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1 Re: TB, a Levant Company Factor on Pilgrimage, 1669 by Administration on February 16, 2007, 03:27:14 AM
Commercial beginnings: the Levant Company

In 1578 two London merchants sent their agent William Harborne, to Constantinople in the hope of obtaining for English merchants the right to fly their own flag in Turkish waters, a concession previously granted only to the French.

Queen Elizabeth I exchanged letters with the Sultan in 1579 and in 1580 Harborne obtained ''capitulations" granting to English merchants in Turkey privileges similar to those accorded to the French.

Soon afterwards the Levant Company was formed in London. In 1583 Harborne returned to Constantinople bearing gifts from the Queen and was received by the Sultan, thus becoming in effect England's first official diplomatic representative.

Among Harborne's gifts was a clock valued at more than ?500 sterling, an enormous sum for those days. A later gift from the Queen was an automatic organ also featuring an elaborate clock which was presented to the Sultan in 1599. Clocks were greatly prized in Turkey at that time, because their manufacture there was forbidden and it was not permitted to display them in public places. All these rich gifts were paid for by the Levant Company, which for many years also paid the salaries of the English Ambassadors to Turkey.

For the next two centuries the history of British relations with Turkey is mainly the history of the Levant Company, which remained a power in the eastern Mediterranean until it was taken over by the British Government in 1821.

A developing relationship
Commercial contacts were the main channel by which information about Turkey was transmitted to Britain. Tulips and coffee were particularly popular imports, and coffee drinking became a fashionable craze in the 17th century.

The establishment of coffee houses in London as centresfor news and gossip, and their subsequent development into meeting places for those interested in scientific or political questions, was an important aspect of English intellectual life at this time.

Later, other Turkish imports became popular, notably hamam (Turkish baths) and lokum (Turkish delight).

Fascination with the customs and manners of a civilisation perceived as exotic and different drew many European travellers to the Ottoman Empire, as the Turkish Empire in Europe, Asia and Africa was known.

Among the distinguished Britons who have left us lively accounts of their impresressions are Sir Paul Rycaut, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the Countess of Elgin (wives of British Ambassadors appointed to Constantinople) and the English poet Lord Byron. Less is known about traffic in the other direction, although a Turkish envoy, Mustafa Cavus, is known to have visited the Court of King James 1 of  England in 1607. The first Turkish account of England seems to have been written by an official in the suite of the first resident Turkish Ambassador to Britain, appointed in 1793. He reached London in 1795. Needless to say, he found the British weather disagreeable! This appointment ushered in a period of: particularly close relations between Britain and Turkey.

Davis, Ralph. Aleppo and Devonshire Square: English Traders in the Levant in the Eighteenth Century. London: Macmillan, 1967.
The Levant Company's history and organization are described in great detail, including both the factors in Aleppo and the merchants at Devonshire Square in London. Davis discusses the trade routes in the Levant, the goods being traded such as silk and cloth, and the daily lives of individuals in the trade.
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TB, a Levant Company Factor on Pilgrimage, 1669

by Jonathan Picarsic


The role of religion within society over the past four hundred years has changed dramatically with the end result being the gradual weakening of the institution. Prior to the scientific revolution, religion dominated each and every aspect of human society. It gave people a common social bond, a belief system, it controlled thought, it explained the world, and it controlled governments. Science, however, began to wear away at the power of religion as a social institution in the 16th and 17th centuries, and today has become society's dominant institution. Science has influenced change in the structure of society in many ways. It has helped to distribute power to more people, create more social isolation, and new devices for the control and pacification of the masses. It has also given rise to technology, which has been used by nations like Great Britain to dominate the world, economically, socially, and politically. Interestingly enough though, one aspect of many religions that has benefited from technology and science is the pilgrimage. The world has become more "pilgrim friendly" and the number of individuals capable of making pilgrimages has increased, while religion as a whole has suffered. One possible reason for this could be that the pilgrimage reflects many of the characteristics of modern society. The pilgrimage and modern society are individualistic, global, and isolated.

This travel diary written by an English factor in Aleppo during the beginning stages of this global social transformation in 1669, displays vividly the relationship between the pilgrimage of his life and his life as a factor, while viewing this evolving world through the Levant Company's presence in the Middle East, specifically Aleppo. It relates the personal history of a faceless pilgrim to a changing human society and growing faceless imperial nation, England.

