The Amazing Clan of Buzaglo

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Morocco normally figures in the eyes of students of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jewish history as a source of Rabbis and scholars, who emerged thence occasionally to instruct the communities of the Marrano Diaspora in northern Europe, such as Isaac Uziel, the first Rabbi of Amsterdam, and Jacob Sasportas, the first Haham of London. It is now becoming apparent that, contrary to expectation, this country was at the same time a reservoir of magnates, merchants, and adventurers. The clan that will engage our attention here will illustrate all of these facets?it may be said, from the nearly sublime down to the wholly ridiculous.


The family of Buzaglo is said to have been established in Morocco from the time of the expulsion from Spain onwards, as is indeed highly probable. But, though one or two savants who bore the name are recorded,1 none of its members came into prominence, reputable or disreputable, until the eighteenth century. At this time, the rapid development of trade between the Western European Powers and the Barbary States led to the employment there as interpreters and factors of many indigenous Sephardi Jews?usually familiar at least with Spanish (if not with other European languages), in addition to Arabic. (Recent research on

Dr. Roth gave his original lecture on this subject to the Jewish Historical Society on 5 February 1964. Further reference to this is made in the Preface to this volume.

1 The first of the family to emerge from obscurity is a scholar named Abraham ben David, called Abuzaglo, apparently connected with the Azulai family, of Marrakesh. In 1604 he was sent to Italy by a kinsman to buy some precious jewels and ornaments for the Sultan. Owing to the civil wars in Morocco he remained in Venice awaiting the arrival of the ship which was to bring his remittance. To occupy his time, and to defray some of his expenses, he now made himself responsible for publishing a new edition of the Mishna with the standard commentaries (Venice, 1606). Cf. Tole dano, Ner haMaarab, p. 111.

trade in North Africa has shown how closely involved the English merchants were with the local Jewish residents as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.)2 Partly as a result of this, a few of them transferred themselves in due course to the great centres of trade in England, France, and Holland. Among these were the adventurous brood of children of a certain Moses Buzaglo, said to have been a Rabbi and Rosh Teshiva in Mogador. One of them, Isaac, piously settled in Jerusalem, and passes from our story; it is with his brothers, who pushed their fortunes in Europe, that we shall be concerned here. The oldest, probably, was Jacob, who was established already by 1730 in London, where he married that year Elizabeth Salom Moreno; soon he prospered enough to have his name included in the list of London merchants in The Universal Pocket Book of 1745 as resident and carrying on his business in Gun Yard,

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