The Global Merchants: The Enterprise and Extravagance of the Sassoon Dynasty by Joseph Sassoon

The acclaimed and award-winning story of the Sassoons, one of the 19th century’s preeminent commercial families and ‘the Rothschilds of the East’.

‘Vivid and richly researched’ – Justin Marozzi, The Sunday Times

‘Wonderfully rich’ – Niall Ferguson

‘Fascinating’ – Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian


The Global Merchants: The Enterprise and Extravagance of the Sassoon Dynasty

Joseph Sassoon

29th February 2024 | Penguin | 978-0241388655| £14.99 | Paperback


The Sassoons were one of the great business dynasties of the nineteenth century, as eminent as traders as the Rothschilds were bankers. This book reveals the secrets behind the family’s phenomenal success: how a handful of Jewish exiles from Ottoman Baghdad forged a mercantile juggernaut from their new home in colonial Bombay, the vast network of agents, informants and politicians they built, and the way they came to bridge East and West, culturally as well as commercially.

The lives that these ambitious figures built for themselves draws us into a captivating world of politics and power, innovation and intrigue, high society and empire. The Global Merchants is thus at once a portrait of a single family and a panorama of the hundred and thirty years of their prominence: from the Opium Wars to the American Civil War, the establishment of the British Raj to India’s independence. Together these give a fresh perspective on one of the defining forces of their age and the present: globalization. The Sassoons were variously its agents, advocates and casualties, and watching them moving through the world, we perceive the making of our own.

Joseph Sassoon is Professor of History and Political Economy at Georgetown University, a Senior Associate Member at St Antony’s College, Oxford and a Trustee of the Bodleian Library. His ancestors were forcibly separated from the Sassoons of this book early in the nineteenth century, but he is fluent in the languages they spoke and the obscure Judeo-Arabic script – indecipherable to previous historians – they used in their private communications, and which are the foundation of this book. Born in Baghdad, Joseph Sassoon fled the country as a teenage refugee with his family in the 1970s, studied in Oxford and now lives and works in Washington DC.

For further information, to request a review copy, article or interview, please contact:

Jane Lau, jane.lau@midaspr.co.uk