A refugee crisis of huge proportions erupted as a result of the mid-seventeenth-century wars in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Tens of thousands of Jews fled their homes, or were captured and trafficked across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Adam Teller’s new book Rescue the Surviving Souls: The Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (Princeton University Press, 2020) is the first study to examine this horrific moment of displacement and flight, and to assess its social, economic, religious, cultural, and psychological consequences. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources in twelve languages, Adam Teller traces the entire course of the crisis, shedding fresh light on the refugee experience and the various relief strategies developed by the major Jewish centers of the day.
The book pays particular attention to those thousands of Jews sent for sale on the slave markets of Istanbul and the extensive transregional Jewish economic network that coalesced to ransom them. It also explores how Jewish communities rallied to support the refugees in central and western Europe, as well as in Poland-Lithuania, doing everything possible to help them overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives.
Francesca Trivellato, Hal Cook, and Adam Teller will discuss the book and its implications not just for the history of the Jews but for how we understand the history of early modern Europe and the Ottoman Empire more generally.
Francesca Trivellato is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Early Modern European History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. She previously taught at Yale University and, briefly, at the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari. Her publications include The Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells us about the Making of European Commercial Society (Princeton University Press, 2019) and The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (Yale University Press, 2009). She is a co-founder and editor of Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics.
Harold J. (Hal) Cook, PhD University of Michigan 1981, is the John F. Nickoll Professor of History at Brown University. He is author of numerous articles and books, including Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (Yale University Press, 2007) and The Young Descartes: Nobility, Rumor, and War (The University of Chicago Press, 2018), and editor of several others, most recently Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age (Brill, 2020). His chief research interests are in the emergence of the new medicines and sciences of early modern Europe; the co-production of science and commerce; global knowledge exchanges; and processes of translation.
Adam Teller is Professor of History and Judaic Studies here at Brown. He specializes in the economic, social, and cultural history of the Jews in early modern Poland-Lithuania. He was a member of the core academic team that created the exhibit at the prize-winning POLIN Museum for the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and is currently a member of the museum’s Academic Council. He is also the author of Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth Century Lithuania: The Jews on the Radziwiłł Estates (Stanford University Press, 2016), and Rescue the Surviving Souls: The Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (Princeton University Press, 2020).
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