The Kings of Algiers

Julie Kalman

The House of Bacri and Busnach was a trading company run by Sephardic Jews, and based in Algiers. Members of the Bacri and Busnach families traded around the Mediterranean, to London and New York. They cornered the wheat trade in Algiers, and played on  French and British competitiveness to get good prices. They dined with Napoleon, who personally designated them his army suppliers. Thomas Jefferson referred to them as ‘Bacri and Busnach’.  They profited from the piracy that was so common in the Mediterranean. These larger than life characters allow me to recount the history of competitive imperialism in the Mediterranean from beyond the perspective of one national narrative.