Migration and Diasporas
Over the last two centuries, diasporas functioned as powerful machine of globalisation, generating traffic in goods, capitals and peoples. This paper focuses on one of them –the Baghadsis Jews from Baghdad to Shanghai, who developed commercial networks in the Middle East, South Asia and coastal China from 1890 to 1960–a critical period that coincided with the rise and fall of British colonial rule in Asia and the building up of a nationalist regime in China.
The paper will examine the historical and economic transformation of an influential Jewish community by focusing on one prominent merchant houses, the Kadoories. In the 1810s, they began to relocate from Baghdad to Bombay, and later to Shanghai. They maintained ties with their homelands even as they made new connections in their host societies, where they took advantage of the pluralistic environment and invested in finance and rubber market. Their itinerancy and accumulated wealth gave them a competitive advantage over other migrant groups (eg. the Parsi ) in the region, while the diversity of frontier society gave them the opportunity to act as business intermediaries across ethnic and social boundaries.
Using previously unexplored family archival sources, this study will investigate how the Kadoorie family became a major financier of Shanghai’s rubber market. It will focus on their migrations, transnational investments in rubber plantations, and cross-border financial operations. It will examine how they weathered the booms and busts of the international rubber market, the fall of the British Empire and the rise of state-building in China.