David Abulafia David Abulafia

Masters of the opium trade: the fabulous wealth of the Sassoons

Delving deep into family history, Joseph Sassoon describes the shrewdness and panache of a great entrepreneurial dynasty

Sir Victor Sassoon, owner of the Cathay Hotel, Shanghai, and a highly successful stable of racehorses in the UK. [Alamy]

Just before I started to read this book I had been immersed in the letters written by Jewish merchants based in Cairo from the tenth to the 12th centuries describing the trade they conducted across the Indian Ocean all the way to the Malabar coast. These letters are written in a difficult cursive Hebrew script and in a Judaeo-Arabic dialect, so one needs greater expertise than I possess to read them in the original.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in