Merchants, Army Suppliers, Bankers: Transregional Connections and the Rise of Warsaw’s Jewish Mercantile Elite (1770-1820)

Cornelia Aust

University of Pennsylvania

This paper explores the rise of the Jewish mercantile elite in Warsaw from its beginnings around the last third of the eighteenth century into the first two decades of the nineteenth century. It examines how Jewish merchants and entrepreneurs from the vicinity of Warsaw and from outside of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth established and used familial and commercial connections to gain access to the economic opportunities the Polish capital had to offer at the turn of the century. It further explores the entry of members of the Jewish mercantile elite into army supplying and the subsequent shift into banking arguing that in many ways the latter was a logical extension of the first. Eventually, the move into banking as well as the political shifts with the establishment of the Congress Kingdom of Poland altered the role of the members of the Jewish mercantile elite within the wider commercial networks of European Jewry.

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