Sale or exchange of goods, generally on a large scale. During the Biblical period the Hebrews in Palestine had what is known as a natural self-sufficing economy (Benzinger, "Arch." p. 213)—that is, each household grew or made all the food, tools, and clothing it needed. A few articles of luxury or necessity, such as gold, silver, iron, and salt, which could not be found on the Israelitish farms, were supplied by merchants, who carried them round the country, and for that reason were known as "soḥer" (from a root meaning "to wander"). These merchants were almost exclusively Canaanites, probably Philistines. Hence, when the goodwife sells her wool (Prov. xxxi. 24) she disposes of it to the Canaanites (A. V. "merchants"). The Israelite tribes were mainly settledon the uplands of Palestine, and therefore were not touched by the streams of commerce which flowed by the two great caravan routes along the coast, through Tyre, Acco, and Gaza, to Egypt, and from South Arabia, through Petra on the east side of the Jordan, to Damascus (Herzfeld, "Handelsgeschichte der Juden," pp. 22, 23).

Solomon's Foreign Commerce.

The chief references to commerce in the Old Testament are, accordingly, to that of other than Israelitish peoples—to Ishmaelites (Gen. xxxvii. 25) and Phenicians (Isa. xxiii.; Ezek. xxvii. 27). It is only with the reign of Solomon that any signs are given of extensive external trade on the part of the Israelites. Solomon was himself a large exporter of wheat and oil, which he paid to Hiram, King of Tyre, for timber and the use of skilled workmen (I Kings v. 25 [Hebr.]; I Kings vii.). He doubtless obtained horses and chariots from Egypt (I Kings x. 28, 29) by similar payments. It is even recorded of Solomon that he sent ships of Tharshish every three years from Ezion-geber to Ophir, whence the fleet brought back gold, silver, iron, apes, and peacocks (I Kings x. 22). Solomon's example evidently led to a general development of trading (I Kings x. 15), but it was not followed up by his successors. Jehoshaphat tried in vain to revive the voyages to Ophir (I Kings xxii. 48), and the Prophets when speaking of merchants identify them with Canaanites or Philistines (Hosea xii. 7; Isaiah xxiii. 11; Zeph. i. 11; compare Job xli. 6). It has been assumed from the songs of Deborah, Jacob, and Moses (Judges v. 17; Gen. xlix. 13; Deut. xxxiii. 18, 19) that the tribes of Dan, Zebulun, and Issachar were connected with the Mediterranean trade; but there is very little evidence of this, and the ships used were known by a foreign name as "ships of Tharshish."

There seem to have been some attempts to encourage foreign trade in the northern kingdom, as Ahab is reported to have obtained from Ben-hadad the right to have "ḥuẓot" in Damascus (I Kings xx. 34); in other words, the Israelites were allowed a special street or bazaar in the market of Damascus. A somewhat similar activity on the part of Judah is indicated in Isaiah ii. 6 (Hebr.), where the "contracts made with the sons of aliens" refer, according to Cheyne, to the renewed commercial activity of the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham (II Kings xiv. 22, xvi. 6). The treasures of the kings must have been obtained indirectly from commerce; the tribute of Hezekiah to Sennacherib, which, according to the Taylor cylinder, amounted to 30 talents of gold and 800 of silver, besides precious stones, must have been secured in this way. The luxurious feminine apparel indicated in Isaiah iii. 18-24 must also have been obtained by commerce. Notwithstanding this, the merchant's profession was despised (Hosea xii. 7; compare Ecclus. [Sirach] xxvi. 29, xxvii. 2). The few laws relating to business in the Pentateuch and dealing with weights (Lev. xix. 35, 36), loans to the poor (ib. xxv. 36, 37), usury (Deut. xxiii. 20), debts in the Sabbatical year (Deut. xv. 2), and slave-trading (Lev. xxv. 44, 45), show that very little business was done. The fact that even tribute was paid in kind (I Sam. xvi. 20, xvii. 18) proves that not much attention was paid to commerce, as is also proved by the fact that no coined money was made till the time of the Maccabees (see Money).

Exports and Imports.

The highlands of Palestine in Bible times do not seem to have supplied very much material for foreign commerce. Honey, balsam, wheat, and oil were forwarded to Phenicia (I Kings v. 11; Ezra iii. 7; Ezek. xxvii. 17), while spices, balm, myrrh, honey, pistachio nuts, almonds, and oil were forwarded to Egypt (Gen. xxxvii. 25; Hosea xii. 1). In return timber was sent from Phenicia (I Kings v. 11); corn, horses, and chariots from Egypt (Gen. xli. 57; 1 Kings x. 29); gold, silver, spices, precious stones, ivory, apes, peacocks, armor, and mules from Arabia, Ophir, and other Eastern countries. Wool and sheep were sent as tribute from Moab (II Kings iii. 4). Within Palestine itself salt was sent from the Dead Sea, cattle and wool from the pastures beyond the Jordan, corn chiefly from the plain of Esdraelon. These were sent up to the markets, one of which seems to have been at Jerusalem, at a place called "Maktesh" (Zeph. i. 11); later on there was a market even in the Temple precincts (John ii. 14).

