The Spanish and Portuguese
Most of the major Jewish merchants of London before the middle of the eighteenth century belonged to the Portuguese Community. They or their fathers had come from Holland or Leghorn, but some came directly from Portugal, and as late as the first part of the century a thin but steady stream of fugitives from the Portuguese Inquisition was still arriving in London. This last stage of Jewish immigration is reflected in the list of ketubot (marriage-contracts) of the Bevis Marks congregation. Married couples arriving from Portugal would undergo a second marriage ceremony according to the Jewish rites, because this had been impossible in their native country. The number of these couples, who were registered in the congregation's records as vindos de Portugal, increased rapidly after 1727, and for certain periods between 1724 and 1733 're-marriages' amounted to more than half the total number of marriages registered in the Bevis Marks records. The year 1733 marks the end of this last wave of Marrano immigration. 1 Many of these continued to trade with Portugal under false names, or at least kept up the trade with which they had been familiar in Portugal. This commercial tradition, moreover, was kept alive not only for one generation; it was handed on to sons and grandsons, even though they may have passed through more than one country before reaching England. One of the foremost Jewish merchants of London in the middle of the eighteenth century, for example, Benjamin Mendes da Costa, 2 was born in Bayonne in 1697, emigrated with his parents to Amsterdam, and in 1724 settled in London. He traded, inter alia, to Brazil and Portugal.
The role which had been played in Spanish-American and Portuguese-American commerce by the Jews of those countries and their colonies still awaits thorough investigation, but what is known indicates that the Jews were for a long period of time an important, and perhaps dominant, element in the trade of Latin