1 2019

Diamonds, Jews, and 19th Century Transatlantic Trade

10:00AM - 11:00AM  

Jewish Studies Center

Contact Mark Swick

Description:After the discovery of diamond deposits in South-Africa in 1869, the extraction, manufacturing, and consumption of diamonds intensified spectacularly. The combination of booming supplies, growing demand, and technological innovations produced revolutionary changes in the diamond industry. Kimberley, London, Amsterdam, and New York became crucial nodes in the global network of extraction, distribution, and trade. Jews played a crucial role in every segment of the commodity chain, from the moment of extracting rough stones from South African soil to distribution across the Atlantic, manufacturing in factories, and retailing to metropolitan markets. They were not – as often described in histories of Jewish economic activity – intermediaries operating at the margins of innovation and commercial activity. Rather, they served as central agents of early globalization. Jews were pioneers involved in the global exchange of a luxury commodity, connecting African sites of supply, European manufacturing centers, and western consumers.

Saskia Coenen Snyder (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2008) is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History and the Associate Director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. She is the author of Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe, published by Harvard University Press in 2013. Her second book, tentatively titled Diasporic Gems: Diamonds, Jews, and Nineteenth-Century Global Commerce examines the role of European, South African, and American Jews in the 19th c. diamond trade. She has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including an NEH summer grant, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Research Fellowship. Prof. Coenen Snyder teaches modern Jewish history and Western Civ. courses at the USC, as well as a specialized senior seminars on the Holocaust and the History of Anne Frank. She is a recipient of the Michael Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Sponsor: Jewish Studies