Surgun, Isaac

views updated


SURGUN, ISAAC (1701–1791), merchant in the service of the Dutch East India Company. Originally from Constantinople, Surgun settled on the Malabar Coast in Calicut and *Cochin early in the 18th century. Dealing in a variety of commodities, he owned warehouses, factories, and ships. His commercial transactions brought him into contact with many native Indian and Muslim potentates and European merchants; Dutch, English, and Hebrew sources stress his linguistic abilities, including Arabic and Portuguese. When in 1759 the Dutch East India Company needed a spokesman to represent its interests before the new Mysore rulers, Haidar Ali Khan and his son Tipu Sahib, Surgun's ability and prestige made him a natural choice. In 1779 he secured the freedom of a group of English visitors who had been imprisoned in Calicut. With his death, the family fortunes declined.


E. Fay, Original Letters from India, ed. by E.M. Forster (1925); W.J. Fischel, Ha-Yehudim be-Hodu (1960), 112–9; idem, in: rej, 126 (1967), 27–53.

[Walter Joseph Fischel]