The Aleppo Factors

  • Ralph Davis


There were large factoring houses and small, easy-going factors and vigorous ones in the Levant, living through a long series of changing conditions. One of the most significant features of their organisation was the rarity of true working partnerships. At first sight there appears to be a very strong reason for having partnerships, to ensure the continuity of business in a country with a high rate of sickness and death for Europeans.1 Yet in spite of these hazards, real partnerships, of two more or less equally capable and experienced factors, were few — probably after 1734 there were none in Aleppo — for the overriding reason that even in the largest houses there was not sufficient work to occupy the attention of two principals. For most of the Englishmen who settled there the life normally involved periods of intense activity interspersed with times of near-idleness, and the business of an Aleppo house was rarely beyond the compass of one man with his Syrian servants. There were many factoring partnerships, but they were of a peculiar kind; they resulted from the practice of bringing a newcomer from England into partnership, a year or so before an old factor went home, and maintaining this partnership in being, with a sharing of profits, for several years after the senior partner was back in England.


Levant Factor Silk Cocoon Private Trade Levant Good Personal Expense 
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  1. (R. North, Lives of the Norths, 1890, ii, 68.)Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    E.g., R. Pockocke, A Description of the East (1763), pp. 151–2 (Pockocke was in Aleppo in 1743)Google Scholar
  3. C. Perry, A View of the Levant (1763), p. 141.Google Scholar
  4. A better informed view is given by A. Russell, Natural History of Aleppo (1756), pp. 132–41.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Lansdown wrote in 1755 that ‘it is customary for a gentleman that leaves a successor to have a share in the house from 5 to 7 years provided he becomes a great trader in England but not otherwise.’ (SP 110–30.)Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    Ambrose, ‘The Levant Company, 1640–1753’, unpublished Oxford M. Litt. thesis, 1935, p. 283.Google Scholar

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© Ralph Davis 1967

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  • Ralph Davis

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