Merchants carried wares to their customers or to the markets (Neh. xiii. 16) by caravans of camels, asses, mules, or oxen (Gen. xxiv. 10, xlii. 26, xliii. 18; I Kings v. 7; I Chron. xii. 40); sometimes merchandise was carried by slaves (II Kings v. 28).

After the Exile.

After the return from the Exile the small and impoverished Jewish community had little business to transact except at Jerusalem, and even there it was conducted mainly by Phenicians (Neh. iii. 31, 32; xiii. 15-20). When Jonah sailed for Tarshish he had to embark in a Gentile vessel, showing that little maritime trade was undertaken by the Jews. With the spread of Hellenism in the East, however, there were Greek mercantile settlements in Ptolemais, with connections with the coast of Palestine along the Gaza, Ashkelon, and Dor route (Schürer, "Geschichte," ii. 15); and by the time of Hyrcanus I. Athenian merchants came regularly to Judea (Josephus; "Ant." xiv. 8, § 5; "Corp. Insc. Att." ii., No. 470). It was with the intention of developing the foreign trade of Judea that Simon Maccabeus took Joppa (I Macc. xiv. 5), and similarly Herod built Cæsarea for a port (Josephus, l.c. xv. 9, § 6).


By Maccabean times, indeed, it seems to have become a custom for the villagers to carry their products into towns once a month (I Macc. i. 58). Later on this became extended to twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays being traditionally set aside as market days; and the custom of having special services in synagogues on these days can be traced back to this period. Jerusalem became the commercial center of the whole country, and mention is made there of markets for horses and wool ('Er. x. 9), for ironware, clothing, lumber (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 19, § 4; v. 8, § 1), and for fruit (Beẓah v. 8). Besides these, there were markets at Hebron, Emmaus, Lydda, Antipatris, Haishub, Patris, Beth Hino, Sepphoris, Tiberias, Scythopolis, and Botna, the last three being especially devoted to cereals, which were exportedthrough Kesib to Tyre (Yer. Dem. i. 3), and from Arab in Galilee to Sepphoris (Yer. Ta'an. iv. 1); olives were sent to Italy (Shab. 26a; Josephus, l.c. ii. 22, § 2), and olive-oil was sent to Syria and Egypt (Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," xii. 54). The main ports engaged in these exports were Ashkelon, Joppa, Gaza, Ptolemais, Rephia, Yabne, Cæsarea, Dor, and Haifa.

Trade with Egypt.

Some outside trade in silk passed through Palestine into Tyre (Yer. B. Ḳ. iv. 2, vi. 7). Most of the more luxurious products were imported. As against 87 different materials produced in Palestine itself, Herzfeld enumerates 133 brought from almost all the known lands of antiquity: camels from Arabia (Ket. 67a); asses from Libya (Shab. 51b); byssus from Pelusium and India, to form the dress worn by the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Yoma iii. 7); linen and "ḥimuẓa" from Rome (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 10; M. Ḳ. 23a); a garment called a "gomed" from Arabia (Kel. xxix. 9), as well as pottery (Kel. v. 10; Men. v. 9) from the same place; spoons from Sidon and wines from Ammon and Media (Sanh. 106a; Pes. ii. 1). Beans and linseed came from Egypt (Ma'as. v. 8); damsons from Damascus (Ber. 39a; B. Ḳ. 116b); palms, dates, and carpets from Babylon; timber, wine, and purple from Phenicia; wine, oil, and lumber from Syria. Specially important was the trade with Egypt, which probably took some of the cereals from Palestine in exchange for beans and writing-material. Philo speaks of several Jewish shippers and wholesale merchants in Alexandria ("In Flaccum," § 8). Many Egyptian Jews attained considerable wealth by this means. Arion is said to have lent Joseph the "publican" no less a sum than 3,000 talents (Josephus, "Ant." xii. 4, § 7), and the alabarch Alexander lent 200,000 drachmas to Agrippa (ib. xviii. 6, § 3).

Salted fish was a specially favored article of commerce, as may be seen from the fact that Jerusalem had a fish-gate (Neh. iii. 3); it was brought from Egypt (Maksh. vi. 3) and Spain (Shab. xxii. 2) probably to Acco, whence the proverb "to send fish to Acco," corresponding to the English "to carry coals to Newcastle." Lake Tiberias was also the center of a great fishing industry. Josephus enumerates no less than 230 boats sailing upon it at one time ("B. J." ii. 21, § 8). Several kinds of traders are mentioned—cloth-dealers, horse-dealers, and cattle-dealers (Kil. ix. 5; M. Ḳ. ii. 5; B. M. 51b; 'Ab. Zarah i. 6; Sheḳ. vii. 2). These carried their accounts in books ("pinkes," from the Greek πινάξ) made of two boards joined together with a hinge, and covered with wax on which marks could be made. Markets were held every Friday (Sifra 140b), and at Gaza, Acco, and Botna there were great fairs where slaves and horses were sold (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 4). Goods were sold by contract (Shah. 120b) and paid for by bills which themselves were sold for cash before maturing (B. M. iv. 9). Merchants of different towns communicated by post (Shab. x. 4, 19a), and there even seems to have been a kind of parcel-post (R. H. 9b). Prices seemed to be fixed by local authorities (B. M. v. 7), and any speculation in necessaries, such as corn, wine, or oil, was deprecated (B. B. 90b).


