Although kinship ties are understood to have been crucial for the functioning of Jewish diasporic trade, familiarity and affective bonds are the very elements that are strained by diasporic separation: how did merchant households maintain a sense of ongoing familiarity and obligation once family members were physically separated? Attention to the emotional discourse found in merchant letters can reorient our thinking on how Jewish family ties were preserved and restructured over time and on the strategies that traders used to supervise distant relatives. This article, based primarily on the correspondence (1776-1790) of Tunis-based Italian Jewish merchant Joseph Franchetti, traces the strategies through which a father and head partner in a trading company attempted to educate, socialize, and monitor his sons stationed in Livorno and Smyrna. Three main themes are discussed: values of mercantile masculinity and the reliance on surrogate Jewish father and brother figures to monitor young men’s behaviors; the ideal role of Judaism in promoting economic success and attendant anxieties concerning moral and financial ruin; and the overlap between love and material interests that shaped ideas of legitimate kinship.


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pp. 194-224
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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