In the mid-16th century, Armenian merchants appeared in Malta as “poor Armenian Christians.” Though they might have been poor, they have arrived in Malta for “certain trading needs”, writes famous 20th-centuryFrench historian Fernand Braudel in his book “Games of Exchange” (“Les jeux de l’échange”).
According to the historian, at the very beginning of the 17th century, Armenian merchants had already been among the most recognizable and successful merchants in the capital of European trade, Venice.
“People, in spite of having the opportunity to sell these silks in the great city of Aleppo, Smyrna, and other places and earn honest money there, are still coming to the ends of the world to earn more”, wrote the consuls of Marseille dissatisfiedly to King Louis XIII in 1623.
The reason for the dissatisfaction of the consuls was the roughly 400 kilograms of silk found on an English ship captured near Malta by the French. Most of the silk belonged to 64 Armenians who were traveling from Smyrna to Livorno and Toulon.
According to the historian, by 1676, Armenian merchants had reached Arkhangelsk, having gone through entire Russia. Then, Armenians through the Russian lands traveled to Poland, Sweden, and Germany.
The Armenians were not limited to one continent. In the middle of the 18th century, Armenian merchants found themselves in Portuguese Goa, the Spanish Philippines, and Lhasa. They not only traveled along the routes traditional for European trade but established new routes and opened new markets.
Braudel pays special attention to the Armenian merchants from New Julfa since this city has been the center of activity of the Armenian merchants throughout the world.
The historian also expressed his amazement by a book written for merchants in 1699 by the order of “Mr. Petros from Julfa.” The book published in Amsterdam in the Armenian language contained unique information on the main trade routes, the cost of living in European cities, as well as a brief description of Africa from Egypt to Angola.
Russian original from Michael Osipov