Notwithstanding this evidence of considerable commercial activity, it can not be said that the Jews in early post-Biblical times were at all inclined to commerce. Josephus, indeed, says: "We do not dwell in a land by the sea, and do not therefore indulge in commerce either by sea or otherwise" ("Contra Apion," i. 12). Several of the chief sages of the Talmud, however, were traders. Eleasar ben Azaria dealt in wine and oil (B. B. 91a). Notwithstanding this, many sayings in the Talmud show that little importance was attached to commerce as a means of livelihood; e. g., "have little business" (Abot iv. 14); or, "the less trading the more Torah" (ib. vi. 6). It was recommended to lay out one's money in three parts: one-third to be invested in land; one-third in goods; one-third to be kept on hand (B. M. 42a). It may be of interest to conclude this account of trading among the Jews of Biblical and Talmudic times by the details given by Herzfeld relating to the prices of objects mentioned in these two sources, arranging the objects in the usual order: grain, cattle, fowl, fruit, wines, dress, slaves, beasts of burden, chariots, fields, vineyards, and houses, finishing with wages and fees. See accompanying table.

Hitherto there had been no signs of any special predilection or capacity for commerce shown by Jews, but they had developed special aptitudes in that direction by the early geonic period, when they are everywhere mentioned as merchants. As soon as the Teutonic nations had settled down after the great migrations of the fifth century, Jews are found mentioned together with Syrians as merchants at Narbonne and Marseilles (Gregory, "Epistles," vii. 24, 45). The Frankish kings bought goods from them (Gregory of Tours, "Hist. Gall." iv. 12-35, vi. 5, vii. 23), and they occur as traders at Naples (Procopius, "De Bello Gallico"), Palermo (Gregory, "Epistles," ix. 55), and Genoa (Cassidorus, "Epistles," No. 33). They even chartered ships: Gregory of Tours ("De Gloria Martyrum," p. 97) mentions a Jew who owned a vessel sailing between Nice and Marseilles. It is recorded of Charles the Great that, after watching a ship nearing Narbonne, he decided that it was not a Jewish, but a Norman, vessel (Pertz, "Monumenta," ii. 737). The Visigoth king Egica, indeed, forbade them to engage in maritime commerce ("Leg. Visig." xii. 2, 18). They were particularly active in the slave trade (Agobard, "Opera," ed. Baluze, pp. 62-65), and Gregory the Great protested against their activity in this direction in North Gaul ("Epistles," ix. 36). It has been conjectured that through their means England was brought within the pale of Christendom (Jacobs, "Jews of Angevin England," pp. 3, 4). See Slave Trade.

The cause of this sudden commercial activity and predilection for trading is probably to be found in the rise of Islam and its control of the lands whence came most of the luxuries demanded in Europe. Christians could not trade in Mohammedan countries, nor Moslems in Christendom, consequently an opening was left for Jews, who were tolerated in both spheres as commercial intermediaries (Cunningham, "Western Civilization," ii. 49, Cambridge, 1901). Within two centuries after the foundation of Islam the Jews appear to have almost monopolized thetrade between Europe and Asia. There is a remarkable passage in the "Book of Ways," written about 817 by Ibn Khordadhbeh (ed. De Goeje, in "Bibl. Geogr. Arab." vi. 114), giving the routes adopted by these Jewish merchants.

