22 February 2009

Commerce and Religion: Call for papers

The Jewish role in medieval trade and commerce was very important. Many individuals attended local regional trade fairs, while others traveled far distances each year. There are many historical accounts of traders and merchants, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi.

The European Social Science History Conference has announced its call for papers on Commerce and Religion in medieval and early modern times. The conference takes place in Ghent, Belgium, April 13-16, 2010.

How did merchants belonging to different religious groups conduct trade with one another during the Medieval and Early Modern period? How did different societies accommodate "infidels" in the interest of promoting profitable commercial activity? We seek papers that focus on specific instances of inter-faith commerce from around the world in the period from 1000 to 1800. Papers from a variety of perspectives (e.g. economic history, legal history, cultural history) are welcome. They should be based on original research.

We are particularly eager to receive contributions that approach two inter-related themes:

a) the emergence of institutions, technologies, and forms of social organization that may have reduced the uncertainty of commercial exchanges, which was particularly acute in the absence of family and religious ties. For example, papers might explore the mechanics of medium- to long-term credit between individuals and groups who shared no religious affiliation and traded over significant distances. Analyses of failed or coerced inter-faith commercial exchanges are also welcome if they reveal larger patterns of cross-cultural interaction.

b) the tension between economic pragmatism, legal prescriptions, and religious prejudice. We are eager to link the mechanics of commercial exchange to their broader cultural implications in a wide variety of contexts and historical moments. In particular, we want to understand how and whether the quest for profit either encouraged more tolerant attitudes or merely enabled different groups to coexist in the context of religious biases and patterns of segregation.
The ultimate goal of this session is to develop a comparative approach to these questions and to trace changes over time, while respecting the historical particularity of diverse cases.

Send the proposal title and an abstract (800 words maximum) to Francesca Trivellato, by April 1.

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