The Armenian merchants of New Julfa, Isfahan : a study in pre-modern Asian trade
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the merchants of Julfa, a town on the trade routes linking the Mediterranean with Iran, developed an extensive international trade network reaching from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian Ocean. Part 1 of the dissertation traces the history of Julfa and examines the factors contributing to the Armenians' success - among them the significant growth of Iranian raw silk exports to Europe; the stimulus to East-West trade given by the influx of American silver to Europe and the consequent imbalance in the value of bullion between Europe, the Middle East and South Asia; the forced resettlement of the Julfans in Isfahan and the formation of a close economic relationship with the Safavi court. Part 2 concentrates on social and economic organisation, examining the structure of the Armenian patriarchal household and its commercial operation as family firm, and the community and its provision of the institutions that upheld commercial law and the merchants' system of values and standards of behaviour. The discussion in Chapters 4 and 5 of partnership and agency and the credit system operated by the Julfans is based on research into surviving contracts and credit instruments. These documents also provide the material for Part 3. The Julfan mercantile documents are a unique record of the commercial world of an Asian trading community in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. They also present numerous technical difficulties, which are discussed through the presentation of examples of documents in the original, with translation, notes and a glossary. The history of the Julfa merchants affords a rare opportunity for close examination of the organisation and techniques of trade in Asia and provides a basis for comparison with other Asian merchants.