionof a religion-based court was one way to ensure proper commercialbehaviour. Because its jurisdictionwas international,it could carry its authority beyond the limits of a civil court. In the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim 'civil' courts were, in fact, as parochiallyreligious as those of the Jews, the Greek Orthodox, or the Armenians. As participation in a trading network crossingethnic lines would subject a non-Muslim (dhimmi) to the jurisdiction of a Muslim court, whose brand of justice might not work to his
35 La Mottraye, Voyages (London, 1723), i. 75; and also The Travels of Macarius, Patriarchof Antioch ... by Paul of Aleppo, tr. Francis C. Belfour (London, 1836), i. 12-13. 86 P[ublic] R[ecord] O[ffice,] S[tate] P[apers, Foreign,] 102/61. For a different interpretationsee by Bernard Lewis, 'A Letter from Little Menahem', Studies in Judaism and Islam presented to Shelomo Dov Goitein, ed. Shelomo Morag, Issachar

Ben-Ami, and Norman A. Stillman (Jerusalem, 1981), pp. 18 1-4; and The Jews of Islam (Princeton, 1984), p. 143. 37 Stanley Mayes, An Organ for the Sultan (London, 1956), p. 130. 88 La Mottraye, Voyages, i. 194.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

favour, the legal system reinforced the tendency to remain within a network. for the dhimmi,bore an additionaltransactioncost Thus cross-trading, - the threat of litigation before an alien court. The quality of justice in the Muslim court was probablynot worse and perhapsbetter than com- but for the Christianor Jew who parableinstitutionsin Christendom39 These stemmedin part came before it there were obvious disadvantages. from the disabilitiesplaced upon the non-believer,the most notable of which was the limited value of his testimony.A dhimmi could not testify againsta Muslim,be the case a simple matterof debt or a seriousmatter of murder,though he could testify against another dhimmi, even if they Another disabilitywas the Muslim courts' were of different religions.40 refusalto recognizedecisionsbroughtdown by dhimmi judges.41 Ottoman rulers,in accordancewith the principlesof ancient statecraft and the teachingsof Islam, allowed considerableautonomyto the Christian and Jewish communitiesin their midst, including the right to maintain separatesystemsof law.42 Armenians,Jews, and Orthodox had their respectivecourts, and in addition legal autonomy was given to foreign Besidessystemswhich were more traderswho flourishedin the Empire.43 of customary or less codified,therewere quasi-legalarrangements law, for example, tribal law, particularlystrong in such inaccessibleareas as the highlandsof Albania.44 These varied systemsled to conflicts of law. The most common and troubling occurred when a case settled in one system reappeared in another,necessitatingcostly appearancesbefore both courts. Such probAs partnerships,parlems accompaniedthe dissolutionof partnerships. ticularlylong-termones, were normallywithin the ethnic network,issues arising among the partners could be settled in their own communal court. When they wished to end their alliance, they would repair to the
89 Heyd, Studies, pp. 208-34. 40 Mario Grignaschi,'La valeur du temoinage des sujets non-musulmans(dhimmi) dans Tempireottoman', Recueils de la society Jean Bodin pour Vhistoirecomparative des institutions: vol. XVIII. La Preuve: part three. Civilisations et islamiques (Brussels, 1963), pp. 211-323. archaiques,asiatiquesy 41 J. Visvisis, 'L'administration communalesdes Grecs pendant la domination turque', Le cinq-centieme anniversairede la prise de Constantinople.Fasicule hors seVie de UHellenisme Contemporaine (Athens, 1953), pp. 217-38. 42 See Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, the Functioning of Plural Society, vol. I, The Central Lands, ed. Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis (New York, 1982), 12-13. 43 Niels Steensgaard,'Consuls and Nations in the Levant from 1570-16501,Scandinavian Economic History Review, xv (1967), 13-55. 44 Margaret Hasluck, The Unwritten Law in Albania, ed. J.H. Hutton (Cambridge, 1954)-