Quantity.Price.References and Remarks.
Wheatseah1 denariusPeah viii.; 'Er. viii. 2; Ta'an. 19b.
""2 denarii sela'B. B. 91b.
""Ta'an. 19b (famine).
"meal"¾ to 1 den.Sheḳ. iv. 9.
Barley"½ shekelII Kings vii. 1.
Oxonemina (100 den.)Men. xiii. 8.
""1-2 minaB. Ḳ. iii. 9.
Cow"100den.Tos. Sheḳ. ii. 3.
""200"Tos. 'Ar. iv. 4.
""30"B. M. 69b.
Oxentwo50shekelsII Sam. xxiv. 24(with threshing-floor).
Calfone20den.Men. xiii. 8.
Calves100100gold den.Tos. B. M. v. 4 (one for 25 silver issar).
Ramone2sela', 8 den.Men. xiii. 8; Ker. v. 2.
""2shekelsLev. v. 15.
""1-2½ sela'Tos. Ker. iv. 3.
Sheep100100 gold den.Tos. B. M. v. 1 (one for 25 silver den.).
"one1-3 sela'Sheḳ. ii. 4.
""2, 4, 5 sela'Tos. Ker. iv. 3.
Lamb"⅙ sela'Ḥag. i. 2; Bek. 11a.
Meatlitra¼ den.Gen. R. 49 [?].
Dovespairgold, silver den.Ker. i. 7 (exceptional).
Sparrows"issarMatt. x. 29.
"five2issarLuke xii. 6.
Figs3-41issarMa'as. ii. 5, 6.
Pomegranate.one1 peruta (⅛ issar)Me'i. vi. 4.
Citron"1-2 """
Winexestes (sextar.)4loma'Ab. Zarah 34b.
Olive-oilamphora¼ Tyrian sela'Josephus, "B. J." ii. 21, § 2.
"80 xestes4 den. drachm.idem, "Vita," § 13.
Shirtone4den.Yer. Shab. viii. 7.
""5"Tos. B. M. iii. 3.
""gold den.Me'i. vi. 4.
""20"Tos. 'Ar. iv. 2.
""50"Tos. Sheḳ;. ii. 4.
Cap""B. Ḳ. 119a.
Mantle"12minaB. B. ix. 7 (exceptional).
Slave"20shekelsGen. xxxvii. 28 (Joseph).
""30"Ex. xxi. 32.
""50"Lev. xxvii. 3, 4.
""100"'Ar. vi. 5.
""120drachmasJos. "Ant." xii. 2, § 3.
Ass........100-200den.B. Ḳ. x. 4.
Horse"150shekelsI Kings x. 29.
Field........50"Lev. xxvii. 16 (requiring a homer of oats for seed).
Vineyard........1,000"Isa. vii. 23; Cant. viii. 11 (with 1,000 vines).
House........10gold den.Yer. Ket. iv. 13.
Wages (daylaborer).........1den.Matt. xx. 2.
Wages, Hillel's.........½den.Yoma 35b.
Wages (chaplain).........10shekels perJudges xv. 10.
Fee of a doctor.........2den.Luke x. 35.
Routes of the Jewish Merchants Called Radanites.

"These merchants speak Persian, Roman [Greek], Arabic, the language of the Franks, Spanish, and Slav. They journey from west to east, from east to west, partly on land, partly by sea. They transport from the West eunuchs, female slaves, boys, silk, castor, marten and other furs, and swords. They take ship in the land of the Franks, on the Western Sea, and steer for Farama [Pelusium]. There they load their goods on the backs of camels and go by land to Kolzum [Suez] in five days' journey over a distance of twenty-five farsakhs [parasangs]. They embark in the East Sea [Red Sea], and sail from Kolzum to El-Tar [port of Medina] and Jeddah [port of Mecca]; then they go to Sind, India, and China. On their return they carry back musk, aloes, camphor, cinnamon, and other products of the Eastern countries to Kolzum, and bring them to Farama, where they again embark on the Western Sea. Some make sail for Constantinople to sell their goods to the Romans; others go to the palace of the king of the Franks to place their goods.

"Sometimes these Jew merchants, when embarking in the land of the Franks in the Western Sea, make for Antioch [at the mouth of the Orontes]; thence they go by land to Al-Jabia [?], Al-Hanaya [on the bank of the Euphrates], where they arrive after three days' march. There they embark on the Euphrates for Bagdad, and then sail down the Tigris to Al-Obolla. From Al-Obolla they sail for Oman, Sind, Hind, and China.

"These different journeys can also be made by land. The merchants that start from Spain or France go to Sous Al-Akça [Morocco], and then to Tangiers, whence they march to Kairowan and the capital of Egypt. Thence they go to Ar-Ramla, visit Damascus, Al-Koufa, Bagdad, and Bassora, cross Ahwaz, Persia, Kirman, Sind, Hind, and arrive at China. Sometimes they likewise take the route behind Rome, and, passing through the country of the Slavs, arrive at Khamlij, the capital of the Chazars. They embark on the Jorjan Sea, arrive at Balkh, betake themselves from there across the Oxus, and continue their journey toward Yourt, Toghozgbor, and from there to China."

The name "Radanites" is a puzzle, but probably refers to the commercial metropolis of Persia—Rai (Rhaga), near Teheran, which was the commercial center for Armenia, Chorasan, and Chazaria (Ritter, "Asien," vi. 1, 595). The influence of the Radanites probably accounts for the adoption by the court of Chazaria of the Jewish religion (see Chazars), and it is also probable that the mission of a Jewish envoy from Charles the Great to Harun al-Rashid is connected with this extensive commerce. The Jews also appear to have taken wares from Byzantium to Prague, and to have exchanged them for corn, tin, lead, and slaves, from the Russians and Slavs who met them there (Ibrahim ibn Ya'ḳub, quoted by G. Jacob," Handelsartikel der Araber," p.9, Berlin, 1891). The large number of Arabic coins found throughout northeastern Europe (as many as twenty thousand in Sweden alone) shows the great extent of this Baltic trade with Chazaria, mainly conducted by Jews.

