Maghrib Traders and Transnationalism

Essay by zirc3University, Bachelor'sA-, February 2014

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Much has been written on the Maghribi traders and the birth of the modern market-based institutions. This paper will attempt to illustrate the dependency between the effectiveness of the Maghribi trading network and its culture, law and location that all arose due to the transnational elements inherent within the Maghribi culture.

The Maghribi traders consisted of a group of Jewish traders originating in Western North Africa, Sicily and Spain that came to dominate much of the eleventh century sea-faring trade in the Muslim world. Traders had to travel long distances to sell their goods and never fully knew all factors associated with the voyage. The price, arrival time, and quality of goods upon arrival could in most cases not be guaranteed, creating definite insecurities to long distance trade. Lacking today's well-established trade institutions, the Maghribi traders instead relied on the establishment of a robust international community. They were able to effectively operate their trade network across much of the Mediterranean as a direct result of this large community spread across their trade routes.

The establishment of a community-based trade institution that spanned the Mediterranean enabled them to overcome many of the shortfalls inherent in long distance trade at the time. Coupled with the Jewish community's ability to prosper in a mostly tolerant Muslim society enabled their trading endeavours to flourish. Both parties benefitted from this relationship, the Jewish traders with access to a lucrative Mediterranean market and the Muslim Caliphate with access to an efficient and far-reaching trade network. All of these factors were dependent on one another, and taken together can be used to explain the prominence of the transnational Maghribi trading community in the tenth and eleventh centuries.[1: (Edwards and Ogilvie 2008, 1)]

Maghribi traders were initially Jewish traders operating out of Baghdad; however they had fled...