Moses Bensabat Amzalak

Lived between

1892 – 1978 (85 years old)




Economist, historian

Moses Bensabat Amzalak was born in 1892 in Lisbon, where he lived and died in 1978.

Academic, economist, researcher, and leader of the Israeli community in Lisbon.

He was a university professor of economics, with works on naval themes and a scholar of the Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula. He is considered one of the greatest Portuguese economists ever, although his work is doomed to oblivion.

He had a vast curriculum, having published more than 300 titles on subjects as diverse as commercial matters, economic history, insurance, history of economic thought, economics, and Jewish-Portuguese history.

He received honorary doctorates at several national and foreign universities, he was a professor and director of the former Instituto Superior do Comércio, later ISCEF-Instituto Superior Ciências Económicas e Financeiras, currently ISEG-Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, rector of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa and member of various renowned academic associations. He also served as President of the Associação Comercial de Lisboa. He was the Director of the newspaper “O Século”. He was on the Board of Directors of several Companies, including Sacor. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor commendation and the Order of the British Empire.

In the years after the 1st World War, he took part of some academic meetings where he became Salazar’s friend. This friendship and privileged relationship eventually contributed to Portugal’s position of neutrality during World War II and promoted the set up in Portugal of a support network for Jewish refugees who were fleeing nazi persecutions.

As far as insurance concerned, he  had the undeniable merit of having freed from the forgetfulness of centuries the figure and work of the 16th century portuguese jurisconsult Pedro de Santarém (Petrus Santerna Lusitanus).

In 1914, Amzalak published a leaflet on “Pedro de Santarém (Santerna), Portuguese jurisconsult of the 16th century – Bibliographic notes”.

Later, in 1917, he published a conference at the Instituto Superior do Comércio on “Insurance according to Pedro de Santarém (Santerna), 16th century Portuguese jurisconsult”.

In 1934 he published a book, in Paris, entitled “Trois précurseurs portugais”, whose first chapter was about “Pedro de Santarém (Santerna) et les assurances maritimes au XVI Siécle”.

He wrote numerous articles and participated in several conferences on Pedro de Santarém, including one at the National Union of Insurance Professionals in Lisbon, in 1952, on the 4th Centenary of the 1st publication of the Insurance Treaty.

Finally, in 1958, he promoted the publication of the 1st Portuguese edition of the treaty, in separate from the “Anais do ISCEF – Tomo II – Volume XVI”. The translation from Latin, made by Prof. Miguel Pinto de Meneses, was used in subsequent publications.