The spice trade appears to have been practically monopolized by Jews (Gregory of Tours, iv. 12, 35; vi. 5); and this was of consequence because of the demand for condiments to flavor the salted meats and fish on which medieval Europe lived during winter. An indication of the extent of their Lyons trade is found in the complaint of Agobard that, to suit their convenience, the market-day had been changed from Saturday to another day in the week ("De Insolentia," p. 64); indeed, so important had their commercial position in medieval Europe become by the tenth century that a usual formula in charters and like documents was "Jews and other merchants" (Stobbe, "Juden in Deutschland," pp. 103, 199, 200, 231). The emperor Henry IV. gave them permission to sell wine, pigments, and drugs (ib. p. 231). In the tenth century the commercial rivals of the Jews began to take measures to restrain their activity. The Venetians, for example, forbade ships' captains to take Jewish passengers on their voyages to the Levant (Depping, "Histoire du Commerce," ii. 22). Similarly as late as 1341 no Jew was allowed to pass from Aix to Alexandria, and only four each year for the Levant.

Influence of Crusades.

But the first systematic repression of Jewish commercialactivity began in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries during the Crusades. All trade in the towns began to be monopolized by the merchants' gilds, from which Jews were excluded. In England, for example, there is only one known instance of a Jew in a merchant gild (Kitchin, "Winchester," p. 108); so the only way in which Jews could obtain possession of merchandise was not by direct purchase, but as pledges for money lent. In this way, for example, Aaron of Lincoln came into possession of large quantities of corn at the time of his death (see "Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc. Eng." iii. 164, 165); and a large amount of corn was included in the property which escheated to the king on the expulsion of the Jews from Hereford (ib. i. p. 144-158). Heliot of Vesoul and his company similarly came into possession of stuffs and vestments which they transported by horses and carriages to various customers. They also sold wheat, soap, paper, wax, fur, leather, harnesses, kitchen utensils, spoons, forks, girdles, etc., besides horses and cattle (I. Loeb, in "Rev. Et. Juives," ix. 39); but these sales, which took place in the presence of the provost, and, probably, were mostly sales of pledges, can not be regarded as the ordinary sales of commerce, in which the buyer competes in open market and afterward sells at his own time, and without intervention of officials. Whatever the commercial activity of the Jews in the Middle Ages and after the Crusades, it was incidental to their activity in Money-Lending and as Pawnbrokers. W. Roscher traces to their activity in this regard the introduction into commercial law of three important innovations which indirectly affected commerce: (1) the making of loans on interest; (2) the retention of goods bought bona fide, which has been applied in later commercial law to bonds and other securities to bearer; (3) the introduction, or, at least, the extensive use, of bills of exchange ("Ansichten der Volkswirtschaft," ii. 231, Leipsic, 1878). It is still, however, a doubtful point whether bills of exchange were not introduced quite independently of the Jews (See Exchange, Bills of).

Instances of Medieval Commerce.

Though, as a rule, Jewish commercial activity was from the twelfth century almost up to the nineteenth generally restricted to usury and petty trading, there are occasional instances of commercial dealings on a large scale, chiefly at the great seaports. Thus at Marseilles, between 1260 and 1299, a Jewish merchant named Mandrul, and others, traded in spices, cotton, find medicines, like sulfur and tartar, from Egypt, the Barbary States, the Balearic Islands, and Pisa, the chief trade being with Valencia, Acco, and Bougiah ("Rev. Et. Juives," xvi. 23). By this time Jews had lost their monopoly of the slave trade; only two cases of slave-dealing occurred at Marseilles at that period among Jews as against seven among Christians. Similarly, in 1248 there were twenty-nine money-changers among the Christians of Marseilles, but not a single Jew. Jews appear also to have been interested in the export of corn and wine from Vienna to Salzburg (Pertz, "Monumenta," ix. 706), and the Jews of Laibach in 1368 are reported to have become rich through trade with Venetians, Hungarians, and Croats (Scherer, "Rechtsverhältnisse," p. 519). It was indeed found necessary at times to prevent their competition with Christian merchants; thus the Jews of Linz in 1396 were forbidden to deal as merchants with the citizens of that town (Kurz, "Handel Oesterreichs," p. 89). In Spain the practise varied: in Castile, Henry IV. allowed the Jews to trade with Christians (Amador de los Rios, "Historia," iii. 134, 135), and there is evidence of a considerable wool trade between Navarre and England, conducted by Jews (Jacobs, "Spanish Sources," Nos. 1563, 1573, 1639, 1647), besides notices of dealers in cloth, fur, leather, silk, spices, timber, horses, mules, and wine (ib. p. xxxvii.); yet the Jews of Navarre were not allowed to sell anything without license from the king (ib. Nos. 1458, 1459). On the whole, fewer restrictions seem to have been placed upon the Jews in Spain than elsewhere; the silk industry was entirely in their hands (Grätz, "Geschichte," v. 396). This led to a remarkable extension of Jewish commercial activity when, in the fifteenth century, there spread throughout the world a class of persons which maintained intimate connections with Spain and Portugal at a time when those countries were receiving masses of the precious metals, which raised prices throughout Europe and gave abnormal profits to merchants, amounting, it is said, to between 300 and 400 per cent (Beer, "Geschichte des Welthandels," ii. 147).

Marano Trade.

