Clarification – Karimi and merchant banks

[Englished version]

I’ve just realised that my reference to the ‘karimi’ could be misunderstood.

If you look online you’ll see there are two groups that may be referred to by that term:

(a) a group of merchants specialising in trading eastern goods. These Karimi are the ones usually said to have begun the idea of  Merchant Banks in the medieval sense;

(b) Karaite Jews of the Crimea.

As a rule the second group (Karaite Jews of the Crimea) are *not* meant.  Karaites or Karaimi, not Karimi is the usual term there.

Karaite Jews, however, were certainly also to be found in considerable number in fifteenth-century Egypt. The same traveller whose description of the balsam garden I quoted, speaks of them at several points in his narrative and gives details of how their script differed from that used by other Jews.

Historians may have misunderstood any relationship between the two groups, but at present the division stands.

The Karimi of Egypt and India  made fabulous fortunes from goods of the eastern trade, but even about this group, let alone about Karaites in the Crimea, information is scarce and argued about.

Nationalistic histories only make things worse by trying to claim or their own nation all credit for such things as inventing merchant-banks.

The attitude is rarely productive of fair studies.  If you don’t mind, then, I’ll just point out a couple of online sources.

  • There’s a pdf entitled  ‘Slave Traders and Karimi Merchants during the Mamluk Period ..’ at

  • This wiki article ‘Merchant Bank’ isn’t too bad. It does at least recognise a wide range of groups, and (unusually) includes discussion of the contribution made by Jews in medieval European history.  (Well done, those wiki-ers).
  • karimi convoys  – on the eastern side of the trade. Another pdf  –

and this relates to Voynich studies because….

of that trade in eastern goods, and specialised fonduks and/or birbar,  that may underlie Baresch’s allusion to “thesauros artis medicae Aegyptiacos”.

Small point – true.



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