The creation of a monopoly called the Levant Company, with the mergers of the Turkey and Venice Companies in 1592, began Great Britain's rise to dominance in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Though eventually not the most important aspect of their arsenal, the Levant provided a large market for broadcloth, the roots for the creation of the East India Company, and a testing ground for future political endeavors. TB lived during the heart of the economic and political growth of England, and at the height of the Levant Trade.

Factors of the Levant Company, such as TB, acted as imperial surveyors and puppets for not only the leading merchants in the company, but also for the monarchy of England. They individually sought to acquire great wealth for themselves, while most of the time never accomplishing these goals. However, their individual actions helped to establish England as the world's most powerful country by the end of the seventeenth century through imperialism via the market. This led to bigger and better things throughout the world, specifically in India and North America.

Biography of Traveler:

Unfortunately, little knowledge of the author of this travel diary can be known considering only his initials, TB, were left with the work to identify him at all. However, the author did leave clues about his identity in the travel diary, while other generalizations can be made about his age and social class due to his employment. TB worked as a factor with the Levant Company in Aleppo in and around the year, 1669. He was an English citizen and a Protestant. His letter describing his trip to Jerusalem was to a friend in London, who most likely was not just a friend, but also the merchant of the Levant Company he was working with.

In most cases, this would suggest an age anywhere between twenty and thirty years old; most young men served in the Levant beginning in their late teens and early twenties and stayed for usually seven, eight, or ten years.1 As for social class, many factors were sons or apprentices of an established London merchant in the Levant Trade, while still others got into the trade when their fathers bought into factoring houses.2 The prices on apprenticeship premiums ranged from modest to extravagantly large, which gives the impression that almost all of the factors came from at least upper middle class families, if not the elite.

Also, only an extremely small minority of factors had wives, either in the Levant or back in England. Most came to the Levant at an early age which didn't allow enough time for marriage, while the Levant Company strongly discouraged factors from marrying the local women, even though relatively large populations of Christians were present in the cities, especially Aleppo.3

These general characteristics of factors may not fit this traveler at all, and TB could well have been thirty-five, married, and from a poor family, but some kind of a broader picture of these men needed to be formed. And although no clear picture of who this traveler was can be developed, this ambiguous figure represents ideally what a pilgrim should be: a nameless, faceless, and humble worshiper of an entity that pays homage to the utmost power and good of a god. This nameless worker also blends into the background of the Levant Company as it established England as global economic power.


In April or May of 1669, trade at the factory in Aleppo stopped when the plague inched closer and closer to the city as it ravaged the surrounding villages. Usually when this occurred, the factors would take a two-day journey to the Beilan Mountains just west of the city, where they would wait out the epidemic.4 Ironically, TB's journey to Jerusalem with thirteen other factors from Aleppo began in May of 1669. It seems that this respite in the trade proved to be a perfect time to either go on an exploration or meet some needs within the spiritual aspect of their lives. In the diary, TB mixes detailed accounts of each religious location pertaining to the pilgrimage with several accounts about the fortification of port cities, the condition of the towns, and the main trades of the areas. This makes it difficult to come to a conclusion why these men went to Jerusalem, but it can be assumed that they probably went for both reasons.

On Tuesday May 3, the group set sail from Scanderoon, a port city sixty miles west of Aleppo, on the Margaret with Thomas Middleton as the Commander. Poor weather and unfavorable winds prevented them from reaching the port of Tripoli until May 10. After three days of lingering in Tripoli, they went to Coffersinue in the direction of Mt. Lebanon, a town that was a two hours ride away and was inhabited by fellow Christians. On May 14 they proceeded to the small town of Eden, where a group of Maronites lived. The bishop then took them among the Cedars where it is said that Adam fell, when he ate the forbidden fig in Heaven. After spending two nights in the company of several bishops, including one from Aleppo, the group set back by horse to Tripoli on May 16.

On the eighteenth, they set sail for Joppa and because of bad weather once again they had to stop, this time at Aerica, where they saw the tomb of Elisha. They reached Joppa on May 23, and by the next day the company made its way to Ramah. They waited there for a day in need of special permission to enter Jerusalem, because word had reached the area that plague had struck in Aleppo. Interestingly, TB seemed surprised by this claim, even though it seems that he would have already known about it. He states the reason for the delay, "because of some extravagant Stories that flew abroad, of the Plague raging in the place from whence we came."5 This possibly shows that the men lied about when they left Aleppo, in order to be admitted into Jerusalem. The group entered Jerusalem on the twenty-fifth through the Joppa Gate by foot, where they needed to get a license to enter the city and to give up all swords and other arms.