The commerce of the Maranos served an important function in the development of trade between Europe, America, and the Levant. Manasseh ben Israel, in his "Declaration" to the English Parliament, gives an interesting account of the wide extent of Jewish trade due to their family connections and common language (ed. Wolf, pp. 2, 3). The precious metals mined in America were transported to Spain and Portugal, and thence, in exchange for Oriental goods, were passed on to Antwerp, which thereby became the financial center of Europe. Jewish Marano families were especially active in all these countries. The Caceres family had members in Hamburg, England, Austria, the West Indies, Barbados, and Surinam in the middle of the seventeenth century. Similarly extended connections are found with the Conegliano and Alḥadib families. The Mendez family was connected at first with Antwerp, then with Constantinople, while a branch, the Gradis family, settled at Bordeaux, dominated French colonial trade. Benjamin Gradis sent out wine, alcohol, meal, and pickled meats to Cayenne, Martinique, and San Domingo, getting sugar and indigo in return. The Maranos were especially active in the American interstate trade. From Curaçao Joshua Mordecai Henriquez shipped to New Netherland in 1568 Venetian pearls and pendants, thimbles, scissors, knives, and bells. The Jewish trade from Jamaica became so extensive that the English traders of that island petitioned against Jews being allowed to trade from it unless they became endenizened. By 1753 the greater part of the British trade with the Spanish West Indies was in the hands of the Jews, especially the trade of Jamaica with the Spanish main ("Consideration onthe Act of 1753," p. 40). Aaron Lopez of Newport had no less than thirty ships engaged in this trade (see M. J. Kohler, in "Pub. Am. Jew. Hist. Soc." x. 62). This trade was naturally fostered by the Jews of New York, who were not allowed to engage in retail trade from 1683 (ib. v.). From Marseilles an extensive trade with the Levant was maintained by Spanish Jews. In the ten years 1670-79 the firm of Joseph Vaez Villarreal & Company insured ships to the amount of 866,400 livres ("Rev. Et. Juives," xi. 142). In 1693 merchants of Marseilles petitioned the intendant of Provence not to allow French subjects to lend their names to Jews bringing silk from the Levant, especially from Smyrna (ib. xii. 270). The Gorneyim of Algiers practically monopolized the trade between that port and Leghorn in the seventeenth century. (Gränwald, "Juden als Seefahrer," 1902, p. 48).

Central Europe.

Meanwhile in Central Europe a special Jewish commerce was being developed in connection with the great fairs, especially during the Thirty Years' war. They purchased the soldiers' loot and thus acquired capital. The position of Jews as pawnbrokers led naturally to pedling. These pedlers often developed into traveling traders, purchasing the products of the villages, especially furs and leather, which they sold at the Fairs, especially at the great fair at Leipsic, which, after the close of the Thirty Years' war, became a clearing-house for the wares of North Germany. During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, 15,620 Jews, with 2,362 dependents, visited the three annual fairs at Leipsic, making an average of nearly 240 Jews at each fair. These came from all quarters of Europe; not less than 321 places are mentioned by M. Freudenthal ("Die Jüdischen Besucher der Leipziger Messen," Frankfort, 1902). Chief among these were Prague, Hamburg, Halberstadt, Berlin, Dessau, Frankfort, and, beyond Germany, Amsterdam and Venice. As early as 1590 Jews used to import fur, leather, lumber, and grain from Moscow to Gnesen. The memoirs of Glückl von Hameln show that these visits to the fairs were of social as well as of commercial importance. The Frankfort fair became the center of the Hebrew book trade in the seventeenth century ("Rev. Et. Juives," viii. 75). By this means new connections were made with different parts of Europe by the rising Jewish merchants, and the international trade of the continent became concentrated for a time in their hands. The fur trade in particular was monopolized by Jews, owing to their wide connections, ranging from Novgorod to Nantes ("Rev. Et. Juives," xxxiii. 97). Similarly the Jews of Avignon, in the seventeenth century, used to travel as far as Nimes and Montpellier (ib. xxxiv. 280), where they sold mules on credit, and thus took the business out of the hands of the Christian merchants of Languedoc. In 1738 the latter obtained a decree from the intendant of Provence prohibiting the sale of mules by Jews, though this decree was afterward withdrawn. In like manner German and Polish Jews, toward the end of the eighteenth century, settled in the chief English ports of the south and west as small pawnbrokers and shopkeepers, sending out agents from Monday to Friday to the neighboring villages (L. Wolf, "Family of Yates and Samuel," p. 2, London, 1901).

Restrictions on Jewish Trade.

