There are names of places that evoke images of adventure, the desire to travel and go and see the geheimnisvolle Orient. Isfahan (Ger., Eng.) is such a name. But when in Isfahan next time, do not miss to see New Julfa.
Isfahan saw its golden age under the Safavid Dynasty (Ger., Eng.), who ruled from 1501 until 1722. They made Isfahan their capital in 1598. Shah Abbas I. (Ger., Eng.) conquered Armenia (Ger., Eng.) – and a lot of other regions – at the beginning of the 17th century and re-located the population of the city Julfa in the Caucasus by force. They were weavers and tradesmen, merchants. Until Nader Shah (Ger., Eng.) destroyed New Julfa 1747 this city and its Armenian population developed a truly global trade system: They connected Europe-Eurasian trade with South-East-Asia. The Armenian merchants traded silk and silver, and formed a system of trade posts around the Mediterranean into Northern Europe with Amsterdam as terminal; they also had connections into the Russian state; at the same time they had stations at the shores of the Indian Ocean and further through India, reaching out to the Philippines. All these lines and connections merged in New Julfa (Ger., Eng.). Abbas I. had not only the Armenian merchants transferred to this place, but he gave them the monopoly on the export of silk. In 1622 he retook the island of Hormuz (Ger., Eng.) from the Portuguese, so breaking their position in the trade of the region.
The Armenian merchants developed a system of companies with outposts run by agents all over the world: The agent was a kind of subcontractor, he stood in a very close, contractually defined relation to the chief of the operation, and very often additionally in a kinship relation.
The agents held close contact to the centre by letters. In the year 1748 British naval forces confiscated a ship “Santa Catharina” in India. She carried aboard 1.700 pieces of correspondence between chiefs and agents written in an Armenian dialect. The convolut came into the British Library and there it seemingly was forgotten.
Until Sebouh David ASLANIAN used these sources for his book about the Armenian worldwide trade connections from Madras to St.Petersburg, Manila to Venedig. This is what HOPKINS (Eng.) and BAYLY (Ger., Eng.) called Proto-globalization (Eng.). Seems to be worth a look.
ASLANIAN, Sebouh David: From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (California World History Library), 2011.