For the next ten days, these factors would be in and around the city of Jerusalem viewing what seemed to be each and every location of historical significance to the Christian religion. The group saw hundreds of locations within the city itself, and then went to Bethlehem, Jericho, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.

On June 4, the group left Jerusalem and the next day reached Ramath, where they set sail in a small boat and rode along the shore in fear of storms. On the eighth of June, they ported at Aerica and then sailed to Tripoli. At this point in the diary, TB doesn't report day-to-day activities, because they stay in Tripoli and then the mountains west of Aleppo for some time in order to wait out the plague. They arrive in Scanderoon on June 26, where he states that many were still dying. Then on July 2, the group makes it back to Aleppo, even though the plague was still in full force there.

History of Text:

TB's travel diary was first printed in 1672 in London three years after his pilgrimage in the book, A Journey to Jerusalem: or, a relation of the travels of fourteen Englishmen, in the year, 1669.. The book consisted of the diary and a short preface by Nathaniel Crouch that discussed Palestine and the Holy Land. The printing is attributed to an individual with the initials T.M. Crouch reprinted the diary in 1683 in the book, Two Journeys to Jerusalem, which also contained a travel diary of Henry Timberlake, a story on the Great Council of Jews in Hungary by Samuel Brett, a story on a false Messiah in Smyrna, and an introduction on Palestine by Crouch. This edition was also printed in London, but the printer is unknown. This collection by Crouch was printed in both of its forms several times in the United States and Europe until the end of the eighteenth century. Four locations and times of printings are known in the United States: Boston 1716, Philadelphia 1794, Poughkeepsie 1794, and Hartford 1796. Only one other European edition can be documented, and it was printed in Glasgow in the late 18th Century.

The history of this text cannot be complete though without discussing the individual who first sold this diary. The London bookseller Nathaniel Crouch, a particularly uncommon name in history, gives this diary an extremely interesting subplot. He wrote books, collected pieces, and rewrote material in the 17th Century under the pseudonyms of Richard or Robert Burton and then sold them to the average Londoner for a bargain price of one schilling.6 Crouch collected and wrote histories on a number subjects including the secret histories of kings, these travel diaries, and works on the English Civil War. He was an extremely popular bookseller and author in his day, even though in more ways than one he was a hack writer. John Dunton stated "I think I have given you the very soul of this Character, when I have told you that his talent lies in Collection."7 Robert Mayer argues in an article about Crouch that he intentionally targeted the ordinary people of London with his popular histories, which enabled them to both gain power in society through knowledge and also get a taste of the rather alien lifestyle of the elite during this time period. Mayer also states that Crouch influenced not only this balancing of power throughout English society, but the rise of the consumer revolution and commercialization of leisure.8 Crouch in essence gave common people a glimpse of reality outside of their daily lives, something that was far too uncommon up to that point in human history. This text most likely gave many religious individuals an up close look at the historical sites of their religion and faith, which is a great way to sell books and give people a sense of identity as they read about a fellow Englishman in the Holy Land.

Introduction to A Journey to Jerusalem and the Historical Context:

Although this journey for the most part seems to be of religious nature, TB can't keep his eyes off characteristics of cities like fortification, the well-being of citizens, and of what was being traded. For instance, he states this about Tripoli, the "port is guarded by six small Castles near the sea, and one great Castle upon the land," and this about Joppa, it "hath one Castle to defend those ships that come close to the shore."9 He also mentions about goods being traded in the towns such as silk at Tripoli and potashes for soap and cotton at Joppa.10 He stops this examination of locations once he enters Jerusalem though; there he writes only about the significant locations the group visits and the kind people that they meet there. The places of interest encompass too many locations and historical moments to list, but in the diary TB numerically lists each and every place throughout the ten days they spent in and around the city of Jerusalem.

