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Book Notes: Jews and Port Cities 1590-1990 Commerce, Community and Cosmopolitanism, David Cesarani and Gemma Romain (eds.)

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jews and Port Cities 1590-1990 Commerce, Community and Cosmopolitanism, edited by David Cesarani and Gemma Romain (London &amp; Portland Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell 2006) Paperback, isbn 0-85303 682 9, ?19.50. This is an important collection of seventeen essays based on papers deliv? ered at a conference in Cape Town in 2003. Because the subjects are diverse the editors have sensibly divided them into Part 1: 'The Sephardi Diaspora' and Part 2: 'Cosmopolitanism and its Limits'. Part 1, which is distinguished by a unity of theme and a high standard of scholarship, includes a series of expert studies of Sephardi mercantile communities - Livorno, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London and Curacao - and the trading network that they formed. But the concept that Port Jews were a distinct entity like Court Jews does not always work. Francesca Trivellato's study of the Livorno community summarizes the demography of all the Portuguese Jewish communities in the west, traces the history of Jewish civil rights in Livorno, and gives new information about their trading and connections with Aleppo, Lisbon and Goa as well as with Amsterdam and London. Thorsten Wagner explains how the Danish Jewish community, which started in Altona and Gluckstadt in the seventeenth century, expanded in Denmark until by 1800 there were 2400 Jews, both Sephardi and Ashkenasi, in Copenhagen enjoying considerable civil rights. Evelyne Oliel-Grausz stresses the communication mobility of eigh? teenth-century Portuguese Jews and networks between different Western Sephardi communities. Klaus Weber's study of the decline of the Sephardi community in late seventeenth-century Hamburg analyses the tension in Hamburg between the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Lutheran clergy, the politique policy of toler? ation enforced by the Senate and the causes of the emigration of Sephardi merchants from the city. Adam Sutcliffe's essay is entitled 'Identity, Space and Intercultural Contact in the Urban Entrepot: The Sephardic Bounding of Community in Early Modern Amsterdam and London', placing a heavy emphasis on assimilation as a consequence of social acceptance. 295</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes Linda Rupert's essay on Curacao stresses the adoption of the Creole Papiamento dialect by all communities in Curacao and gives a good account of the social and economic history of this major Portuguese Jewish community. Part 2 is more diffuse than Part i, and the editors did well to separate it. Gemma Romain's essay 'Ethnicity, Identity and Race: the Port Jews of Nineteenth Century Charleston' examines the degree of social acceptance of Jews in a white society and the Jews' relationship with their black slaves. David Cesarani, in 'The Jews of Bristol and Liverpool 1750-1850: Port Jewish Communities in the shadow of Slavery', argues that because both cities profited by the slave trade, the Jews who lived there, although not engaged in the trade, also profited by it. He writes that 'In London, Jews were able to invest in the companies that conducted the transatlantic slave trade from the 1660s onwards, but Jews arrived too late in Bristol and Liverpool to take an immediate part in it'. Since shares in the Royal Africa Company could be bought by anyone, and few of its shareholders and none of its directors were Jews, they ill deserved to be so tarred with the slavers' brush. In Bristol, as in London, Jews were excluded from the Freedom of the City and also from the Society of Merchant Adventurers, which had monopoly maritime trading rights. The Jacobs glass manufactory, the most successful Jewish business there in the late eighteenth century, had no connection with the slave trade at all. Harking back to the sixteenth century, Cesarani commits a series of howlers, stating that Dr Hector Nunes lived and traded there, which repeats a mistake made by Lucien Wolf, that it housed a Portuguese Jewish group of sixty, which is four times larger than is stated in the source he quotes, and that it failed commercially. Henrique Nunes did not leave Bristol for Rouen for commercial reasons, but because Queen Mary I had started to burn heretics at the stake and he did not fancy this prospect. The Jewish settlement in Liverpool had little to do with slaving. Dr Solomon's eighteenth-century success in marketing his 'Balm of Gilead' had nothing to do with slaving and the main Jewish settlement there occurred after the abolition of the slave trade. Apart from shipbuilding and trade with Ireland and America, Liverpool was important as a banking centre which financed the Lancashire textile industry. Nicholas Evans's article 'The Port Jews of Libau 1880-1914' is an excel? lent short and detailed study of the trade and social history of the Jewish merchants of Libau in Latvia under the Russian empire and of their emigration. Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti's article on the 'Jewish Nation' of Livorno is important in tracing the history of this major Sephardi community from 1593, when the Duke of Tuscany gave it exceptional privileges, down to 296</page><page sequence="3">Book Notes the abolition of Livorno's Free Port status in 1868, which destroyed its special commercial privileges while its Jews enjoyed full citizenship. Sakis Gekas's article entitled 'The Port Jews of Corfu and the "Blood Libel" of 1891: A Tale of Many Centuries and One Event's a valuable study of that topic. William Keneficks's essay, 'Jewish and Catrholic Irish Relations: The Glasgow Waterfront c. 1880-1914', deals with a period of heavy Jewish immigration from the Russian empire. There is a short piece by three authors about the Jews of Cape Town and local anti-Semitism in the 1890-1914 period, which was included mainly, it seems, because that was where the conference was held. The other sponsor of the conference was the University of Southampton, hence an article by Tony Kushner on the role of Jews in Southampton. Rainer Liedke's article about the Jews of Hamburg during the Nazi period makes it clear that Hamburg was as supportive of the Nazi persecu? tion of its Jews as any other city in Germany. The final article, by Jonathan Goldstein, is entitled 'Singapore, Manila and Harbin as Reference Points for Asian "Port Jewish" Identity'. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>