The Familiarity of Strangers - Trivellato, Francesca - Yale University Press

The Familiarity of Strangers

The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period

  • Francesca Trivellato
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Out of Print.

Selected for the long list for the 2010 Cundill Prize in History given by McGill University

Co-winner of the 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for the best book in Early Modern and Modern Jewish History published in English between 2006 and 2010, awarded by the Association of Jewish Studies.

Winner of the 2010 Leo Gershoy Award for the most outstanding work published in English on any aspect of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European history, awarded by the American Historical Association

Taking a new approach to the study of cross-cultural trade, this book blends archival research with historical narrative and economic analysis to understand how the Sephardic Jews of Livorno, Tuscany, traded in regions near and far in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Francesca Trivellato tests assumptions about ethnic and religious trading diasporas and networks of exchange and trust. Her extensive research in international archives—including a vast cache of merchants’ letters written between 1704 and 1746—reveals a more nuanced view of the business relations between Jews and non-Jews across the Mediterranean, Atlantic Europe, and the Indian Ocean than ever before.


The book argues that cross-cultural trade was predicated on and generated familiarity among strangers, but could coexist easily with religious prejudice. It analyzes instances in which business cooperation among coreligionists and between strangers relied on language, customary norms, and social networks more than the progressive rise of state and legal institutions.

Francesca Trivellato is Frederick W. Hilles Professor of History at Yale University.