The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Author discusses new book

Dr. Sebouh David Aslanian’s new book, “From the INDIAN OCEAN to the MEDITERRANEAN: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa, Isfahan,” focuses on the history of trade and the key components to the success of certain merchants.

“My newly published book is a detailed study of the economic global network of these merchants,” Aslanian said.

Aslanian’s Stanton Sharp Lecture revolved around his book and his studies of Julfa trading networks. He said the aspects that made Julfa successful were the level of trust between the merchants and the master and their level of multi-cultureless.

“The larger question is how merchants, before the age of the Internet, established networks of trade,” Aslanian said.

Aslanian shared his studies and beliefs to a crowd of about 30 people at SMU in the McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall.

“Living in the United States, we are so limited in our perspective. I love it when they bring in speakers like this,” Andrea Boardman, a member of the audience, said.

Aslanian was born in Ethiopia, studied in several parts of the world, speaks seven languages, has written several articles and has recently published a book.

Aslanian shared his thoughts at the lecture Tuesday evening.

The Stanton Sharp Lecture Series is associated with the SMU Department of History and tends to draw a crowd consisting of SMU alumni and students interested in history.

“I think this lecture series is wonderful and this lecture was unbelievable. I went in there with a totally blank slate and came out with so much more,” Mary Marshall an SMU alumna said.

Aslanian’s book emphasizes how Julfan trading networks began and survived in the 1700’s. His studies stress the importance of establishing and maintaining trust.

Julfan trust was constituted through contracts and long-distance partnerships. Both the master and the merchants exhibited a high level of trust.

“If you’re really smart, you will find mechanisms to have trust,” Aslanian said.

Aslanian believes that the merchants remained loyal because when they traveled, they realized they left their families behind. This meant, if a merchant left town with the master’s money, his family would be put in danger.

“There always needs to be something that establishes trust,” Aslanian said.

Aslanian also expressed two reasons why the Julfan community should be important to world history.

“First is that they are arguably the only Asian community that simultaneously operated all major empires at that time,” Aslanian said.

The Julfan community controlled the Gunpowder Empires including Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals and others. Julfan settlements were scattered throughout these empires.

When asked about the most interesting piece of information from the lecture, John Mears an SMU professor of world history said, “The geographical extent and diversity of the trade network and the fact that he was talking about a trade network that we in the west normally don’t pay any attention to.”

Aslanian believes another reason why the Julfan community is important is because, unlike most Asian communities, the Julfans left discrete documents for historians to examine.

“They left 1,300 documents, 30 or so dispositions,” Aslanian said.

These documents include information about the Julfan trade network in Russia, Eurasia and the Mediterranean, Northwest Europe and across the Indian Ocean.

“The Julfans language is indigenous to the Indian Ocean,” Aslanian said.

Aslanian also said the merchants established colonies around the Indian Ocean partly because of the monsoon system.

He believes the monsoon system is important in understanding why the communities were built in the first place.

Aslanian said, “The trade settlements were connected to each other and to the center in Julfa through circulation of men and things.”

Specifically, the circulation revolved around the participation of the merchants, women, priests and other information such as commercial correspondence, trade manuals, printed books and more.

Even though the Julfan community collapsed in 1747, they succeeded in the 1700’s by “accomplishing remarkable feat,” Aslanian said. 

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