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Holland

The Jewish role in capital formation and banking, as has been previously noted, was almost non-existent in the two most crucial European areas from which modern capitalism evolved, northern Italy and that part of Belgium known as Flanders. The trading role of such Italian maritime cities as Genoa and Venice is too well-known to need retelling. The Flemish Hanse, the league of commercial cities of Flanders, developed a capital surplus through monopoly control of the export business to England.* Thus Jewish money was not required; and this meant, in terms of the values then prevailing, total exclusion of the Jews. Jewish presence is thus peripheral in the Low Countries; a few isolated individuals or clusters of individuals settled on the Rhine and its tributaries in the Dutch province of Gelderland.

This meager Jewish presence is analyzed in one study, Les juifs dans les Pays-Bas au moyen âge, by Jean Stengers. Though working with a small number of documents, Stengers’ analysis has some value. He states that loans throughout this region were made legally enforceable by means of three instruments, bills, notes, and chirographs, in order of ascending importance. Bills, which served for borrowing small sums, were signed by the borrower and were similar to our present IOUs. They lacked formal attestation. Notes were sealed (this is Stengers’ only mention of sealing) with seals belonging to certain high officials and not to the merchants involved. They followed a standard formula: “Before us, the proper designated authorities of_______, has appeared so and so who has acknowledged owing such a sum to_______. Sealed with the seals of the presiding magistrates or that of the community.” Chirographs, or handwritten legal documents, were signed before a high authority and had greater security than notes since one half of the chirograph was deposited at the record office.

In the cases of notes and chirographs, the borrower declared the sum borrowed before the proper officials and thus could no longer contest the matter; whereas with bills it was often argued that the signer had been forced to acknowledge a higher sum than received, and the debt could be contested. According to Stengers, bills sufficed for loans from several sous to a dozen livres; notes, offering the advantage of legal safeguards, for middling sums, from five to fifteen livres; while the chirographs, incon-testably backed, served for important debts, ten to fifty livres and more.

The significant point of this study is the breakdown of twenty Jewish documents Stengers found relating to this area. Fourteen were bills; three were notes; only three were chirographs. From this evidence, Stengers concluded that Jewish lending in the Low Countries mainly involved small sums and did not reach into the rarefied atmosphere of lords and princes. This conclusion is supported by Jewish records of the times and by the lack of personal seals from the area. A few such seals do exist, however, particularly from the region directly north of Germany on the Rhine.


*The great Belgian economic historian Henri Pirenne (1938) rightly points out that the Jews played no role in the development of the Flemish Hanse. In the opinion of this writer, however, Pirenne consistently underestimates the Jewish role in the general economic history of medieval Europe elsewhere. For a different view, see James W. Thompson (1928 and 1931). The writings of Werner Sombart are of course known for the polemic that the Jews disrupted the medieval economic system and thus introduced capitalism.

GELDERLAND

150. Seal of Daniel, Said the Jew

[S’ DA]NIELI DICTI IV[DEI]

Dimensions: approximately 27 mm. Impression.

Location: State Archives in Gelderland, Arnhem, Charter Collection; No. 71.

Bibliography: Nijhoff, 1830.

The Gothic legend on this seal runs round between beaded lines, the upper part destroyed by time. The field shows a rather large shield in high relief on which appear three Jews’ hats symmetrically balanced on the shield, with an × below the brim of each hat. A similar shield appears on the seal of Alert, a converted Jew of Duisburg (see No. 134), no more than about fifty miles south on the Rhine.

The seal is still appended to a document dated April 28, 1287, illustrated here, which refers to “Daniel de Jode” (“Jode” being Jew in old Dutch), knight and citizen of Cologne, who acknowledges receiving from Count Reinald of Gelderland one hundred marks in money of Cologne as part of a three-way transaction of a debt clearance with Theod. Loef of Kleef. Gelderland is a province in the central eastern part of the Netherlands, whose capital is the city of Arnhem.

The Jewish role in capital formation and banking, as has been previously noted, was almost non-existent in the two most crucial European areas from which modern capitalism evolved, northern Italy and that part of Belgium known as Flanders. The trading role of such Italian maritime cities as Genoa and Venice is too well-known to need retelling. The Flemish Hanse, the league of commercial cities of Flanders, developed a capital surplus through monopoly control of the export business to England.* Thus Jewish money was not required; and this meant, in terms of the values then prevailing, total exclusion of the Jews. Jewish presence is thus peripheral in the Low Countries; a few isolated individuals or clusters of individuals settled on the Rhine and its tributaries in the Dutch province of Gelderland.

*The great Belgian economic historian Henri Pirenne (1938) rightly points out that the Jews played no role in the development of the Flemish Hanse. In the opinion of this writer, however, Pirenne consistently underestimates the Jewish role in the general economic history of medieval Europe elsewhere. For a different view, see James W. Thompson (1928 and 1931). The writings of Werner Sombart are of course known for the polemic that the Jews disrupted the medieval economic system and thus introduced capitalism.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
279-280
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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