The influential merchants of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries shaped the globalization of today. The Sassoons, a Baghdadi-Jewish trading family, built a global trading enterprise by taking advantage of major historical developments during the nineteenth century. Their story is not just one of an Arab Jewish family that settled in India, traded in China, and aspired to be British. It also presents an extraordinary vista into the world in which they lived and prospered economically, politically, and socially.
The Global Merchants (Pantheon, 2022) is about the Sassoons’ rise as well as their decline: Why each happened, how political and economic changes after the First World War adversely affected them, and finally, how realizing their aspirations to reach the upper echelons of British society led to their disengagement from business and prevented them from adapting to the new economic and political world order.
Joseph Sassoon is the director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and Professor of History and Political Economy at Georgetown University. He holds the al-Sabah Chair in Politics and Political Economy of the Arab World. He is also a Senior Associate Member at St Antony’s College, Oxford. In 2013, his book Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime (Cambridge University Press, 2012) won the prestigious British-Kuwait Prize for the best book on the Middle East. Prof. Sassoon completed his D.Phil. at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He has published extensively on Iraq and its economy and on the Middle East. The Global Merchants is his fifth book.