Benjamin Braude communal authority and arrange a dissolution. The settlement specified that in return for an agreed sum, Partner A would accept responsibility for any unpaid debts of the business and would absolve Partner B from any future litigation with any third party over activities prior to dissolution. Such an agreement would be legally recognized within the community. As long as the community was Muslim, the dissolution would probably be binding for other groups as well, but if it was made before a Christian or Jewish court, its purview was restricted. Because the nonMuslim court's decision was not recognized outside the community, Partner B, the dissolution agreement notwithstanding, could be brought into a Muslim court to pay debts contracted by a now defunct business. In order to recover this money from his former partner, he had to return to the communal court for satisfaction.45 Within the Ottoman Empire, the principle of res judicata did not apply to the decisions of the dhimmi courts.46 One solution to the second disability - the non-recognition by Muslim courts of the decisions of Christian and Jewish courts - was to transact one's business in a Muslim court. But then the dhimmi merchant ran afoul of the first disability - the limited value of his testimony. Caught in this dilemma he evolved a compromise; he would register his business transactions with the Muslim court without actually conducting them before that court. By inscribing each debt, contract, partnership agreement, or dissolution in the Muslim judicial registers, he would have a legally recognized document in the event of civil or criminal action before that court. For the dhimmi merchants, Muslim courts functioned more as notary publics than judicial arbiters. The dhimmi merchant used a Muslim court as notary, with the hope that if he should be brought before it, at least a judicial document might defend him where his spoken word could not.47 These were the disadvantages of venturing outside, but there were also
45 Samuel Hayyon (fl. ?-i6o8), Bney Shmuel (Responsa) (in Hebrew) (Salonika, !6i3), question 30; and QaPay, Responsa, question 47. 46 Visvisis, ^'administration communale',pp. 233-4. 47 This is my interpretationof the frequency of dhimmi appearances in Muslim courts. See also Ronald Jennings, 'Loans and Credit in Early 17th Century Ottoman Judicial Records', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, xvi (1973), 168-216; Haim Gerber,Economic and Social Life; Haim Gerber and Jacob Barnai, The Jews in Izmir, in the igth Century Ottoman Documents from the Shar'i Court (in Turkish, with Hebrew translation, introduction and English summary) (Jerusalem, 1984) ; Amnon Cohen, Ottoman Documents on the Jewish Communityof Jerusalemin the Sixteenth Century (in Turkish, with Hebrew translation, introduction and English summary) (Jerusalem, 1976); and Amnon Cohen, Jewish Life under Islam, Jerusalem in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge,Mass., 1984).


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

advantagesin remainingwithin both the trading network and its legal system. Recourse to Christian and Jewish courts was advantageousin trade with Europebecausethereone could find jurisdictions international that would recognize their validity. The Jewish communitiesof Italy, for example, would turn for legal counsel to the great Rabbinic scholars of their generationwho flourishedin Salonika.48 Many rabbis acted as the The in and Ottoman both Christendom consultants Empire.49 legal in of merchants Asthe Armenian that practice guided legal principles trakhanand Aleppo also guided their brethrenin Lvov.50Muslim courts had comparable advantages. Where Muslims dominated international trade, with areas to the south and east of the Ottoman Empire, there flourisheda legal system in which the decisions of a Muslim judge in Belgradewould, in principle,be valid for the courtsof Jidda, Mombasa, or Delhi. The scholarof the sixteenthcentury,al-Muttaqial-Hindi, could begin his careerin Mogul India, but end it in Ottoman Arabia, moving within a cosmopolitansociety which everywhererecognizedhis mastery of the traditionsof Muslimlaw.51 There was yet another system which crossed frontiers and bridged ethnic and religious gaps, the establishedpractise of merchant's lawwhich is recognizedin both Muslimand non-Muslimlegal documents.To but for issuesof be sure, this functionedwell for most daily transactions, or urf al-tujiar lex soharim, mercatorum, minhag litigious complexity often provedinadequate.52 of one or the other legal sysThus, the advantagesand disadvantages tem within the Ottoman Empirevariedwith each context and individual; althoughthere were exceptions,by and large the greatestadvantage lay in one's own communallaw court, a circumstancethat once again reinforcedthe ethnictradingnetwork. In Ottoman society in the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies,life was lived within one's own community. The existence of dietary laws for Jews and Muslimsrestrictedtheir social contact with each other or with
48 Rabbi Samuel de Medina receivedmany such inquiries. 49 Rabbi BenjaminZe'eb cited above, for example. 50 L. von Khachikian,'Le registred'un marchandarmenienen Perse, en Inde, et au Tibet (1682-1693)', Annales,xxii (1967), 231-78; and Marian Oles, The Armenian Law in the Polish Kingdom (1356-15 19) (Rome, 1966), pp. 23-5. 51 See The Encyclopediaof Islam, 1st ed. (Leiden, 1936) s.v. al-Muttakial-Hindi; and Hamilton Gibb and Harold Bowen, Islamic Society and the West (London, 1962), i. 114-38. 52 Lecture by A.L. Udovitch, *LocalKnowledge and Local Rationality: an Interpretationof Medieval Islamic CommercialLaw', Center for Middle Eastern Studies, HarvardUniversity, 27 Feb. 1985.


