“No importance and no value”? Geniza sources on personal shopping and the 'economy of regard'




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Bloomsbury Publishing India


Book chapter

Peer reviewed



This chapter explores the relationships between domestic and commercial worlds, and the potential of documents from the Cairo Geniza to contribute to this exploration. In this contribution, I focus on the shopping activities of India traders and the ways that shopping for business partners worked to consolidate networks as well as to build both domestic and commercial spaces. In the first part of this contribution, I drill down into the mechanisms of exchange which underlay the shipments of household items intended for personal and family use in India. In the second I work with the idea of the ‘economy of regard’ first proposed by the economic historian Avner Offer in the article ‘Between the Gift and the Market’, written in the late 1990s, to unpick how shopping for goods destined for ‘the personal use of the Jewish merchant in India and his family’ constituted an opportunity for the accumulation and consolidation of regard within the merchant community, or, from another perspective, a potentially dangerous activity that imperilled regard.



Indian Ocean, Cairo Geniza, mercantile culture, Avner Offer, 'economy of regard'


Lambourn, E. (2023) “No importance and no value”? Geniza sources on personal shopping and the 'economy of regard'. In: The Economic History of Early India: Historiographical Issues and Perspectives, Essays in Honour of Ranabir Chakravarti, edited by R. Mahalakshmi and Suchandra Ghosh. New Delhi: Bloomsbury Publishing India


Research Institute

Institute of History