Important trading hubs
Trading communities
Trading ports and cities were shaped by the dynamic coexistence of ethnically and religiously diverse communities.
Trading hubs around the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Arabian Peninsula had long been shaped by the dynamic coexistence of indigenous and migrant communities from diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds. In the 19th century, Europe, and particularly the UK, also increasingly saw representatives of these communities settle in its economic centres. Within the urban fabric – both shared and used distinctively according to affiliation – each community managed specific aspects of trade conducted along tight communal networks spanning the whole region and Europe. Both communal and intercommunal life in the cities was regulated by a complex web of laws and regulations set by the state, foreign embassies and the communities themselves, the latter shaped by religion and cultural traditions. Trading elites often assumed citizenship and contributed to a city’s political, cultural and educational life. At the other end of the spectrum, large numbers of impoverished migrants poured into cities from across the region and the Mediterranean. These drastically changed urban demographics and often triggered social turmoil and intercommunal strife.
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Important trading hubs

Important ports
Commercial cities
Trading communities
Narrow street in Pera, Istanbul


Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece


Pera (also known as Galata) lies on Istanbul’s European side. Traditionally it was home to foreign merchants and European embassies. In the 19th century, it became Istanbul’s most Westernised area, with its diverse foreign communities opening modern schools, shops and cultural venues.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Trading routes
Important trading hubs
Financing trade