Braude Benjamin Christians.53 Time spent in public worship,in communal celebration,at the coffee-house,or by the fountain in a mosque-courtyard, could help make a contact or confirma deal. Such gatheringswere venues for the informal negotiations that preceded and accompanied most business transactions. were more quicklyfound in one's own group. Of Customers course the organizationof bazaars by streets and markets devoted to specific commodities (for example, the bedestanto trade in cotton and other cloths, the suq al-attarinto deal in spices) did provide one venue outsidethe ethnic framework. The last transactioncost- credit- remains.As money, credit was both a cost of doing businessand a commoditywhose buying and selling was a businessin itself.As a commodity,like wheat or wool, its cost was subject to the vagariesof supply and demand. Unlike other transactioncosts, the cost of creditwas not easilyreducedby the ethnic tradingsystem.In fact, there were risks in granting interest-bearing loans not present in loans granted under the same terms outside. Thus, credit within the trading networkcould be more expensivethan credit outsideit. Influencing the entire matter were the religious injunctions against enforcedas they were within Judaism,Christianusury,which, erratically ity, and Islam, could be used to avoid unwelcome interest charges. In Christendom,canon law gave religiousbacking to the ill treatment of the most conspicuousmoneylenders,the Jews: their expulsion or persecution could dissolve all debts. However, in the Ottoman Empire such sweeping edicts were unknown; although decrees against usury were issued, they tended to limit interest charges,rather than ban them, the rationale being more a concern for the welfare of the debtor than a desire to enforce religious law.54The Ottoman state was reluctant to becauseofficialsat all levelsof the governpersecuteJews as moneylenders ment lent money at interest; in fact Muslim officials were the biggest of all. In this respect the Ottoman Empire was more admoneylenders vanced than the commerciallyinnovative city-statesof Italy which on occasionneeded aliens- Jews - to supplyinstitutionsof credit. In Edirne, for example, the wealthiestMuslims were those engaged in moneylending.55European tradersand diplomats could be in debt to membersof the Sultan'sentourage,56 and Muslim court recordsfrom Ankara,Bursa,
53 Qal'ay, Responsa, question 68; and Alexander Pallas, In the Days of the Janissaries (London, 1951), pp. 57-8. 54 Shopova, Makedoniia, p. 87. 55 Halil Inalcik, 'Capital Formation in the Ottoman Empire', Journal of Economic History, xxix (1969), 125-6. 56 Bibliotheque nationale, salle de manuscrits, fonds francos 16 163 and 16 150, which deal with the debts incurred by the French ambassador to Istanbul, de Cesy, in the early seventeenth century.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

Kayseri,and Sofia, as well as the inventoriesof estates (inquisitionspost loans mortem) in Edirne, all testify to the frequencyof interest-bearing other even to functionaries, Muslims, Muslims, Christians, by religious and Jews.57 Religious injunctions against usury do seem to have inhibited Jews. Although rabbis could not prevent the charging of interest on loans to other Jews (there were no objections to interest on loans to Gentiles) they could make these charges more difficult to collect. Devices were and some rabbiswere inventedto circumventthese religiousprohibitions, of and fictitious that to the letters tolerate exchange partnerships willing concealed interest charges; but Rabbi Samuel de Medina brooked no Nonethelessthere is a plaintive quality to his uttersuch compromise.58 for arrayedagainst him in his quixotic fight were other authorities ings, of almost equal stature.Though he failed to stamp out usury, his opposition did have economic effect; as the leading legal authority in the largestcentreof Jewish and Balkan commerce,Salonika,his readinessto nullify a charge of interestin a letter of exchange meant that no trader could restsecure.The exigenciesof commerceand the existenceof countervailing authoritiesmeant that loans at interest were available, but Samuel de Medina's oppositionto them may have contributedto a re- apparentlythe interestratesJews chargedother markablephenomenon Jews were as high and sometimeseven higher than the rates that Muslims chargedthem. The rate Jews charged other Jews varied from 10 to 20 per cent per Rates of 25, 30, and even 60 per cent were possible.60 annum.59 Although
57 The sources here are numerous: Halit Ongan, Ankara'nin 1 Numarali Seriye Sicili [Ankara Court Record Number One] (Ankara, 1958); Halit Ongan, Ankara'nin Iki Numarali Seriye Sicili [Ankara Court Record Number Two] (Ankara, 1974) ; Halil Inalcik, '15 Asir Tiirkiye Iktisadi ve Ictimai Tarihi Kaynaklari' [Sources on Fifteenth Century Turkish Economic and Social History] Istanbul Universitesi Iktisat Fakuletsi Mecmuasi, xv (1953-4), 51-75 ; English summary in Revue de la Faculte des Sciences economiques de VUniversite a"Istanbul, xv-xvi (1953-4), 44-8; Halil Inalcik, 'Bursa XV. Asir Sanayi ve Ticaret Tarihine dair Vesikalari' [Bursa, Documents concerning its Fifteenth Century Industrial and Commercial History] Belleten, xxiv ( i960), 45-102; Omer Liitfi Barkan, 'Edirne Askeri Kassamina ait Tereke Defterlei, 1545- 1659' [Inquisitions PostMortem of Edirne Probate Officer] Belgeler, iii (1966), 1-477. 58 Ze'eb, Responsa, question 320; and Medina, Responsa, section ii, question 220; see also Haim Gerber, 'Jews and Money-Lending in the Ottoman Empire', Jewish Quarterly Review, lxxii (1981), 100-18. 59 Joseph ben Lev (c. 1500-88), She' elot uteshubot (Responsa) (Amsterdam, 1726), section i, question 40, and section ii, question 73; Adarbi, Responsa, question 380; Meir di Boton (c. 1575- 1649), She3elot uteshubot (Responsa) (Izmir, 1660), question 16; Elijah ben Benjamin Halevy (c. 1480- 1540), Zeqan Aharon (Responsa) (Istanbul, 1734), section ii, question 75; Abraham di Boton (.1545-89), Lehem Rab (Responsa) (Jerusalem, 1968), question 14.


