restricted access Intricate Interfaith Networks in the Middle Ages: Quotidian Jewish-Christian Contacts ed. by Ephraim Shoham-Steiner (review)
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Reviewed by
Shoham-Steiner, Ephraim, ed., Intricate Interfaith Networks in the Middle Ages: Quotidian Jewish-Christian Contacts (Studies in the History of Daily Life (800–1600), 5), Turnhout, Brepols, 2016; hardback; pp. xii, 352; 6 colour, 21 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. €95.00; ISBN 9782503544298.

Those who wonder what daily problems may have arisen in small towns in Europe when a Christian household found itself next door to a Jewish or even a Muslim one will need to wait longer for a possible account. As several papers show, it is easier to find material relating to business partnerships between Jew, Christian, and Muslim than it is to discern what was expected of adjacent families from documents written for other purposes.

The various papers in this volume approach the issues from different angles and different historiographical traditions but even Flocel Sabaté, exploring the question of Jewish neighbourhoods in late medieval Catalonian towns and concerned with the way in which people experienced the religious difference, is finally more interested in the dominant world view and the economic aspects that categorized interrelationships. Whether his view that the growing negative popular perception was spontaneous and not the result of propaganda may be questioned, Sabaté provides a valuable insight into how the social problems were created. Eveline Brugger also approaches the issue of neighbours and neighbourhoods indirectly, by working from the repeated requirements that Christian and Jews live separately to the idea that this was unenforceable. Her attempts to disentangle the mundane from the more purely financial problems of the elite, however, drives her back to stories of persecution where the possible support neighbours provided is complicated by the nature of the available records.

Katalin Szende enlarges our understanding of the Jewish diaspora in an area generally neglected, by illuminating the establishment of Jews in Hungary in a period when there were major overall changes to government and society. All the authors make it clear that the experiences of Jewish-Christian relationships vary considerably from place to place. In investigating sexual relations between Jews and Christians, Carsten L. Wilke reveals not only that they were massively disapproved of by both religions but that actual encounters and unions were much more common in the Iberian Peninsula than they were in the more northerly parts of Europe.

There are a number of papers on side issues that intrigue the reader — Lilach Assaf investigates the use of given names in both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish society in the thirteen and fourteenth century with some surprising results; Zsofia Buda teases out the use of Jewish terms in iconography of the time, mainly in art, but also in architecture. The contribution of Jewish artists is also the subject of Katrin Kogman-Appel's paper. [End Page 254]

The bulk of the papers are related to intellectual history, however. They are novel in that the possibility of common ideas and approaches between Christian and Jewish theologians is examined and Piero Capelli suggests that the boundaries dividing them are created by views on the Talmud rather than the position of Christ. Tamas Visi, looking at the Ashkenazi Jews in Bohemia, also shows how and when Jews adopted ideas developed by Christians in areas such as medicine.

Although only touched on in one or two papers the identification of Muslim residents as a significant and rarely considered aspect of multi-religious settlements opens up a line of research that may, as Shoham-Steiner suggests, yield benefits in the future. The great importance of this volume, and the promise of future volumes, is the identification of differences — differences over time, differences from place to place and differences from one theological tradition to another.

A surprising omission, however, and perhaps a subject for another volume, is any clarification of the way law was structured in the different countries, and affected the ability of Jews and in some areas Muslims to integrate. After all, there was an underlying assumption in most of medieval Europe that all the people in one country would submit to the courts in that country, and the system was binary. Some things came under the secular courts but many, perhaps most, of the accusations an individual was...


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