The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Non-GC Events

October 19 Francesca Bregoli Presents “A Father’s Consolation: Intra-Cultural Ties and Religion in a Trans-Mediterranean Jewish Commercial Network”

Among Jewish historians there is a broad consensus that kinship ties were crucial in the functioning of Jewish merchant networks. This seminar, based on analysis of the correspondence of Tunis-based Italian Jewish merchant Joseph Franchetti (1721/1734-ca. 1794), asks how Mediterranean Jews who engaged in long-distance trade dealt with family members who could not be directly monitored since they were stationed in distant countries. It will focus in particular on the long-distance rearing of young merchants and the theme of their reputation.

An investigation of the educational programs, safety networks, and disciplining structures that were in place to control young merchants once they had left home highlights the ongoing pragmatic and discursive importance of intra-Jewish ties and Judaism for Mediterranean merchants in the regime of honor and reputation that formed the basis of early modern commerce. At the same time, the Franchetti example shows that, though kinship and religion were key starting points, they were not enough on their own to ensure trust. Rather, as this seminar will reveal, these notions themselves needed to be painstakingly constructed, preserved, and managed, in order to translate into creditworthiness, honor, and good reputation.

Francesca Bregoli is Associate Professor of History at Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.  Her research concentrates on eighteenth-century Italian and Sephardic Jewish history. She is the author of Mediterranean Enlightenment: Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform (Stanford University Press, 2014).

Peter Miller, Dean Professor of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture at Bard College and the Bard Graduate Center, will offer a response.

If you have not RSVPed and wish to do so in order to receive Francesca’s paper, please email Judah Bernstein (

Thursday, October 19, 4 PM

Center for Jewish History | 15 W 16th St | New York, NY 10011 |[]