by M.H. Bouldoukian
Deputy Governor 1985-1990 Banque Du Liban
An overview of Armenian Bankers operating in the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century onwards. Throughout history, Armenians in the Levant have been bankers, and have collaborated with Armenian Merchants. Their ancestors were the KHOJAS, the CHELEBIS and the Armenian AMIRAS of Constantinople. The book provides extensive information on this class of citizens.
Chapter B gives practical information on Armenian Merchants and Bankers and their business practices in the Ottoman Empire. It covers business law, types of merchants, the definition of a banker, trade during the period, commercial organizations and trade regulations. It also tackles issues such as letters of credit, negotiable contracts, money orders, payment systems, trade bills, money exchange activities and transfer agents.
Chapter C concerns the fate of Armenian Capital at the end of the Ottoman Empire, from 1915-1923. Families of respected bankers, merchants and businesspeople, who had toiled for centuries during the Ottoman Empire to create capital, develop the economy and bring about the technological advancement in the Empire, were detained upon its dissolution, their wealth confiscated and savagely looted by the envious apparatus of the Turkish Government.
Chapter D gives an overview of Armenian bankers overseas in the Empire: in Egypt under the governance of Mohamed Ali in the 19th centuryand in Lebanon after 1922.
Chapter E briefly explains the Monetary System of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century and the establishment of money exchange regulations.
Chapter F presents a list of most famous Armenian businesses from the 15th century to 1915; Financiers, Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Armenian Amiras.
Chapter G briefly introduces the elite bankers operating in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, who financed the Sultans, the Sublime Porte, the heads of banking corporations, and were trusted with running the Royal Mint. These include bankers to the elite infantry units known as Janissaries, bankers to high dignitaries, and bankers that were executed or had their property confiscated.
Chapter H offers some final remarks. Due to their reputation, expertise and the success of the complex trade and exchange operations within the Empire, Armenian Bankers were all bestowed Aristocratic titles and given Royal Medals of the highest rank, as a reward for their performance and loyalty.
Finally, in chapter I: Annexes, the author presents real examples of bills of exchange used by Armenian Merchants and Bankers in four languages: Italian, Ottoman Turkish, French and Armenian.
Who is this book aimed at?
First and foremost, it will interest bank executives and staff worldwide. Several chapters discuss the services bankers provided to the national and international communities, by financing trade through bills of exchange and lending to dignitaries in the empire, as well as detailing how private banking operated before the existence of bank depositors as we know them today.
Given its historical focus, the book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the Levant, especially how economic and business activities were financed in the absence of modern, centralised banking. Risk taking in lending was, perhaps, one of the professional secrets of these bankers. Historically, bankers learnt their trade from the markets rather than universities, essentially learning on the job.
The book will also appeal to academics, professors, students and the general public.
Finally, it will appeal the international communities interested in the history of the Ottoman Empire in the Levant from 1500 till 1915 and beyond.
Bouldoukian has authored several books and award-winning academic papers on international banking, correspondent banking and the banking systems of Lebanon and Armenia.
Former Vice-Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, throughout his 58 year career in major international banking institutions, he has worked for the Bank of America, Chemical Bank. BACB, HSBC, BLF, BANK of Beirut and is currently at Credit Libanais. During his time at the Central Bank of Russia, he was a central banking consultant to the EU’s TACIS program in five republics of the former Soviet Union; Tyumen Oblast, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Armenia from 1992 – 1993, and has been speaking at international conferences since 1977. Finally, he was an academic from 1969 to 2009, serving at four major universities in Lebanon, and has travelled extensively since 1959.