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The Same but Different?: Inter-Cultural Trade and the by Jessica Vance Roitman

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By Jessica Vance Roitman

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Additional resources for The Same but Different?: Inter-Cultural Trade and the Sephardim, 1595-1640 (Brill's Series in Jewish Studies)

Example text

As part and parcel of this discussion, I seek to explain what the borders of new Christian identity were, especially within the context of the phenomena of crypto-Judaism. Lastly, I will problematize the traditional approach to studying minority merchants in general, and the new Christians specifically, by asserting that historians should study the intersection of cultures and communities rather than particular trading communities in isolation. 1 Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 4.

Shopkeepers, artisans, and tradesmen were not generally classified as merchants in the seventeenth century. Although the term “merchant” originally meant any trader in goods that he himself did not manufacture or produce, from the sixteenth century onwards the term became restricted to wholesale traders, especially those who dealt with foreign countries. 1 Despite the rather implicit recognition of cross-cultural trading contacts, historians, except for a few notable exceptions, have focused on intra-group contacts, especially for ethnic minorities.

I chose to employ the term “new Christian” rather than “Jew” to avoid the ambiguity and inaccuracy inherent in speculating on the religious beliefs and expressions of historical personages. I also chose “new Christian” rather than the broader “Sephardim” unless, as noted previously, the community as a whole was allowed the open practice of Judaism. The term “new Christian” best encompassed the range of backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences of the merchants I examine in this book. However, I refer to the community within Amsterdam and the Dutch Republic as the “Sephardim” or the “Sephardic community” because this community was able to practice Judaism relatively openly soon after the arrival of the first merchants of new Christian descent in the city.

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