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The Sassoons

by Stanley Jackson

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Few dynasties have experienced more dramatic changes of fortune than the Sassoons, long known as "the Rothschilds of the East."  After centuries as bankers to successive Ottoman rulers and leading citizens in Baghdad, the year 1829 saw the clan suddenly faced with extinction -- and the young David Sassoon forced to flee his ancestral home by night under threat of a death sentence.  In a single generation, against the turbulent background of the Opium Wars, he founded a spectacular trading empire based in Bombay with branches straddling Europe and the Far East.  A vast fortune was accumulated -- but one that left a legacy of deep-rooted interfamily differences.  Even more remarkable than its trading coups was the clan's dazzling social progress.  The first Sassoon to wear Western dress arrived in England in 1858.  Within a few years, the family boasted two baronetcies and was sending its sons to Eton and Oxford. King Edward VII and his grandson the Duke of Windsor would be guests in the Sassoon homes and shooting lodges. The author had access to private papers and much business correspondence and created a vivid picture of the volatile Sassoons, both as a ruling dynasty and as a family.
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