This book challenges the standard conception of the Middle Ages as a time of persecution for Jews. Jonathan Elukin traces the experience of Jews in Europe from late antiquity through the Renaissance and Reformation, revealing how the pluralism of medieval society allowed Jews to feel part of their local communities despite recurrent expressions of hatred against them.
Elukin shows that Jews and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully for much of the Middle Ages, and that the violence directed at Jews was largely isolated and did not undermine their participation in the daily rhythms of European society. The extraordinary picture that emerges is one of Jews living comfortably among their Christian neighbors, working with Christians, and occasionally cultivating lasting friendships even as Christian culture often demonized Jews.
As Elukin makes clear, the expulsions of Jews from England, France, Spain, and elsewhere were not the inevitable culmination of persecution, but arose from the religious and political expediencies of particular rulers. He demonstrates that the history of successful Jewish-Christian interaction in the Middle Ages in fact laid the social foundations that gave rise to the Jewish communities of modern Europe.
Elukin compels us to rethink our assumptions about this fascinating period in history, offering us a new lens through which to appreciate the rich complexities of the Jewish experience in medieval Christendom.
"Challenges the standard view that this was a dark period for Jews."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News
"Instead of emphasizing the conflicts between Christians and Jews, Elukin shows how deeply interconnected the two groups were in their everyday lives...Elukin...makes use of cutting-edge scholarship on medieval Europe to clarify the differing circumstances that controlled Jewish lives...As a lucid, up-to-date survey of Christian-Jewish relations in the pre-modern period, it is helpful and thought-provoking."--Jewish Book World
"Elukin argues that Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages were not limited to persecution and violence, isolation and exclusion. Rather, he asserts that a degree of fluidity existed between Christians and Jews that allowed for 'normal' relations between them....This book will serve as a useful supplement for undergraduate and graduate courses on the Middle Ages."--J. Haus, Choice
"While claims to historiographic innovation are overblown, the book still has the merit of bringing together in a single volume a great deal of previous scholarship that demonstrates the multi-faceted nature of medieval Jewish-Christian interactions in various parts of Europe."--Alexandra Cuffel, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"This is an engaging and worthwhile book: but it will leave the reader with more questions than answers; perhaps that is what a good book is all about."--Harvey J. Hames, The International History Review
"[T]he volume that Elukin has generated is a remarkable and wholly praiseworthy one. I hope that it gains the wide readership that it richly deserves."--C. Nederman, English Historical Review
"This concise, provocative, and frequently speculative volume is yet another salvo against what Salo Baron famously labeled 'the lachrymose conception of Jewish history.' . . . Elukin's book is a welcome contribution."--Jonathan Boyarin, Speculum
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER ONE: From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages 11
CHAPTER TWO: From the Carolingians to the Twelfth Century 43
CHAPTER THREE: Cultural Integration in the High Middle Ages 64
CHAPTER FOUR: Social Integration 75
CHAPTER FIVE: Violence 89
CHAPTER SIX: Expulsion and Continuity 116