When Henry Lehman was still a boy helping his dad trade cattle in a small German town, Sassoon ben Salih had already taken over from his father as Baghdad’s Sarraf Bashi, the Iraqi Pasha’s chief banker.
By the time Marcus Goldman had left behind his one-room shop in Philadelphia to trade IOUs as Marcus Goldman & Co, Sassoon ben Salih’s grandson Elias was trading in dried fruit, tea, metals, silk and spices, along with his monopoly over the opium trade, from offices in Bombay and Shanghai.
And Carl Morris Loeb was working as the manager of a St. Louis movie theater in an era when the Sassoons had firmly established themselves as one of the wealthiest families in the world, called “the Rothschilds of the East.”
The Sassoons were international Jewish royalty who gave the world the first global female CEO; supported over half of Bombay’s households; reshaped the skyline of Shanghai; and built dozens of synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
In his Global Merchants, historian Joseph Sassoon limns the tale of this extraordinary family, whose influence reached across three continents and changed the destinies of nations. He joins us to discuss their reach, from Baghdad to London; their ownership of Britain’s leading newspapers; alliance with the Rothschild family; and place in global Jewish history.
Dr. Joseph Sassoon is Professor of History and Politics at Georgetown University, a Senior Associate Member at St. Antony’s College, Oxford and a Trustee of the Bodleian Library. A specialist in modern Middle Eastern History, he was born in Baghdad and left with his family only after the hanging of Jews in the city in 1969.