Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Business as Usual

16 May 1141
Pharmacy, 14th century

In the professions of druggist, pharmacist, and perfumer, medieval Jews were represented out of all proportion to their number. These were the most popular occupations among them. Consequently, medical plants and preparations, spices and aromatics, as well as perfumes and incenses constituted the main items of the Jewish overseas trade. These commodities were imported from India and the Far East. On 16 May 1141 a  Jewish India trader from Aden shipped two bales of sappanwood (supplier of red dye), two bales of cowrie shells (to be used as blackening powder), ten pounds of ashbah wood (a costly odoriferous wood) and a pound of old camphor to his son in Alexandria. 'Know, my son, that this voyage will not bring much profit, unless God, the exalted, ordains otherwise.'

S.D. Goitein, Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders (1973) 17 and passim