Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt

Article excerpt

The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt. B y Phillip I. Ackerma n-Lieberman. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2014. 446 pp. $65.

The Cairo Geniza documents have rightfully been seen as the richest source of information about the intellectual, social, and economic history of the Jews in the medieval Islamic world, and indeed, for Islamic socioeconomic history more generally. In this erudite and sophisticated work, Ackerman-Lieberman, who holds degrees in rabbinics, economics, and Near Eastern studies, reexamines the evidence of commercial and legal documents found in this Egyptian trove and revises the conclusions of earlier scholars who pioneered the field of Geniza studies.

The book opens with a summary and critique of the outlook and main themes of S.D. Goitein, the doyen of Geniza studies, and of several of his protégés, historians of the so-called Princeton School. AckermanLieberman, who also trained at Princeton, notes the humanistic approach of Goitein and others and how many of their assumptions were absorbed to a greater and lesser degree by the subsequent generation of scholars. The author concludes that many of these assumptions and conclusions on the convergence between Muslim and Jewish business practice, as well as social practice, are "tentative at best."

Next, he analyzes evidence in the sources that was not always used by his predecessors. Examining the institutions of commercial partnership from legal documents rather than business correspondence, Ackerman-Lieberman concludes that the documents "actually reflect the models of commercial cooperation outlined in the Talmud and subsequent Jewish legal materials" and not those of their Muslim neighbors. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.