The amount of trade conducted by the Jews depended in a large measure on the municipal or other authorities. In 1603 Henry IV. granted to Jews of Metz the right to trade, which was confirmed by Louis XIV. in 1657 (Jost, "Geschichte," ix. 31). So, too, the Jews of Leghorn were permitted to trade from 1668 (Bedarride, "Les Juifs," p. 364); on the other hand, the Jews of Rome and Ancona were only permitted to deal in secondhand clothing (Vogelstein and Rieger, ii. 198). As a rule, however, the right to trade was one of the municipal rights, and these were not granted the Jews till well on toward the middle of the nineteenth century. They were therefore generally confined to pawnbroking, pedling, and second-hand clothing, in which for a considerable time they had a monopoly. With the spread of colonization Jewish merchants found new spheres, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, where there was little opposition to them. The firms of Montefiore in Australia, of Mosenthal and of Bergtheil in South Africa, were among the pioneers of those colonies, and a large proportion of the English colonial shipping trade was for a considerable time in the hands of Jews. On the continent of Europe Jews performed a special function in mediating between the domestic industries of the villages and the markets and manufactories of the chief towns. Thus in Vienna the woolen manufacturers obtained their raw material from Jewish traders who traveled round to Iglau, Reichenberg, and Brünn. Before the emancipation many expedients had to be resorted to before this centralization of the wool industry could be effected. Thus the firm of Tuchowsky used to have a Christian agent at Vienna to represent its interests. When he died one of the firm had to submit to baptism in order to reside in Vienna (S. Mayer, in Bloch's "Wochenschrift," Nov. 14, 1902).

Numbers Engaged in Commerce.

Owing to a variety of circumstances the number of Jews applying themselves to commerce is heavily in excess of their proportion to the general population. Thus in Prussia in 1861 among adult workers 58 per cent of Jews were engaged in commerce as against 6 per cent of the rest of the population (Legoyt, "Immunités," p. 34), while in Italy the proportion was as 55 to 5. These figures are somewhat misleading, as most Jews live in cities; but, after allowing for this factor, a large discrepancy still remains. At Berlin, e.g., in 1871 61.4 per cent of Jews were in commerce against 15.4 of the rest of the population (H. Schwabe, "Berlin in 1871," p. 100); in Vienna, 33.1 per cent against 11.5 per cent (Jeitteles, "Israeliten zu Wien"). Altogether it may be said that thrice as many Jews adopt commercial pursuits. The particular branch of commerce in which Jews appear to excel is mainly the "commerce of intangibles"—that is, dealing with money per se—and they excel as factors and shippers (see Banking; Finance). The clothing trades seem to be largely in the hands of Jews, both as regards manufacture and the wholesale and retail trade. This may have developed out of the restrictionto the sale of second-hand clothing, but is probably due more to the economic pressure brought to bear in the Russian ghettos. The trade in furs and feathers is also largely in Jewish hands as a relic of the old peregrinations of the Jewish pedlers in East Europe, and can be traced back to the time of the Chazars. The fancy-goods trade is almost invariably a trade in imports, and here the cosmopolitan connections of the Jews have helped them to achieve conspicuous success. In England the fruit trade is wholly in the hands of Jews, because fruit can be sold on Sunday, and therefore the keeping of the Sabbath is not an obstacle to Jewish fruit-traders. In the United States the most striking characteristic of Jewish commerce is found in the large number of department stores held by Jewish firms.

  • L. Herzfeld, Handelsgesch. der Juden, Brunswick, 1879;
  • W. Roscher, Die Juden im Mittelalter, in Ansichten der Volkswirtschaft, ii. 321-354, Leipsic, 1878;
  • Heyd, Gesch. des Levante-Handels, i. 138, Stuttgart, 1879;
  • I. Loeb, Deux Livres de Commerce, in Rev. Et. Juives, vii. 9;
  • M. J. Kohler, Jewish Activity in American Colonial Commerce, in Pub. Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. No. 10;
  • I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 215-217;
  • J. Jacobs, Studies in Jewish Statistics, pp. 28-36;
  • W. Sombart, Der Moderne Kapitalismus, Leipsic, 1902;
  • M. Grunwald, Die Juden als Rheder und Seefahrer, Berlin, 1902.
G. J.—In Russia:

Under the Polish régime—that is, up to the end of the eighteenth century—commerce was almost the only occupation followed by the Jews in Russia. Neither the upper nor the lower classes among the non-Jewish native population cared to engage in it; and it consequently became centralized in the hands of the Germans and the Jews. As early as the fourteenth century there was a Jewish bazaar in Wilna. During the Middle Ages the Jews of Poland and of Lithuania were engaged in agricultural and industrial pursuits only in a small degree. After the Polish provinces had been annexed to Russia, and especially in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Jews were attracted to handicrafts, but owing to certain restrictions placed on these occupations they were compelled, as they are even to-day, to rely chiefly upon commerce and finance.

The closing years of the nineteenth century were marked by a serious decline of Jewish commerce in Russia. Owing to a steady increase in the number of Jewish merchants, especially in the western regions, and to the consequent keenness of competition, commerce could hardly have been lucrative. The chief obstacle to its development was, and still is, the lack of capital, for the poverty of the Jewish population is extreme.

Business Conducted on Credit.

Business is frequently started exclusively upon credit. Consequently, when the manufacturer reduces or withdraws credit, the Jewish merchant is often forced to declare himself insolvent. But the manufacturer is not always the trader's only creditor. Advances secured by chattel mortgage are made by banks, by mutual loan associations, and by private persons. Usually the interest charged is very high, especially to small dealers. The "wocher"—that is, the plan of paying off a debt in weekly instalments—prevails. The profit is mostly absorbed by the interest on the capital borrowed. Therefore, in order to secure an income, it is often necessary to put the capital repeatedly into circulation. By adopting this course the turnover of the Jewish merchants is, other things being equal, greater than that of their Christian competitors; but, notwithstanding their resourcefulness, the Jewish merchants do not realize as large a percentage of profits as do the Christians.

