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Family of merchants, industrialists, and public servants. David Sassoon (1793-1864), founder of the “Sassoon dynasty,” was descended from an old Baghdad Jewish family. Forced to flee his birthplace in 1829, David settled in Bombay, India, where he founded a textile firm that came to dominate the Indian cotton industry. With his eight sons he extended his trading empire to China, Japan, and Central Asia. David was a pillar of the Bombay Jewish community and fabled for both his charity and his piety. At David’s death, Abdullah (later Albert) Sassoon (1817-1897), his eldest son, assumed control of the family business. After founding Bombay’s first great textile mills, Albert moved the headquarters of the firm to London. There, together with his brothers, Reuben (1835-1905) and Arthur (1840-1912), Albert figured prominently in London society, becoming an intimate of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). In 1890, Albert was made first Baronet of Kensington-Gore.

Later generations of the Sassoons tended to loosen their ties with Judaism (except for one branch, which has remained strictly Orthodox), as well as to lose interest in the family business. The Sassoons achieved eminence in politics, the armed forces, and the arts. A number married into English nobility. Among the best known of the later Sassoons were Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), who gained a reputation as a poet before World War I; Rachel Sassoon Beer (1858-1927), who owned and edited two rival London newspapers at once; and Philip Sassoon (1888-1939), who rose to a high place in government.

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