Braude Benjamin Muslims commonlylent money to Jews, only rarelyare the terms of the loans preservedin the Hebrew sources.In the one instance discovered,a rate of 10 per cent appears.61 More informationon rates appearsin the in the following table: Turkishsources,summarized Table I Loans in Sixteenth-Century Edirne
Ethnic Identity of Debtor Number of Loans Average Principal (in akce) Average Rate of Return

Gypsies Muslims (Male) Muslims (Female) Jews Greeks All Loans

19 16 3 3 1 42

360 943 212 307 2,000 607

20% 11% 25% 11% 35% 16%

Based on the recordsof the estate of Imam Abdi Halife, died in Edirne c. April 1568.62

Jews were not the only ethnic group that failed to reduce the cost of credit through its own network. Christians,too, had to seek credit from other groups. While Muslims and Jews appear in the sources as both lenders and borrowers,Christiansappear only as borrowers.During the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturies,Christianmoneylenders were rare. A variety of sources: Venetian notarial records,63 Jewish legal responsa,04 the correspondence of a Greekmonk from accounts,65 Europeantravellers Mount Athos,66and Ottoman estate registers,all point to a continuing pattern of Christianindebtednessto both Jews and Muslims. In 1535,
60 Adarbi, Responsa, question 331; Solomon ben Abraham Hacohen (c. 1530- 1600), She'elot uteshubot (Jerusalem, 1961), question 64.

61 Medina, Responsa,section iv. 170. 62 Barkan,Tereke', p. 140. The term, 'rate of return',is more accurate than interest rate since none of these loans specify the time period. 63 Documente privitoarela familia Cantacuzino,ed. N. Iorga (Bucharest, 1902),
pp. 4-6. 64 Jacob Tarn ibn Yahya (c. 1475-1542), O hale Tarn (Responsa) (Venice, 1622), question 150. 65 La Mottraye, Voyages, i. 257.

66 F. Meyer, Die Haupturkundenfiir die Geschichteder Athoskloster (Leipzig, 1894), pp. 72, 221.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

of Nicopolis,Salonika,and Istanfor example,the Christiancommunities bul sought relief from their debts to Jews in a petition to Suleiman, but the moneylenders bribed Ottoman officialsto suppressthe protests.67 Thus the ethnic tradingsystemfailed to reduce the cost of credit. Two reasonsexplain this failure: first,credit was regulatedby the marketto a greater degree than any other transaction cost; and second, religious The systemdid succeed could complicatecredittransactions. prohibitions in reducing other transaction costs- protection, information, enforcement, and negotiation- but though reasonablyeffective for the society The problemof credit in which it flourished,it had inherentweaknesses. and finance was one but there were others, and the formal-rational systemof trade developingin the West proved to be more efficient.Two of the Balkansystem,the ethnic divisionof trade by comcharacteristics and by territory, illuminate the differences between the new modity, old. and the enterprise An examinationof Ottoman customsrecordsfrom mid-sixteenth-century Buda in the Ottoman province of Hungary shows that there was an Of the merchant entries, 68% ethnic division of trade by commodity.68 were Muslim, 26% were Christian,and 6% were Jews. In an economy free of ethnic trading networksMuslims could be expected to control as much of the commercein foodstuffs,for example, as they controlledin commerceas a whole; one would expect to find that 68% of those trading in foodstuffswere Muslim, 26% Christians,and 6% Jews. However, in an economydominatedby ethnic trading networks,one should expect - which is what the data reveal. Of those trading markedspecialization in foodstuffs,97% were Muslim, 1% Christian,and 2% Jews. Of those tradingin wine, 92% were Christianand 8% Jews. Of those trading in miscellaneous articles,98% were Muslims and 2% Christians.While in was closerto the overallfigure (68% M, other categoriesthe distribution of these categoriesrevealsmarked examination detailed 26% C, 6%J),a of those well. there as Thus, trading in cloth and apparel, specialization and were Muslims, 23% Christians, 7% Jews, but the trade in 70% cloth was woollen overwhelminglyin Christianhands (91%) imported and Muslimscontrolleddomestichome-madewoollen cloth (100%). Of those trading in the general category,animal hair and skins, 54% were Muslims, 44% Christians,and 2% Jews, but within this category the trade in lambskins,sheepskins,and cow hides was Christian (82%)
67 Tarn ibn Yahya, Responsa,question 194. 68 Dated 19 Nov. 1550-6 May 1551, RechnungsbiichertiirktscherFinanzstellen in Buda (Ofen) 1550-1580, TurkischerText, ed. Lajos Fekete and Gyula KaldyNagy (Budapest, 1962), pp. 17-52.