TB is also extremely critical of Arabs throughout the diary, sometimes condescending towards them, while other times fearful of them. This represents a culture clash of competing people; he shows no ill regards for Jews or Catholics within the text, only for Arabs. This dislike of the Arab culture is reiterated by the fact that Aleppo factors rarely integrated themselves within the local people and culture, and lived a separate life at their respective factory houses.11

In 1669, Aleppo and all of the Holy Land was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. This anger and sense of superiority shown by TB towards Arabs was a microcosm of the way that England as a nation felt towards not only the Ottoman Empire, but also all other non-Western European people, even though these societies held global power and contained advanced cultures. England held the stance of being the superior people, though at this time the Ottoman Empire had nothing to fear from the English and used trade as a pacifier for European nations. It's interesting to view the rise of Great Britain through the Levant trade within a more dominant society, the Ottoman Empire, during the 17th and 18th centuries. It shows the continuing cycle of power distribution and the rise and fall of human civilizations.

In 1669, England was in a period of Restoration after a period of fifty years of intense warfare throughout Europe had culminated with the end of the English Civil War in 1660. This restoration included expanded global trade with both the Levant and East India Companies, and imperialism that stretched to all parts of the globe. Most nations in Europe had already began these practices before Great Britain began to thrive during these times, but the English would gradually surpass all other European nations in both the amount of trading done and also in the control of foreign lands.

Also, the idea of science was flourishing throughout Europe. England in 1662 created the Royal Society of London for improving natural knowledge, while France in 1666 created the French Academy of Sciences. These new ideas and technology created by science greatly aided these imperial armies and trading companies of Europe to gain power across the earth.

The trading between the east and west led to many favorable consequences, but one rather negative consequence of these mobile people was the transferring of the plague from one town to the next. Also contributing to the movement of the plague in the Middle East was pilgrimage traffic through the various cities. TB and company experienced the plague in Aleppo in 1669 that killed an estimated 150,000 people in the area from April through September.12 This amount of the dead could be exaggerated, though, when a closer examination of the population of Aleppo is looked at later in this paper, but for certain a large number of people perished. The plague also took the life of twelve English factors; approximately a quarter of the factory died that summer.13 And although this rapid interaction of people routinely led to the passing of plague, the disease was considerably more persistent in the Middle East during these times after the Second Plague in 1347 than Europe, because of a lack of medical understanding of the disease in these societies and from strong religious beliefs of Muslims.14 It was all too common for the clothes and belongings of plague victims to be sold in the marketplace in the Middle East.15 Europeans avoided the diseases in the area by either locking themselves in their houses or by leaving the city, as was the case of factors in Aleppo who fled to the mountains west of the city.

In general, TB lived during a time period that saw many of the beginnings of social change that would eventually led to the modern world.


The main focus of this paper will be on the Levant Company in Aleppo and the role that it played in the development of English worldwide power. The city of Aleppo and English imperialism were each a result, however, of a transforming world that was forming out of the ashes of institutionalized religion. The rise of Aleppo and England coincided with the rise in technology pertaining to transportation, communication, and industrialization. Also, the relationship between the life of TB as a factor and his pilgrimage will be examined. For example, he lived and worked at a location where different ways of life intersected, one could say a crossroads of cultures. While a pilgrimage is also a type of crossroads; it pertains to the intersection of the earthly and divine or the known and unknown for human believers. This traveler seemed to linger somewhere in between, and his unidentified place in history perpetuates this point.

The Levant Company:

A royal charter created the Levant Company in 1592 when the Turkey and Venice Companies charters were not renewed, but amalgamated into one larger monopoly.16 The queen granted the charter for twelve years, while limiting the participating merchants to only fifty-three in what was called "the Governor and Company of merchants of the Levant."17 Many other merchants petitioned and protested against the limited number of people in the company, claiming that fifty years ago more English merchants traded with Turkey than today. Non-members were permitted by the company to trade in the Levant, but the company put an extra duty of 20% on all of their goods, which for the most part eliminated these merchants.18

The creation of the Levant Company opened up large scale trading in the Middle East for the first time. It also provided a permanent bureaucracy that would uphold the provisions of the charter and the capitulation's of the Sultan to the English merchants in the region. These rights were first granted in 1580 and last revised in 1675, but before these rights the Turkish governments gave no special privileges or protection to foreigners trading there. The new rights acted like an insurance policy as well as a police service. The company set up ambassadors in Constantinople and consuls in Aleppo and Smyrna, who protected the rights of the traders while also collecting duties on the goods being exchanged.