The foregoing applies to Jewish merchants doing business on a moderate scale. The majority of the Jews in the cities and villages within the Pale of Settlement are not able to start business even on credit, and are therefore compelled to trade in small wares. Opening a small store on some street-corner, they stock it with a few rubles' worth of goods, and make a profit of from twenty to thirty copecks a day. Frequently the business equipment consists only of a single stand stocked with provisions. Dealers of this kind are very numerous in the Jewish centers, as in Wilna, Minsk, and Kovno, where the percentage of poor Jews is exceptionally large. Thus, in Wilna their business center consists of a cluster of dark alleys, permeated with a fetid atmosphere, and resigned to rows of dirty, ill-smelling stores and stands. Although the range of prices is astonishingly low, little business is done, and often the dealers in the district outnumber the customers.

Branches of Trade.

The Jewish interest in lumber, in agricultural produce, in the export of grain, flax, butter, eggs, fruit, wines, and tobacco, and in kerosene, is considerable. Before the promulgation of the law making the sale of liquor a government monopoly, the Jews were active in the retail sale of vodka. At present Jewish merchants supply alcohol to the government in considerable quantities. In general, government contracts have been monopolized by the wealthier Jews. In recent years, however, many of the governmental departments have declined the services of Jewish contractors.

The Jews are prominent in the trade in grain. They have established branch offices in the chief centers of the grain-producing regions. In the autumn their agents travel through the grain belt and purchase its produce. Small dealers establish themselves at the railroad stations. They pay up to ninety-five per cent of the value of the grain shipped, deposit the bills of lading in a bank, and then send an order for sale to the agent at the port. When the sale has been consummated and the money from the commission agent received, accounts between seller and purchaser are adjusted. The dealers forward the grain to Black Sea and Baltic ports and to German frontier-towns like Danzig; Königsberg, etc. The number of Jews engaged in the grain-trade is considerable, and embraces buyers, commission agents, bankers, brokers, etc. To the poverty of the crops recently harvested in South Russia may be attributed the present (1902) deplorable condition of the Jews in that region.

A considerable portion of the Jewish population is engaged in the lumber trade. The Jews buy the standing timber from the landowners, especially in western Russia, and manufacture from it articles of various kinds for the home and foreign markets.


The part taken by the Jews in fairs, which are a distinguishing feature of trading life in Russia, alsodeserves notice. Whenever a fair is held they supply the peasants who visit the fair with all kinds of household necessities, such as iron, salt, kerosene, sugar, and dry-goods, in exchange for their farm products. To the development of railroads in recent years may be attributed the decline of this method of trading. Another obstacle calculated to shut out the Jews from this class of trade is the law prohibiting them from living in small towns and villages. Practically no recent statistical data on Russian-Jewish commerce are available.

Anti-Jewish Restrictions.

There are still some legal restrictions on Jewish commerce in force even within the Pale of Settlement. A typical example is the prohibition against dealing in objects held sacred by Christians, such as holy images and the like. Prior to the government monopoly of the sale of liquors, the Jews, while permitted to engage in that business, were hampered by various restrictions. Thus, they were forbidden to sell beyond the Pale; and within the Pale the sale was allowed only in houses owned by the sellers.

The chief obstacle which embarrasses Jews engaged in commerce in Russia is their exclusion from the interior governments of the country. Those enrolled in the mercantile gilds are allowed to go there only for the purchase of commodities: members of the first gild are allowed to stay six months; those of the second gild, only two months. At certain fairs temporary sojourn only is permitted. Artisans domiciled in the interior governments may deal in their own manufactures. If a Jew be found trading in prohibited articles, these articles are confiscated, and the transgressor is sent to the Pale of Settlement. A five years' enrolment with the merchants of the first gild in governments within the Pale confers the privilege of enrolment in the first gild in the interior governments. In consequence of this measure many of the wealthier Jews enroll as merchants, although not actually engaged in any business, to obtain the right of residing wherever they please. Those engaged in the liberal professions, physicians, druggists, etc., enjoy the privilege of settling wherever they may choose, though their right of engaging in business outside the Pale has often been contested by the administration. The senate, however, has invariably decided in their favor. For statistics regarding Jewish commerce in Russia, see Russia.

  • Orshanski, Yevrei v Rossii. St. Petersburg, 1877;
  • Subbotin, V Chertye Yevreiskoi Osyedlosti, parts i. and ii., St. Petersburg, 1880 and 1890;
  • Petlin, Opyt Opisaniya Guberni i Oblastei Rossii, St. Petersburg, 1893;
  • Pamyatnyya Knizhki, published by the statistical committees;
  • Blioch, Sravnenie Materialnavo Byta, etc., V Chertye Osyedlosti Yevreyev i Vnye Yeya, St. Petersburg, 1891.
H. R. F. J.