Rice University is a tradition
sehepunkte 17 (2017), No. 11
Representations of Jewish realities in today's Spain focused largely on the south of the peninsula, while northern Castile has so far hardly been the subject of more intensive consideration. This makes the study by Maya Soifer Irish, currently assistant professor of history at Rice University (Houston, Texas), all the more valuable. She published her first book "Jews and Christians in Medieval Castile. Tradition, Coexistence, and Change" Has.
North Castile has always been an important economic artery because of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Irish adds the analysis of the region as a internal frontier - militarily, but also economically and socially - along which numerous Jewish settlements could emerge from the 11th century through a targeted royal territorial policy. Their legal and economic living conditions were in contrast to the areas of southern Spain, which were based on the foundations of Muslim legal ideas. As a result, Irish is only partially in the ranks of the critics of the convivencia-The theory of the postulated peaceful coexistence in Al-Andalus, as it generally rejects its assignment to its study area due to the different conditions (5).
The three main chapters (with eight sub-chapters) largely follow a chronological timeline. The first is devoted to the relations of the Jews to the crown ("The Jews of Northern Castile and León, ca. 1050-ca. 1350", 19-74). The royal settlement and privilege policies of the 11th to 13th centuries created a large number of Jews aljamas, d. H. self-governing communities, along the Camino de Santiago and its byways, with Irish contradicting the expected image of urban concentration: numerous aljamas were small and located in rural settings. This first epoch of Jewish existence was characterized by a wide variety of professions and lively interaction with the Christian environment.
The second sub-chapter ("Judei Nostri: The Church and the Jews in Northern Castile ", 77-147) is devoted to the relationship with the Church, Irish making a distinction between theoretical ecclesiastical legislation and ecclesiastical politics in the real world demands (81). Following this differentiated approach there is also none cogent and distinct response of the Castilian Church to adhere to the Jewish presence (126-129); rather, it is precisely the view of the diverse real world, which distinguishes Irish's analysis. Jews (and their taxes) were an integral part of the ecclesiastical economy through royal lendings to church institutions. Irish not only questions the assumption that Jewish loans would mean a bad economic situation for the (church) debtor, but also looks into the purpose of borrowing, which it largely implies convenience loans (117) located.
In the third subchapter ("Jews and Christians in Northern Castile, ca. 1250-1370, 151-261) Irish takes up the concept of frontier again more intensely. During the relocation of the military frontier initially brought with it settlement incentives for Jews to the south, the annexation of Andalusia meant a weakening of the Jews (who had thus become less "useful"). Influences from the German-speaking area (Ashkenaz) and the Christian area led to the detachment of the North Castilian Jews from [their] Andalusian heritage (157). At the same time the increasing importance cities and the urban knights Responsible for both the deterioration in the legal basis of Jewish existence and for a large part of the anti-Jewish agitation, while royal policy moved away from protection towards fiscal exploitation (the comparison made by Irish on p. 176 with similar processes in France, England and Aragon also add the Holy Roman Empire).
Irish's understanding of Jewish history as an integral part of the history of the areas studied is one of the greatest merits of their work. This embedding in general developments is also and above all in their detailed source analyzes, for example in their comparison of the internal Jewish legislation of the 13th century, which focused on private life, with the royal legislation of the time, which was also aimed at regulating the (private) household (163 -165). Supraregional political contexts are also discussed, such as the financial pressure of King Alfonso X due to his candidacy in the Reich, which was directly reflected in his Jewish policy and led to increased activity in the field of money lending, which in turn led to the first perception of this profession as essentially Jewish activity (189) considerably worsened Judeo-Christian relations.
Particularly noteworthy is sub-chapter 8 (221-257), in which Irish addresses the investigation of anti-Jewish tendencies in petitions to the cortes dedicates: the use of an economic source is (still) a rarity in the context of polemics research, which is more based on literary and chronic texts. By combining theological anti-Judaism, anti-Jewish royal legislation and economic sources, Irish represents the clash of different motivations for anti-Jewish agitation. The comprehensive accusation that Jews as outsiders have power over Christians as believers and officials is also made through the city citizens' view of Jews as members a general group of "outsiders" (with clergy, nobility) on the one hand and as a "specifically different" group on the other hand further differentiated (241).
The sophistication of their study is also shown by the fact that Irish covers several subjects - besides the frontier for example the so-called "mixed witness evidence" as well as clothing regulations - uses in different contexts, regions and centuries to answer specific and general questions. Detailed studies (e.g. on the laws of King Alfonso X, 178-189, on debt collection methods in Belorado and Miranda de Ebro, 206-220) are successfully integrated into the overall narrative and always serve to illustrate general developments.
Criticisms remain largely selective (so Asher ben Yehud is hardly known as [the] head of German Jewry to address 1300, 154), it would be desirable to question some sources even more (e.g. royal privileges, 170, complaints to the Pope, 112). Some questions must remain unanswered due to the scarce source material (e.g. the extent and purpose - production of kosher food? - Jewish agricultural activity). Indications of this would not have impaired the knowledge value.
Irish portrays the North Castilian Jews as actively interacting with the authorities as well as their Christian environment, for this alone their insightful study, the enormous density of which could only be partially represented here, is recommended to every interested party. Three maps, a detailed list of sources and literature, and an index (names of people and places, keywords) round off the highly recommended work.
Maya Soifer Irish: Jews and Christians in Medieval Castile. Tradition, Coexistence, and Change, Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press 2016, XX + 308 pp., ISBN 978-0-8132-2865-5, USD 69.95
Institute for the Jewish History of Austria, St. Pölten
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