India Traders of the Middle Ages

Documents from the Cairo Geniza 'India Book'


The India trade in Oriental spices, pharmaceutical, dyeing and other materials was the backbone of medieval economy, especially in the Islamic world. A unique source of documentation is now available in 11th-12th century Geniza letters, written in Judeo-Arabic (Middle Arabic in Hebrew characters), by participants in this activity. The documents are presented in translation with an introduction and notes. They deal with economic history and material, social, and spiritual civilization. Besides illuminating the activities of the Jewish traders of the Indian Ocean and their families in the territories from the Far East to southern Arabia and Egypt, the letters contain valuable information on Jewish and Islamic culture, relations between Jews and Arabs, Mediterranean culture, and Judeo-Arabic.

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S. D. Goitein (1900-1985) was the world’s preeminent Geniza scholar. His publications include the seminal six-volume A Mediterranean Society.
Mordechai A. Friedman, Ph.D. (1969), University of Pennsylvania, is Professor of Geniza Studies at Tel-Aviv University. His most recent book is Maimonides, the Yemenite Messiah and Apostasy.
Chapter One Letters and Documents on the India Trade in Medieval Times—A Preview
Chapter Two Dramatis Personae
A. Joseph b. David Lebdi and his Family
B. Maḍmūn b. Ḥasan-Japheth and his Family
B1. Maḥrūz b. Jacob
C. Abraham Ben Yijū and his Family
C1. The Ibn al-Amshāṭī Family
Chapter Three Select Studies on Shipping and Travel
A. Nākhudās—Shipowners and Captains
B. Dangers in Travel and in Shipping Goods by Land and Sea
Chapter One Joseph B. David Lebdi and his Family
A. Lawsuit of Jekuthiel al-Ḥakīm vs. Joseph Lebdi
B. Lawsuit of Ibn Sughmār vs. Joseph Lebdi
C. Additional Geniza Papers on Joseph Lebdi
D. The Lebdi Family
Chapter Two Maḍmūn B. Ḥasan-Japheth, Prince of Yemenite Jewry, and his Family
A. Ḥasan b. Bundār, his Brothers Abraham and Isaac, and Elder Son Bundār II
B. Business Letters Sent by Maḍmūn b. Ḥasan to India
C. Letters and Memoranda Sent by Maḍmūn to Egypt (Cairo-Fustat)
D. Internal Yemenite Affairs
E. Hebrew Poems by Abraham Ben Yijū in Honor of Maḍmūn
F. Joseph b. Abraham b. Bundār, Maḍmūn’s Cousin
G. Khalaf b. Isaac b. Bundār, Maḍmūn’s Cousin
H. Maḥrūz b. Jacob son of Maḍmūn’s Paternal Aunt
I. Maḍmūn b. Ḥasan’s Descendents
J. Shipwrecked Merchants, Whose Estates were Cared for by Maḍmūn I and his Successors
Chapter Three Abraham Ben Yijū and his Family
A. Letters sent to Ben Yijū by Maḍmūn b. Ḥasan (See II, 13–31)
B. Letters sent to Ben Yijū by Joseph b. Abraham
C. Letters sent to Ben Yijū by Khalaf b. Isaac
D. Documents Related to Abraham Ben Yijū During his Stay in India and Yemen
E. Correspondence after Leaving India and while Returning ‘Home’
List of Works Cited and Abbreviations
Indexes of Geniza Texts and Literary Sources
Name and Subject Index
All those interested in medieval trade, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean studies, Jewish and Islamic studies, relations between Jews and Arabs, material culture and daily life in the Middle Ages, Judeo-Arabic.
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