Professional characteristics of the Jewish guild in the Muslim world: Thessaloniki dockers at the end of the Ottoman era

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article focuses upon the Jewish dockers of Ottoman Thessaloniki. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the loading and unloading of merchandise between ships and docks in the port of Thessaloniki was dominated by Jewish manpower. This dominance should be considered, first of all, in relation to the pre-industrial regulations of the Ottoman labour market. Work on the Thessaloniki docks was operated by veteran guilds of Jewish labourers (registered according to ethnic or family affinity) who managed to distribute all the specific spheres of work among themselves (the gedik principle). They demonstrated a high standard of professionalism (the hisba value) and created a well-organized welfare system. These outdated regulations still maintained their validity in spite of the legal abolition of the guild system (1860), and the emergence of the industrial labour market. The second reason for Jewish prosperity derived from the political turmoil of that period. Against the background of the Macedonian Question and the Western semi-colonization of Macedonia, the Jewish dockers should be seen as part of an ethnic group which clearly defined itself as supporting the preservation of the Ottoman regime in the Southern Balkans. As such, the Ottoman regime counted them as a loyal and useful element in maintaining its interests in the docks, and in exchange came to their aid when modernization of the infrastructures might have thrown many of them out of work in the port.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-133
Number of pages19
JournalMediterranean Historical Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • Greek dockers
  • Jewish dockers
  • Macedonian Question
  • Muslim guilds
  • Ottoman-thessaloniki
  • Western colonialism
  • gedik
  • hisba
  • industrial labour market

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Professional characteristics of the Jewish guild in the Muslim world: Thessaloniki dockers at the end of the Ottoman era'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this