Georgetown University
Primo Levi Fellowship

Research Topic

Minority Merchants and Global Trade: The Rise and Decline of the Sassoons


Joseph Sassoon is an associate professor and al-Sabah Chair in Politics and Political Economy of the Arab World, both at Georgetown University. He is also a Senior Associate Member at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. His current research focuses on globalization in the mid-nineteenth century and analyzes how merchant families built major trading networks around the globe. He has published extensively on Iraq, its economy, and the Middle East more broadly. He has published five books; the latest is: The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of a Dynasty (Pantheon, 2022)

Sassoon received his DPhil in the Economic History of the Middle East from St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He has held visiting scholar or fellowship positions at Georgetown University, Oxford University, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

Selected publications

  • Anatomy of Authoritarianism in the Arab Republics (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
  • Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
  • The Iraqi Refugees: The New Crisis in the Middle East (I.B. Tauris and Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)



Delving into the meaning of modernity beyond the European, American, and Israeli contexts, looking instead to North Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and Central and South Asia.