Abstract: Peddlers: A New World Jewish History

Hasia Diner


This paper explores the way in which peddling functioned as a migration strategy for central and east European Jews in the century from the 1820s to the 1920s, as they moved out to a series of "new worlds," including the British Isles, North and South America, South Africa and Australia. Peddling not only facilitated Jewish migrations but also served as an engine of Jewish integration. Of all the occupations in which Jews clustered, peddling not only lasted longer than nearly any other, but it also forced them into an intense and almost instantaneous encounter with the local cultures of the places to which they went. This paper focuses on peddling in these two contexts, at the same time that it contextualizes it around the conflicts and controversies that surrounded this peripatetic occupation. To what degree did peddling in any one part of the "new world" resemble peddling in any other? How did peddling differ from place to place?