A large-scale market in the Middle East meant that English exports such as cloth and tin found a massive consumer basis that for the most part was absent before. And as early as 1583, the founders of the company sent John Newbury from Aleppo through the Persian Gulf to India and Burma to scope out other possibilities for the trade.19 In thought and practice, these merchants created the basis for the East India Company's trade in the region and for the foundation of that company in the years to come. Within the first five years of existence, the Levant Company thrived and established the largest mercantile shipping fleet in the world, which consisted of 19 ships and 782 seamen.20 The main export was cloth along with tin, lead, and fur, while the main import was silk along with currants, coffee, pepper, and calico. And although the company may have brought in exotic and interesting goods from the east, it was certainly never an importing company. The design behind this entity was for the exportation of English cloth, and the search for new buyers of this good.21

The structure of the Levant Company resembled closely the internal structure of many modern corporations. The company displayed qualities of an enormous bureaucracy that put many rules and restrictions on its merchants and factors, while also having qualities of individualism and free enterprise. All actions eventually were determined and monitored by the monarchy, but the chain of leadership and power within the company went from a Governor located in London to ambassadors and consuls in Constantinople, Smyrna, and Aleppo to individual merchants in London, and then finally to the factors in the Levant. Other positions and jobs such as secretaries, treasurers, assistants, agents, and interpreters helped to create a small economic army in the Levant for the crown. The number of rules forced on factors and the duties paid to the Company were enormous, but these men were not lost inside a bureaucracy. The characteristics of capitalism and free enterprise are seen in the fact that factors and merchants did not act together as one cohesive group; they traded as individuals and as they profited so did the company as a whole. The more goods that were traded meant that more money from duties on the goods would help to keep the company afloat and the leaders rich. During peacetime in Aleppo, goods being imported and exported were taxed around two to four percent of their values, while during war the duties rose from seven to up to fifteen percent of the value of the goods such as silk and cloth.22

The height of the company came after the monarchy was restored in 1660, and it lasted for approximately fifty years. In 1661, a new charter for the company was created, which revised the rights granted to them in 1605. Many of the revisions clamped down on membership and put more restrictions on the factors in Aleppo, Smyrna, and Constantinople. For instance, English subjects in the Levant who refused the authority of company agents were to be sent home for punishment, and the authority was given to double the duties on aliens trading within the company's monopoly under the English flag.23 The average shipment of English cloth to the Levant between was an astounding 19,863 bales per year. The prosperity of these times, though, slowly wore away at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century because of the outbreak of war with France in 1689, increased competition in the Levant by the French, and from the cheaper and more efficient silk trade of the East India Company.24 The demise of the Levant Company will be examined later, when the rise of a global England is discussed.

Life of an Aleppo Factor:

The life of an Aleppo factor in the 17th century resembles closely the life of a cash fisherman in Alaska in the present day. Each gives the individual the opportunity to earn a substantial amount of money, while providing intense hardship and the possibility of not earning anything at all. Most factors came to Aleppo as young inexperienced men, in search of a small fortune that would be acquired in approximately ten years. However, these men had to deal with fluctuating markets for the goods being traded, epidemics of plague and cholera, thieves on the caravan route, and small pay and high duties for most of their stay. All in all, the majority of factors at Aleppo did make a substantial amount of money, though only a small minority made a fortune like John Verney, who returned to London in the 1670's and became a shareholder in the Levant and East India Companies and an investor in the Guinea trade.25 On average the longer the factor was in Aleppo the more money he made. In the first five years of his stay, a factor might make somewhere around 5,000 dollars a year, while in the remaining years a factor could make upwards of 10,000 dollars a year.26

One common characteristic of most factors in Aleppo was social isolation from both their home country of England and from the city they lived in. These men left the culture of their youth and were placed in a society that was unfashionable and unlivable in their minds. Communication with family and friends back in London was a slow and arduous process. Sometimes it took around a year for letters to reach their intended location, while factors were in constant business dialogue with their principles in London, a practice that was devoid of family and extremely depersonalized.

As for isolation within Aleppo itself, factors rarely connected with the culture of the local people or the region as a whole. Abraham Marcus provides a well-written piece describing this unique subculture in Aleppo at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

They lived in Aleppo as foreign nationals protected by extraterritorial privileges guaranteed in agreements between their governments and the sultan. Their respective consuls in Aleppo represented their collective interests and individual affairs before the authorities. Although some of them stayed for many years they remained outsiders to Aleppo's community. The city was for them but a temporary business station, an alien place where they lived comfortably but constantly sighed for home. Only an odd few brought wives with them or married local women. They lived in several caravanserais in the heart of the business district, away from the residential areas of the local population. Few of them bothered to learn Arabic.27

And although they may have been a privileged subclass, it could not have been a great situation for these men to be in. The separation from family and isolation within a different culture must have worked on these men's psyche.