Braude Benjamin while Muslimstradedin sheep leather,cordovans,leathersoles, and wool - the ethnic division of (95%)- A pattern of commodity specialization trade by commodity-is not confined to this particular register. Buda registersdating to 1580 reveal a similar pattern, as do the registersof Vac, a town in northernOttoman Hungary.69 In the southernBalkansthe divisionof trade continued,but the dividers changed. Replacing Christians,Jews tended to dominate the trade in importedwoollen cloth and domestic factory-madecloth, as opposed to the coarser aba (homespun). Muslims maintained their dominance in foodstuffs. The ethnic divisionof trade by commodityhad an impact on the commercial economy. If trade in an item such as wool were in the hands of relativelyfew people, particularlypeople from the same ethnic group, it was almost inevitable that an oligopoly in wool would form. While the ethnic networkmight be able to reducethe cost of wool throughinternal efficiencies (the reduction of transactioncosts), it could also raise the price at the point of sale. In order to combat the artificiallyhigh price of wool, wholesalepurchasers,particularlyfrom other trading networks, would form countervailingcartels. The evidence suggeststhat such a processof cartel and counter-cartel formation occurred in the Ottoman Empire. Jewish cloth-makerswere the domesticbuyersof Balkan wool. Utilizing their near-monopoly position, they attempted to restrainits rising price through cartels of purchasersin Salonika,Trikkala,Larisa,Sofia, and Ipsala. A similarprocess took place with another commodity.The Jewish merchantsof Monastir sought to keep the processingand finishing of raw skins for their own profit by prohibiting their shipment to other cities, notably Salonika. Control of skin finishing remained in their hands as long as the Jews maintained their oligopoly of the skin trade, but eventually Muslim merchantsstarted to purchasethe skins before they entered the Jewish network.70 The Muslims replaced one cartel with their own and forced the tradersof Monastirto abandontheir scheme. Because cartels were easy to form, prices were kept artificiallyhigh. Built into the ethnic trading system was an inflationarytendency which
69 Ibid., pp. 53-378; E. Vass, Turkischer Beitrage zur Handelsgeschichteder Stadt Vac (Waitzen) aus dem 16. Jahrhundert',Ada OrientaliaAcademia Scientiarum
Hungaricae,xxiv (1971), 1-39.

70 Medina, Responsa, section ii, questions 1 17-18; Joseph ben Lev, Responsa, section i, question 47 ; same case in QaPay, Responsa, question 1o 1 ; Hayyim Shabbetay (c. 1566- 1647), Torat Hayyim (Responsa) (Salonika, 1651), section i, question 43; Samuel ben Isaac Gaon (c. 16 10-67), Mishpatim Yesharim (Responsa) (Salonika, 1733), question 57. On Monastir skin-trade, Medina, Responsa, section ii, question 122 and section iv, question 363.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

