The Jews in western Europe 1400–1600

Author: John Edwards

As European politics, society, economy and religion underwent epoch-making changes between 1400 and 1600, the treatment of Europe's Jews by the non-Jewish majority was, then as in later periods, a symptom of social problems and tensions in the Continent as a whole. This book discusses the history and background of the Jewish presence in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe. As far as the late medieval Church was concerned, the basis for the treatment of Jews, by ecclesiastical and secular authorities, was to be found in the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council of the Roman Church, which were issued in 1215. The book is concerned with Jewish economic activities for their own sake, and Jews' financial relations with Christian rulers. It then concentrates on other aspects of the dealings which went on between European Jews and their Christian neighbours. The book includes the Jews' own economic presence and culture, social relations between Jews and Christians, the policies and actions of Christian authorities in Church and State. It draws upon original source material to convey ordinary people's prejudices about Jews, including myths about Jewish 'devilishness', money-grabbing, and 'ritual murder' of Christian children. Finally, the book demonstrates from the outset that much of the treatment of European Jews, in the period up to the Reformation and thereafter, was to be a practical result of the controversies within 'Christendom' on the subject of authority, whether ecclesiastical or secular.

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