Port Cities and Trading Diaspora: The Sassoon and Kadoorie Family Enterprise in Hong Kong and Shanghai, 1860-1950

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The paper examines the economic transformation of an influential Jewish community between 1860 and 1950 by focusing on two prominent merchant houses, the Sassoon and the Kadoorie. Both families traced their roots to the Middle East. In the 1810s, they relocated to Bombay to escape religious persecution. Under British protection they acted as intermediaries in the Indo-China trade, and their businesses expanded to Hong Kong and Shanghai. As the British colonial regime interacted with various long-standing trade diasporas, Hong Kong and Shanghai attracted an even greater mix of merchants from India, but these Jewish traders, due to their business acumen and familiarity with British commercial laws, won out in the competition with groups like the Parsi (Zoroastrian) from India, and became the most powerful middlemen in the Indo-China trade. Under British legal regime, they found avenue to store their wealth in HK & Shanghai. By the mid-19thcentury, the Industrial Revolution had gathered pace in Britain and legal restrictions were gradually lifted on ordinary people incorporating for business activity. Legally, it was possible to incorporate, with limited liability, via simple registration procedure. Thus, the Sassoons and Kadoories found a wide array of legal tools for preserving their wealth. They took advantage of the pluralistic legal environment and invested in banking and real estate in Hong Kong and Shanghai. As their enterprises took shape in Bombay, Hong Kong and Shanghai, a commercial corridor linking the Middle East & the Far East, the growth of their cross-cultural business endeavours epitomized significant changes in global capitalism.


ConferenceAssociation for Asian Studies Conference (AAS-in-Asia 2017)
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
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