exacerbatedthe effects of the so-called price revolutionof the sixteenth To make mattersworse,the highly centuryupon the Ottomaneconomy.71 restrictiveguilds which monopolizedthe system of productionalso conThe guild system of production tributed to the inflationarypressures.72 and the ethnic system of trade together put the Ottoman Empire at a competitivedisadvantageduring the centuriesof Europeanexpansion. A corollaryof the ethnic divisionof trade by commodityis the ethnic division of trade by territory.Specializationin a particularcommodity of its origin. Of coursecommon goods may tends to occur in the territory are enough articles of restrictedorigin to but there originateanywhere, establisha patternof territorial specialization. Contributingto territorialspecializationabroad is the seemingly unrelatedissue of toleranceand religiousfreedom.A tradingdiasporamay not reside wherever it pleases. In the early modern period, free movement from one land to another was a privilege rarely granted. When a governmentchose to bestow it, the most likely beneficiarieswere the religiousbrethrenof the governors;the least likely were the brethrenof the governor'senemies. For this reason, Muslims rarely ventured into Christendom.On the other hand, Christians benefited from a more tolerant attitude in Islam, so that the passage of European merchants into the Ottoman Empirewas relativelycommon. Jews were often intermediariesbetweenthe two worlds,but their legal settlementin sixteenthChristendomwas restricted. and seventeenth-century These simple observations help to explain the internationalgeography basic division was that Christians,and The networks. of ethnic trading to a less extent Jews, traded with Europe acrossthe western bordersof the Ottoman Empire,while Muslimstraded with Africa and Asia, across The major exception to this east-west the Empire's eastern borders.73 of populationwas in easternAnaTheir centre Armenians. the were split tolia, but through forced migrationthey had settlementsin the Balkans as well, and centuriesof politicalsubjugationhad spread their merchant and Asia. In the seventeenthcencoloniesthroughoutthe Mediterranean to of Persia Abbas Shah sought gain a handsome share of intertury, of an Armenian colony in New nationaltrade through his establishment Isfahan. To this end he channelled of to the twin royal capital city Julfa,
71 OmerLiitfi Barkan,'The Price Revolution of the Sixteenth Century: A Turning Point in the Economic History of the Near East', International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vi (1975), 3"2872 Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, The Classical Age, 1300-1600, tr. Norman Itzkowitzand Colin Imber (London, 1973), pp. 153-9. 73 Khachikian, 'Le registre' and Philip D. Curtin, Cross-CulturalTrade in World History (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 179-206.


Braude Benjamin Persian exports into Armenian hands.74Further to the east Armenian merchantstravelled the luxury trade routes into central and south-east Asia.75Because Armenian merchantsflourishedin Livorno and Venice as well, they were one of the few groups who could compete with the of England'sLevant and East India geographically far-flungenterprises Companies.The threat of competitionwas severe enough for the governors of the Levant Company to prohibit their ships from carryingArmenian goods and to discouragetrade with them.76 They did not take as drasticstepsagainstthe Jews. The Jews also lived to the east and west of the Ottoman Empire.However, their population centre was in eastern Europe, to the north in Poland-Lithuania,and to the south in the Balkans. The Jews to the east, in Persia and India, were small and insignificantcommunities.77 Within the Empire their economic strength was concentratedin Macedonia, for they were the largest single element in Salonika. They were active in the trade between Italy and the Ottoman Empire, both as for Venetianmerchantsin Istanbuland as merchantsin theirown brokers but they did not controlit, being but one importantgroup. They right,78 do seem to have monopolizedtwo aspects of export trade, however, the commerce between Venice and Valona, and the purchase of English Levant Companygoods in Istanbul.79 Despite the existenceof large Jewish communitiesin the northernand southernreachesof easternEurope, there was relativelylittle north-southcommercebetween them, perhaps becauseof the divisionbetweenAshkenaziand SephardiJews. Of course there were Ottoman Jews who traded in Poland- one was jailed as a - but spy and anotherwho traded for Joseph Nasi was similarlytreated80
74 Vartan Gregorian,'Minoritiesof Isfahan, The Armenian Communityof Isfahan: 1587-1722', Iranian Studies, vii (1974), 652-80; and R.W. Ferrier,The Armenians and the East India Company in Persia in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries', Economic History Review, xxvi (1973), 38-52. 75 B. Colless, The Traders of the Pearl: The Mercantile and MissionaryActivities of Persian and Armenian Christians in South-East Asia', Abr-Nahrain, ix (1969-70), 17-38; x (1970-1), 102-21; xi (i97O? i-2i;xiii (1972-3), H5"35; xiv (1973-4), 1-16; xv (1974-5), 6-17. 76 Poullet, Nouvelles Relations du Levant (Paris, 1668), i. 431. 77 Vera B. Moreen, The Status of Religious Minorities in Safavid Iran 1617-61', Journal of Near Eastern Studies, xl ( 198 1) , 119-34. 78 Frederico Seneca, // Doge Leonardo Dona (Padua, 1969), p. 302; and Bernard Blumenkranz,*LesJuifs dans le commerce maritime de Venise ( 1592-1609)', Revue des Studesjuives, cxix (1969), 143-51. 79 See Braude, 'The Jewish Role in Ottoman Commerce: Some Cautious and Case Studies', in The Mediterraneanand the Jews ..., ed. Ariel Toaff (Ramat-Gan, forthcoming). 80 Zygmunt Abrahamowicz,Katalog Dokumentow Tureckich... 1455-1672 (Warsaw, 1959), p. 30; Safvet, 'Yusuf Nasi', Tarih-i Osmani Encumeni Mecmuasi, "i (1909), 988-93-


