Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

List of Tables

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Preface

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pp. xv-xviii

Imagine two economists traveling back in time and arriving in the town of Sepphoris, in the Galilee, in the year 200. Upon entering the synagogue, they see a nine-year- old Jewish boy—the son of a farmer—reading a portion of the Torah in front of the local community. The economists, who know some stylized facts about the occupational structure and demography of the Jewish people today, wonder whether there might be a connection,...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-10

This book is a journey back in time, embarked upon in order to uncover why the Jews became the people they did. The journey begins in Jerusalem in Judea and in Sepphoris and Tiberias in Galilee during the first and second centuries. It takes us to Babylon in Mesopotamia in the fifth and sixth centuries; to Baghdad, Cairo, Córdoba, and Palermo, the new urban centers...

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CHAPTER 1 70 CE–1492: How Many Jews Were There, and Where and How Did They Live?

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pp. 11-51

Spin a globe, wait for it to stop, then put your finger on the first place you see. A Jewish community is likely to have lived there, in the ancient past or in recent times. Jews have lived in so many places, in such vastly diverse political, economic, and religious environments, that their history is difficult to summarize in multiple volumes, much less a single chapter. Familiarity with the basic facts of Jewish history from the destruction of the Second...

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CHAPTER 2 Were the Jews a Persecuted Minority?

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pp. 52-65

Do legal strictures or discriminatory measures limiting the economic activities of the Jews throughout much of their history explain their occupational structure? Did their religious customs lead them to specialize in certain professions? Or did the Jews perhaps choose to invest in human rather than physical capital because of the precariousness of their situation as persecuted minorities, leading them to leave farming and enter urban skilled...

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CHAPTER 3 The People of the Book, 200 BCE–200 CE

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pp. 66-79

The Jews looked, dressed, spoke, and earned their living mainly from agriculture like the rest of the population in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Persian empires.1 The key difference between Jews and non-Jews was their religion. Solving the puzzles of Jewish economic and demographic history therefore requires an investigation of the pivotal events, religious leaders, and main...

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CHAPTER 4 The Economics of Hebrew Literacy in a World of Farmers

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pp. 80-94

One can think of religion as a consumption good: people derive satisfaction—what economists call “utility”—by following the norms and rituals established by their religion.1 Obeying these norms may entail costs (spending time in a temple instead of doing other activities, contributing to the maintenance of a church or mosque or synagogue, restricting one’s diet). If these costs...

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CHAPTER 5 Jews in the Talmud Era, 200–650: The Chosen Few

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pp. 95-123

Was the religious norm regarding the reading and the study of the Torah in the synagogue implemented in the centuries following the compilation of the Mishna? Did world Jewry implement universal primary education centuries before any other population? Do the historical facts support the prediction of our theory that because investment in religious literacy...

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CHAPTER 6 From Farmers to Merchants, 750–1150

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pp. 124-152

By 650, the Land of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Asia Minor, and North Africa (mainly Egypt) no longer hosted large Jewish communities, as they had done six centuries earlier. Nearly 75 percent of the roughly 1–1.2 million Jews in the world were living in Mesopotamia and Persia when Muhammad (c. 570–632) set the foundations of one of the largest empires in history. What were the main features of world Jewry at the inception of Islam? Most Jews were...

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CHAPTER 7 Educated Wandering Jews, 800–1250

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pp. 153-200

By the late twelfth century, the world’s 1.2–1.5 million Jews were scattered across three economic and intellectually independent centers: Mesopotamia, Persia, and the Arabian Peninsula under Muslim rule, which was home to about 70 percent of world Jewry; the Iberian Peninsula (partly under Christian and partly under Muslim rule), which hosted wealthy communities...

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CHAPTER 8 Segregation or Choice? From Merchants to Moneylenders, 1000–1500

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pp. 201-247

Circa 1000, the main occupations of the large Jewish community in the Iberian Peninsula and the comparatively smaller Jewish communities in France, Germany, and southern Italy were shopkeeping, local trade, long-distance commerce, crafts, and medicine. As merchants, shopkeepers, traders, and skilled artisans, European Jews were often involved in credit transactions...

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CHAPTER 9 The Mongol Shock: Can Judaism Survive When Trade and Urban Economies Collapse?

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pp. 248-260

Our historical journey leaves medieval Europe and brings us back to the Middle East and North Africa under Muslim rule circa 1170, at the time of Benjamin of Tudela’s journey. The majority of world Jewry was located in the enormous territory under Muslim rule stretching from Persia to Morocco, with communities in Samarkand, Isfahan, Baghdad, Basra,...

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CHAPTER 10 1492 to Today: Open Questions

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pp. 261-273

The historical journey in this book began in 70 CE, when the Second Temple in Jerusalem was burned and destroyed forever, and ended in 1492 with the edict of expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Between these two traumatic events, the history of the Jewish people has been marked by some unique features that we explained through the lens of economic theory. Before...

Appendix

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pp. 274-286

Bibliography

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pp. 287-316

Index

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pp. 317-324

Other Works in the Series

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pp. 325-326