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Reviewed by:
  • Wirtschaftsgeschichte der mittelalterlichen Juden: Fragen und Einschätzungen
  • Dean Phillip Bell
Wirtschaftsgeschichte der mittelalterlichen Juden: Fragen und Einschätzungen, edited by Michael Toch. Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 71. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2008. 218 + ix pp. €49.80.

This volume seeks to reevaluate the economic history of medieval Jews by integrating general economic history and Jewish history, with particular attention to the Hebrew sources often ignored in this context. Noting that the economic history of the Jews has served in polemical and apologetic capacities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Michael Toch argues that the economic history of the Jews also has a broader historical relevance. The current volume consists of papers given at a 2005 academic conference on the theme related to the editor's research fellowship at the Historisches Kolleg. The volume includes eleven essays—eight in English and three in German—by accomplished European, Israeli, and American scholars. Although the essays vary in length and scope, they are all of good quality, often provocative, and in some cases paradigm shifting.

Several essays provide important re-evaluations of issues related to Jews and moneylending. Giacomo Todeschini reassesses the medieval understanding of usury, and Hans-Georg von Mutius reconsiders rabbinic statements from the Talmudic period and Late Antiquity in order to understand medieval Jewish discussions regarding the treatment of non-Jews, particularly in regard to the taking of interest. Joseph Shatzmiller examines the legal discussions regarding the pawning of Christian religious articles to Jews. Annegret Holtman assesses two intriguing private account books from Vesoul, in the County of Burgundy, comparing Jewish and Christian sources on medieval bookkeeping and detailing the focus and scope of Jewish moneylending. [End Page 169]

The economic involvement of Jews in certain regions also receives attention in this volume. David Jacoby, for example, examines the activities of Jews in the late Byzantine economy, giving attention to the production, marketing, and consumption of specific commodities among the Jews, which depended upon specific local and religious customs and regulations. He identifies overlapping economic networks that were both internal to Jewish communities and that required close cooperation with non-Jews. David Abulafia explores Jewish economic activity in Sicily and Southern Italy in the early and late Middle Ages, utilizing geniza fragments as well as notarial documents. Reinhold C. Mueller examines the status and economic role of the Jews in the Venetian territories at the end of the Middle Ages, with particular attention to the legal and political relationships between Venice and these Jews.

Other areas of Jewish economic activity are also presented. Markus J. Wenninger reviews Jewish involvement in such official capacities as collection of customs duties and minting. He notes the increasing participation of Jews in some areas, and provides examples of several important Jewish figures and families in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Some essays also examine various social implications of medieval Jewish economic involvement. Rainer Barzen, for example, examines Jewish poor relief in Germany in the high and later Middle Ages, utilizing a rich range of rabbinic and communal sources. Like other contributors, Barzen discusses the general scope of such poor relief, frequently and productively in a comparative vein with Christian developments. He also analyzes more institutionalized communal activity in the later Middle Ages, such as the Jewish hospital. Martha Keil evaluates the important, but little discussed issue of the social and economic mobility of Jewish women in the Middle Ages, revealing significant economic involvement of women, which she illustrates with several fascinating examples of individual Jewish women from throughout the fifteenth century. Her contribution, like many other essays, raises important questions about Jewish and Christian relations.

The central essay of the volume is the lengthy and important contribution of Michael Toch. His "Economic Activities of German Jews in the Middle Ages" is a carefully crafted and engaging article that provides extensive material and meticulous attention to the historical sources and the historiography itself, often offering important corrective readings and interpretations and drawing from a remarkable range of primary and secondary sources. Toch begins by reviewing Jewish trade in the tenth and eleventh centuries, clarifying the nature and focus of this trade. He finds Jewish involvement in trade to be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 169-171
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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