Balkan Commerce, 1650 1500their presencethere was unusual and their reception did not encourage other Jewish merchantsto venturenorthwards. The likely instigatorsof the hostile receptiongiven Ottoman Jews in Poland were the Greeks,who dominatedtrade between the Empire and Slavic Orthodoxy.At a time when Greekswere under the rule of Islam in their own homeland,their religiousand commercialhegemonythrived abroad,spreadingnorth and east to Poland and Muscovy. They staffed the Orthodox churchesof Europe- leading clerics moved from Venice to the Balkansto Poland and on to Constantinopleas they workedtheir - and they dominated the fiscal way up the ecclesiasticalhierarchy81 of the Duchy of Muscovy as part of the mercantilenetwork bureaucracy which through Poland and Lithuania stretchedto the Ottoman capital. owed his pre-eminence Michael Cantacuzenos among the Phanariotsto a fortune gained largely in the fur trade with Russia.82 According to one of merchant Greek scholar, the colony Lvov, perhaps fearing that the competitiveJewish communitiesof the Balkansmight push their trading to link up with theirbrethrenin Poland Lithuania,was active northwards in the entourageof the Hetman BorisChmielnicki,doubtlesscontributing to the horriblepogromsof 1648-9.83 The Greeksshould not have feared Jewish competition in the trade for Orthodox merchantshad the between Muscovy and Constantinople, honoured of guests in the Duchy. An Arabicgreat advantage being from cleric Orthodox Aleppo describedthat hospitality: speaking and inquiry,we found that most of those who came to On investigation or commonpersons,do Moscowin questof alms,whetherArchimandrites not come in the hope merelyof what shallbe given to them; but they bring of sables,ermines,and such like, that they may money,to make purchases realizea greatprofiton their sale in Turkey.It is upon this principlethat most of them come. From the time of their admissionat Potiblia,till the momentof theirreturnand departure thence,they are at no expensewhatwith them, they pay no duties,nor hire of soever.If they have merchandise horses,and they spend nothing for eating and drinking;for they have a pension,which they receiveevery month, each accordingto his rank; the a day,with as muchbeeras he can drink.Thus has fourcopecks verypoorest
81 Such was the career of Cyril Lucaris, a Greek patriarch of Constantinople in the early seventeenth century, see B. Braude, 'A Greek Polemic of the Renaissance against the Jews', Association for Jewish Studies Newsletter, no. 16 (Feb. 1976), pp. 12-13. 82 Stephen Gerlach, Tage-Buch (Frankfurt, 1674), p. 454. 83 I thank Omeljan Pritsakfor informing me of his views on these events.


Benjamin Braude they ensure to themselves great profits, if they bring with them a large stock of money or goods.84 The Greek diaspora spread west as well. From the Venetian islands of Crete, Zante, and Corfu, and from the mainland, they flocked to the Serenissima herself, thronging her piazzi, canals, and fondachi with a colony of some 15,000 souls.85Many of these souls had been reconciled to Rome, following the lead of such churchmen as Cardinal Bessarion; others remained true to their Orthodox heritage. Whatever their confession they pursued trade as vigorously as their brethren to the north - trafficking in the islands whence they came and venturing forth to the Greek mainland as well. The wealthiest among them could, like Thomas Flangis, preserve their cultural heritage with rich endowments to found a school.86 Others helped make Venice the centre of Greek printing. Venetian Greece, though not as celebrated as Romanian Byzantium, was an important Greek cultural centre. It was wealth gained through trade that made this possible. Astride the northern and western routes of international trade with the Ottoman Empire, the Greek trading network, though perhaps not as strong as the Jews within certain areas of the Empire and not as far-flung as the Armenians, was powerful and cohesive enough to last for centuries. Even the acceptance of Rome benefited the network, for thereby Uniates could move as freely to the west and north-west of the Empire as the Orthodox did to the north and north-east. Muslims did trade with Christendom. In 1580, a merchant named Ahmed was sent to England by the Threshold of Felicity,87 but such a far-ranging trade mission was an exception to the rule. Though Muslims lived and traded in the neighbouring ports of Ancona and Venice, they did not normally reach further into the continent.88 In the eighteenth century, and earlier as well, many Muslim merchants were trading Janissaries,89whose privileged position freed them from some of the impositions and costs to which other merchants were subject. These privileges did not, however, extend into Christendom. The stronghold of Muslim territories lay in the Empire itself and to its south, south-west, and east.
84 Travels of Macarius, i. 403-4. 85 G. Plumidis, Topolazione Greca a Venezia', Studi Veneziana, xiv (1970), 201. 86 Virgil Candea, *Lesintellectuels de sud-est-europeen au xvii siecle', Re'vuedes Studes sud-est-europe'en, viii (1970), 201. 87 Ahmet Refik, Turkler ve Kiralice Elizabet (Istanbul, 1932), p. 18; and Susan A. Skilliter, William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey (London, 1977), pp. 77-8.
88 Inalcik, 'Capital Formation', p. 112. 89 Carsten Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia, tr. Robert Heron (Edinburgh, 1792), ii. 237-8. Tibor Halasi-Kun has informed me that trading janissaries were active in Buda in the seventeenth century.