This aspect of TB's life relates closely to the idea of pilgrimage and to anyone who is an outsider in a society. A factor in Aleppo and a pilgrim in the Holy Land may be two extremely distinct social roles, but they are united by the fact that each are outsiders in their respective locations. Clearly, TB was isolated from his home country and cut off from the culture of the Middle East and Aleppo, but interestingly enough he played this same role when he made his pilgrimage. All pilgrims enter a world distant and unique from the society that they had left, if they did not then there would be no use for the pilgrimage as a religious facet in the first place. The pilgrimage forces an individual to function in a totally new way, one in which there are no social crutches other than a shared belief. The pilgrim depends on guides, druggermen, and local religious figures to guide them through a divine place, while a factor must rely on local merchants, principles in far away London, and other individuals who are strangers. The factor could be called an economic pilgrim, but that would be a misrepresentation of the idea of pilgrimage. These two aspects of TB's life portray an individual on the fringes of each society that he is involved with, the English society, Aleppo's, and the Holy Land's. TB is an outsider who helps the nation of England benefit economically, while his travel diary benefits the people of England both culturally and religiously.

As for the daily work of a factor, it always revolved around the shipment of goods, bartering, and the annual collection of the silk cocoons. The shipping of goods entails an entire process which includes getting a fair price from your principle, getting the goods to port and then safely through the caravan route to and from Aleppo, and then the disposal of them by way of bartering with an Armenian or Jewish broker.28 Each of these aspects created detailed problems for a factor. For example, a factor needed to know exactly when to sell his goods in order to make maximum profit off of them; if sold too soon or late, a huge loss could be absorbed. Also, many factors personally transported goods from Scanderoon to Aleppo and vice versa, because of high risk of getting goods stolen on the camel caravan in between.29

As for bartering, the difficulty of this trade occurred when silk and cloth were being exchanged. There was no way that cloth could be traded for silk without money being involved. Two main reasons made this difficult. One reason being that factors rarely had money to give during a trade, they had to write notes to brokers that would then be payable in twelve months. The other was that the company forbid sales of "trust and time" after 1672, which made it almost impossible for English factors to trade silk. Opposition arose and very few factors went by this oath, because if they did they would not have been able to trade.30 The factors in Aleppo also would rarely trade directly with native Arab merchants, possibly because of distrust or for the language barrier, while usually working with the aforementioned Armenian and Jewish brokers.

The last central aspect of work in Aleppo was the racolta. The first silk came through the bazaars in early July each year, so every factor needed to be out in the streets and discussing the new silk.31 This would indicate why TB and the other factors returned to Aleppo when the plague was still going on, and why it was not a big deal for the factory to close in early summer. Early summer was the deadest trading time of the year in Aleppo, because the year revolved around silk so the end of the silk year happened to be April, May, and June. From July to September however, the factor was busy bartering cloth and organizing and cleaning the new crop of silk. The English Aleppo factor always needed to sell his broadcloth and find silk to be able to make a profit.

The factors in Aleppo may have been extremely busy during some parts of the year, but during other times there was nothing to do, so they had to have some sort of recreation and fun. One such fun activity was cricket, which was played at a place called "Greene Platte" some four miles outside the city.32 Other activities ranged from singing and dancing to putting on short plays, but one leisure activity was the most popular: hunting. The land outside of Aleppo had a wide variety of game such as ducks, hare, woodcock, and gazelles. The factors would use greyhounds and falcons in a hunt that was organized with a Master, two assistants, and a treasurer.33 The life of an Aleppo factor was one of risk, isolation, and reward within a city at the crossroads of Eastern and Western societies. The idea of this lifestyle must have been extremely exciting for these individuals before they arrived in the Levant, but once they began trading in Aleppo they found themselves in a quasi-hell.


The city of Aleppo competes with Damascus for the title of oldest continually inhabited city in the world, but it did not play a dominant role in the region until the sixteenth century. Aleppo is located at the edge of the Syrian desert some sixty miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, and about that same distance from the Euphrates River. The commercial rise of Aleppo primarily occurred after the Ottoman conquest of Syria in 1516.34 The Sultan Selim I wanted to use Aleppo to secure caravan trade routes in the region and to unite the Ottoman Empire.35 Before and during this time, Venetian merchants had discovered the silk and cotton of Northern Syria, but other European nations had not yet found the trading possibilities in Aleppo.

