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A JEW IN THE SERVICE OF THE EAST INDIA 
COMPANY IN 1601. 

It is well known that many of the great navigators and discoverers 
of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries were under great 
obligations to the knowledge, linguistic and mathematical, of Jews. 
Jehuda Cresques was director of Prince Henry the Navigator's School 
of Navigation at Sagres. Columbus constantly used on his voyages 
the astronomical tables of the Jewish mathematician, Abraham 
Zacuto of Salamanca, and took with him as interpreter on his first 
voyage to America a recently baptized Jew. Vasco da Gama owed 
much to the scientific knowledge of Zacuto, and something to the 
skill and experience of the well-known Jewish pilot who, when 
compelled to undergo baptism, adopted the name of Gaspar da Gama. 
D Albuquerque habitually employed Jewish interpreters 1 . 

It is less well known, and, indeed, the fact has, I believe, escaped 
the notice of writers on the "middle period" of Anglo-Jewish history, 
i.e. the period between the expulsion of the Jews from England by 
Edward I and their constitutional recall under Cromwell, that a Jew, 
settled in England and well acquainted with the English language, 
though not of English birth, took part in the most important English 
expedition by sea of the reign of Elizabeth, viz. the first voyage of 
the East India Company. The object of this voyage was the estab- 
lishment of trading relations with the East Indies, a name which 
included not only India proper but also the Malay Archipelago. The 
importance of securing the services of an interpreter competent to 
carry on negotiations with the native rulers was well known to the 
leaders of the expedition, and to the adventurers who had sent them 
forth, more especially since John Davis, the great navigator, who 
went out as chief pilot of the fleet, was able, as a result of his former 
experience in the East, to inform them of the warlike power and 
disposition of the Sultan of Achen, the greatest kingdom in Sumatra, 
and of his willingness to enter into friendly relations with English 
traders if properly approached. Fortunately, Captain James Lan- 
caster, the commander of the expedition, had as body-servant a Jew 

1 Kayserling, Christopher Columbus (New York, 1894), p. 115; Jahrbuch 
fur die Geschichte der Juden und des Judenthums (Leipzig), vol. Ill (1863), 
PP- 305-317- 



174 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

who had been taken by the English from the Barbary States, who 
had, during his long residence in England, learned to speak English 
well, and who was also familiar with Arabic, the language spoken in 
Achen. 

The five ships that had been entrusted to Captain Lancaster for 
the purposes of the expedition, sailed from Woolwich in February, 
1600-I, and cast anchor in the harbour of Achen in June, 1602. 
A few days after his arrival, Lancaster presented to the Sultan 
a friendly letter from the Queen, which, with similar letters to the 
other native rulers into whose territory he was likely to come, had 
been furnished to him on his departure from England. With the 
help of the Jewish interpreter, lengthy negotiations were carried on 
between Lancaster and the Sultan. In the end, the Sultan agreed 
to allow all English traders in his territory to enjoy protection, 
freedom of trade, and " freedom of conscience," and gave Lancaster 
a letter to take back to Elizabeth, in which he confirmed the grant 
of these privileges. After remaining for some months in the neigh- 
bourhood of Achen, the English went to Bantam in Java and 
established friendly relations with the king; and then, with their 
ships laden with pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, sailed homewards. 
Thus was laid the foundation of British power in the East. 

The narrative of the English expedition makes no further mention 
of the Jew beyond the point at which it records that he acted as in- 
terpreter at Achen. For his subsequent history we are indebted to 
Francois Pyrard, the historiographer of the French expedition which 
set sail from St. Malo on a voyage to the East, three months after the 
departure of the East India Company's expedition from England. Ac- 
cording to Pyrard, the Jew left the English ships at Bantam, carrying 
with him "twelve or fifteen hundred pieces of forty sols Spanish," 
which he had stolen from Lancaster. Thence he went about from place 
to place, spending his money freely and marrying a wife wherever he 
stayed. At last he returned to Achen, embarked on a ship bound for 
Surat, disembarked at the Maldives, where Pyrard met him and learnt 
his history, and " came to make offer of his services to the king, under 
the pretext that he was a good gunner ; but he knew nothing about 
it. He was well received at first ; but when it was seen that he was 
a liar, no further notice was taken of him. Soon after, he fell sick 
and begged me to get his leave of the king; and I, making the 
request through the lord with whom I resided, obtained it with great 
difficulty. He said he was married in Guzeratte, and had a child 
there, which was partly the cause why his leave was granted ; though 
after he got it he remained three or four months longer, and spent 
the remainder of his money, and then embarked with the richest 



MISCELLANEA 1 75 

merchant of Cananor, a Malabar Mahometan, and the greatest man 
of that place next to the king." 

Pyrard, it will be seen, had a great contempt for the Jew. He 
summarily describes him as " the greatest scoundrel in the world." 
It is late in the day to dispute this severe verdict, but it is only fair 
to point out that the very full guasi-official narrative of Lancaster's 
expedition does not say a word about the theft of the "twelve or 
fifteen hundred Spanish pieces." 

India Office. B. Lionel Abrahams. 



Authorities : The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster to the East Indies (Hakluyt 
Society), 1877, pp. 74-101 ; The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East 
Indies, the Maldives, &c. (Hakluyt Society), 1887, pp. 283-285. 



2a/30a0toi/ : NOTE TO PAGE 51 ABOVE. 

In my citation of this term from one of Mr. Grenfell's Ptolemaic 
Papyri, I adduced that scholar's view that Sappadiov means 
"Synagogue." Professor Schurer, however, in an article just 
published in the Theologische Literaturzeitung (Sept. 26, 1896, col. 522), 
offers an alternative suggestion which is very attractive. 

Professor Schurer admits that the translation "Synagogue" is 
possible in the context, but he argues that as the document in which 
it occurs contains a list of personal names, it is probable that 
2n/3/3a#ioi< also is the name of a person. Nay more, it is the name 
of a woman. Female names terminating in iov are elsewhere 
found, as, for instance, Tanov in a Jewish inscription at Phocea. 
(Cf. Keinach, Revue des Etudes Juives, vol. XII, 1886, p. 236 sq.) 
Reinach has noticed other instances. Moreover, there is evidence 
that the masculine form of the name was also current ; thus 
2a3/3<mr occurs in the Corp. Inscr. Graec, n. 9910 (cf. Schurer, 
Geschichte des jiid. Volkes, II, 518). I might also point out that the 
name "Sabbatai" has always been popular with Jews. At least 
three Talmudical Rabbis bear the name, and in the Middle Ages 
it was even more common. (See e.g. the Index to Dr. Neubauer's 
Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles, vol. II.) In modern times the name is