Balkan Commerce, 1500-1650

Even more significantthan the details of the ethnic division of trade were the implicationsthey had for economicdevelopment.To by territory this it may be usefulto imagine a contemporary understand journeywest: in the coffee-housesthere we should wards to London and Amsterdam find the merchantsof the English and Dutch companies of the Levant and the East Indies gatheredto discussthe price and quality of currants in Zante, wool in Salonika, silk in Aleppo, indigo in Ahmedabad, and pepperin Batavia; while in the counting houseswould be the clerks,sitting high enoughto handle theirhuge ledgers,patientlyand with monotoof The Hercules,The nous regularity enteringthe arrivalsand departures their on De and Het Geluk, voyagesof trade in Merchant, Fiefde Royal Levant seas and Indian oceans. These were the workingsof the trading commerce.90 companies,which completelyrevolutionized The ethnic tradingsystemhad accomplishedmuch in reducing the costs of trade: protection, negotiation, intelligence, and enforcement. It defended libertyand property,facilitatedthe searchfor customers, gathered But it failed to and spreadnews of the market,and administered justice. reducethe cost of credit, nor was that its only weakness,for the structure method created ineffiof the trade that evolved out of its cost-reduction the ethnicsystemcreated cienciesof its own : dividingtradeby commodity, cartels;and dividingtrade by territory,it segmentedthe purinflationary suit of commerce.Even among the wealthiestmerchantsand networks, not only were thereno overall the scaleof activitywas small. Furthermore, no way such organizations was but there for trade, unifyingorganizations could develop. In fact, unified organizationsfor trade were contraryto the very essenceof the ethnic tradingsystem,which depended upon and the very divisionswithin societythat were to prove the obstacles reinforced to its growthand development. Each trading networkfaced widely differing circumstancesand challenges. Trade with Venice or Lvov demanded methods different from trade with the Moluccas or Isfahan. Domestic trade differedfrom internationaltrade. Janissarymerchantshad fewer problemsthan did Jewish merchants.Though networkscompeted with each other in many of the same markets,each networkhad its own area of trade with its specialized needs. The problemsof trade were seen in particularterms. Methods of finance,systemsfor reducingrisks,means of gatheringinformation,and the other transactioncosts were seen as problemsdistinctlydifferent for Armeniansthan for Turks.As each networkhad its own peculiarmarket,
*> This paragraph is based on a study of the Ledger Books of the Levant Company for the seventeenth century, SP 105/157-69. See also K. Heeringa, Bronnen tot
de Geschiedenis van den Levantsche Handel, I5go-i66o (The Hague, 1910).


Benjamin Braude these differences were in fact real, with the result that no overarching solutions in the form of novel methods of organization could emerge. The company solved the problem of credit and finance through the institution of joint-stock, which massed thousands of investors to finance hundreds of merchants with liquid capital. By spreading investment in commercial ventures broadly, it reduced the level of risk for any one investor. So successfully did the joint-stock company meet the challenge of this transaction cost that it was able to raise more money than any other commercial institution. Thus, where the ethnic trading network failed, the company succeeded. The strength of the company was precisely that it was not a sociallybased ethnic trading system. It did not depend on an ethnic diaspora to provide its agents, but established rational criteria in order to recruit, train, and dispatch men who would serve its needs. There was no domestic model for its structure; from its inception it was geared to international trade. In short, it did not grow organically in response to the stresses of a social milieu, but rather it was formed whole, constant in its purpose. In the confrontation between the two, the ethnic system failed. The English Levant Company could take a loss on a woollen cloth in Istanbul because it could reap a profit on a silk in London.91 In the ethnic trading system, the competing networks of Muslims, Christians, and Jews could not make that exchange. The company did not organize its trade according to religious groupings: its trade was venture without faith. In the Balkans the ties of religion to livelihood were so close that business choices were determined by belief. In its trade, faith determined venture. Boston College
91 See B. Braude, International Competition and Domestic Cloth in the Ottoman Empire, 1500-1650: A Study in Undevelopment',Review of the Fernand Braudel Center, ii (1979), 437-5 1.