The city lay between many of the trade routes throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, which then eventually led to India and other areas. Aleppo at first dealt with this caravan trade within the region, but by the end of the sixteenth century Aleppo had also become the major trade center for colonial powers. In 1548, the Venetians transferred their Syrian consul to Aleppo, the French established one in 1557, and the English set up residence in Tripoli in 1583, and then in Aleppo in 1586.36 The ever-growing presence of Europeans in Aleppo, also led to the construction and development of the city itself by the Ottomans. In what were called waafs, pious endowments, new buildings, mosques, and warehouses were built across the city, doubling the size of the core of central Aleppo.37 And even though these were pious endowments, they were actually sound investments by the cities elite in a time of great growth and economic fortune.

These beginning stages of the European entrance into the Aleppo silk and cotton market also marked the beginning over the debate of which port city would be the hub of the Aleppo trade, Tripoli or Scanderoon. Scanderoon would be the eventual winner of the battle, because of a shorter distance in between the two and because it had less disease and thievery than Tripoli. Scanderoon was only a two to three day trip to Aleppo, while from Tripoli it took eight days, but while Scanderoon was thought to be less problematic with disease and robbers, in essence it turned out to be just as bad as Tripoli.

The beginning of the 17th century began the development of Aleppo into a culturally diverse, trading metropolis; the leading city in Syria, even surpassing Damascus. The population estimates range from 80, 000 people to over 250,000 people. The most accepted research comes from Andr� Raymond, who after studying the construction of neighborhoods in Aleppo and the Ottoman census, comes to the conclusion that the population of Aleppo probably was on the lower end of the spectrum. He estimated the population in 1537 to be around 80,000, while in 1683 to be around 115,000, and though the figures are much lower than other estimations, Aleppo would still be about the fourth largest city in the Middle East during this time.38 The population mostly consisted of Muslims, with about twenty thousand Christians and four thousand Jews contributing to the diversity of the city.39 The city's population also included people from many different cultures such as Kurds, Turkmen, Bedouin Arabs, and many others, including the merchants of Europe.

Of the inhabitants of the city, there was great stratification and separation of different classes of people. A few elite individuals with great wealth and from powerful families governed the city, along side the Ottomans and foreign dignitaries. The city was organized into around eighty-two distinct neighborhoods, each usually housing a separate social group such as the Kurdish quarter and the Persian area.40 Only one-third, twenty-eight, of the neighborhoods were inside the city walls, while twenty-nine in the east, sixteen in the north, and nine in both the south and west were located outside the walls of the city.41 And although many of the ethnic groups lived interchangeably throughout these neighborhoods, one common theme developed where certain social classes lived. The wealthier people lived in and around the central market of Aleppo, while the poor lived usually outside the city walls or toward the outskirts.42 Aleppo, at the end of the seventeenth century, was a thriving place that had culture, trade, and wealth. It held the characteristics of all cities throughout history that attract a wide variety of individuals for a multitude of differing reasons.

End of the Levant Trade, East India Company, and Imperialism:

The Levant Company's trade and profits began to decline as early as the first quarter of the 18th century and finally ended in 1825. The reason for the eventual decline in the trade can be attributed to a multitude of causes. Heavy fighting between the Ottomans and Iran held back trade, along with robbery and extortion. During the late 17th century and 18th century, many wars with the French and Spanish hindered the trade and the safety of factors in the area, while also the rise of the French trade hurt the Levant Company, which was ill prepared for competition because of it's monopolistic nature. The Company began to have continuous money problems and shortages of workers; at one point in 1702 only two factors remained in Aleppo from the company. In 1767, the Company had to begin asking for aide from the government, because it was unable to pay for the ambassador and consuls in the Levant.43

One other major reason for the decline of the trade was from the competition of the Indian silk provided by the East India Company. Ironically as mentioned earlier, the foundation of the East India Company came from Levant factors and merchants, while many of the first leaders of the company actually were past Levant merchants. In 1680, the Levant Company filed allegations against the East India Company to the monarchy in order to put regulations on the trade of Indian silk so that Syrian silk could compete.44 Nothing was ever done in the favor of either side, but that meant that the government had sided with the East India Company, whose silk trade was far superior.

