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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, ASIAN HISTORY (oxfordre.com/asianhistory). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

Epigraphic materials, travel narratives, religious-legal literature, and documents of daily life produced by or for Jews between the 7th and the 13th centuries add significant dimensions to our understanding of the history of trade across Asia. Written in a variety of Jewish languages, these sources hail from places across the Afro-Eurasian geographical continuum and speak to the two well-known circuits of medieval trans-Asian trade: the Silk Road and its maritime Indian Ocean equivalent. While there has been a tendency to look at medieval Jewish sources scattered across Asia as vestiges of a unified trading diaspora, a consideration of these sources’ volume, chronology, and the circumstances of their production and use reveals several disjunctures and suggests a more fractured history of Jewish participation in Asia trade. Even so a survey of these sources illuminates a variety of topics that relate to Jewish mercantile activity along well-trodden avenues of exchange, transactions and relationships across confessional lines, and the structures and institutions of transregional commerce.

Keywords: Jewish merchants, Silk Road, Indian Ocean, geniza, Radhanites, epigraphy, trade, travel, Aden, Kaifeng

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