By the end of the eighteenth century, most European nations had all but left the Middle East in search of the goods that had been the staple of the trade there for two centuries. For example, only one percent of English trade took place there now, while earlier in the 18th century it had been over ten percent.45 Cities in the Middle East weren't even buying local products like Arabian coffee or regional sugar, but now were consuming colonial goods because of the strength of European competition.46

The Levant Company was the stepping-stone for imperial England to gain control of markets and land in India, Africa, North America, and the West Indies. The Company never contributed anything grand to history like say it's extension the East India Company, but it did help influence the economic and political power that England would eventually obtain.


Even though the Levant Company eventually failed and trade in the Levant tapered off, this institution gave a strong foundation for future English endeavors. The ending of the trade did not mean the failure of it, only a changing of the times. A change that marked the social, political, and economic weakening of Middle East society, and the growth and strengthening of European powers such as Great Britain in a time period that saw the weakening of religion and the benefits of science. Great Britain and other European nations reaped the rewards of technology and science, while this new wave of social thought passed up the Middle East society. The Company may not have been perfect, it had many flaws, but it was extremely successful considering it was one of Great Britain's first institutionalized attempts at dominating a global marketplace. It amassed capital, increased shipping and trade, reduced prices on eastern goods, and introduced new found goods into England.46 Some of the more important imported goods being coffee and cotton, which created strong domestic industries within England. The Levant Company was also a great mediator and ambassador between the monarchy of England and the Ottoman Empire for close to two hundred years.

As for TB, he was an outsider, both in his life as a factor in Aleppo and in the pilgrimage he took to Jerusalem. This outsider, however, provided two greatly needed services for his mother country. First, he aided in the growth of British trade by selling cloth and buying silk in a market that established England's future worldwide dominance. Secondly, his travels to Jerusalem published for Nathaniel Crouch must have been quite informative to common Londoners and they also must have given them a glimpse into a world very few individuals in England see, the Holy Land.


1 Ralph Davis, Aleppo and Devonshire Square: English Traders in the Levant in the Eighteenth Century, (London: Macmillan, 1967), 66.

2 Gwilym Ambrose, "English Traders at Aleppo)," The Economic History Review,), 246-247.

3 Abraham Marcus, The Middle East on the eve of Modernity, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 346.

4 Ambrose, 265.

5 Nathaniel Crouch (printed for), A Journey to Jerusalem, (London: TM, 1672), 17-18.

6 Robert Mayer, "Nathaniel Crouch, Bookseller and Historian: Popular Historiography and Cultural Power in Late Seventeenth-Century England," Eighteenth Century Studies, 94(Spr. 1994), 393-95.

7 John Dunton, Life and Errors of John Dunton, vol 1, (New York: Burt Franklin), 205.

8 Mayer, 417-19.

9 Crouch, 2-3, 16-17.

10 Crouch, 3, 17.

11 Marcus, 45-46.

12 A.C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1964), 246.

13 Wood, 246.

14 Michael W. Dols, "The Second Plague Pandemic and Its Recurrences in the Middle East:," Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, ), 178-80.

15 Dols, 181.

16 M. Epstein, The Early History of the Levant Company, (London: George Routledge Sons, 1908), 25-39.

17 Epstein, 36.

18 Davis, 49.

19 Wood, 17-21.

20 Wood, 17.

21 John Keay, The Honourable Company, (New York; Macmillan, 1991), 52.

22 Davis, 47.

23 Wood, 95.

24 Wood, 108-115.

25 Wood, 247-8.

26 Davis, 88.

27 Marcus, 45-6.

28 Ambrose, 250-1.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Davis, 76-77.

32 Wood, 242.

33 Ambrose, 266.

34 Bruce Masters, The Origins Of Western Dominance in the Middle East: Mercantilism and the Islamic Economy in Aleppo,, (New York: New York University Press, 1988), 10-14.

35 Ibid.

36 Masters, 15.

37 Masters, 18.

38 Andr� Raymond, "The Population of Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries according to Ottoman Census Documents," International Journal of Middle East Studies, (1984), 453-57.

39 Marcus, 13.

40 Marcus, 314-328.

41 Marcus, ibid.

42 Marcus, 318-20.

43 Wood, 161.

44 Wood, 102-105.

45 Marcus, 153.

46 Marcus, Ibid.

47 Wood, 202-203.

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