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MAGDALENE SCHULTZ The Blood Libel: A Motif in the History of Childhood Another attempt at probing the possible origins ofthe blood libel legend tries to combine historical and a psychological approaches. Psychohistory, a blend of depth psychology and history, is an interdisciplinary effort to read history anewin the light of modern psychology. In the present essay, Dr. Magdalene Schultz of Piidagogische Hochschule in Heidelberg looks at the history of blood libel accusations from a different perspective. Inasmuch as the victim of such ritual murders is almost always a small child, Schultz examines the historical record with respect to gauging parental attitudes toward small children . Certainly it is true that child abuse and infanticide have not received the scholarly attention they deserve. Schultz's novel approach does allow the reader to see the blood libel legend in quite a newlight. Investigations into prejudice in general and anti-Semitism in particular have so far not been able to demarcate the specific characteristics of the anti-Jewish blood libel from other and cognate calumnies, and to explain the well-known date of its first appearance. The point of departure of the present study is that, with regard to the blood libel, the child motif is so obviously striking that perhaps the psychohistorical approach is capable of clarifying these characteristics: that is, every child motif in history is a motif in the history of childhood . Starting from medieval accusations against Jews, the Reprinted from Journal of Psychohistory 14(19861: 1-24. 273 Magdalene Schultz enquiry brings to light the ties between them and various phases in the history of European childhood. It also shows that the phenomenon is closely connected with how the majority of the population-and the minority within ittreated their own children. An Overlooked Motif A superficial perusal of only studies in psychohistory will show that it is one of the gravest problems in the investigation of the history of childhood how and where to unearth pertinent and authentic documents and illustrations older than two or three centuries: the farther one goes back into the past, the poorer and scarcer the sources. While this statement may sound trivial since, after all, it usually holds true for historical research in general, it carries additional weight in historical socialization research, one of whose best attested claims is the lack of interest in children before the seventeenth century, and hence the paucity of references to them. It is, therefore, the more astonishing that one child motif has to date not been considered, although it is available in writings and drawings throughout the ages: I am referring to the rich literary and pictorial material concerning accusations of ritual infanticide which were raised ever since the founding of the earliest Christian congregations in Rome through the twentieth century: In the first centuries C.E. Christians were accused ... of partaking , for ritual purposes, of the blood and flesh of nonChristians on the occasion of the Feast of Passover (respectively Easter, M.S.). This slander was the cause of extensive cruel persecutions of Christians which did not cease until Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. In the twelfth century for the first time and subsequently over and over again until most recent times, Jews and conversos, Christians, emperors, and even popes refuted the allegation innumerable times, but without success.l 274 The Blood Libel The present enquiry will concentrate on the blood libel trumped up against Jews in the Middle Ages (from 1144 until approximately 1500), but for the sake of completeness some other and later important details will be adduced, too. Let us begin by looking at the conclusion of a few authorities . In his overview of Jewish history, Heer states that in antiquity the Greeks imputed to the Jews the practice of ritual killing, and that the same libel experienced a revival in the Middle Ages on the eve of the Reformation, and again during the Counter-Reformation.2 A Jewish source continues the sorry tale: "In the second half of the nineteenth century the slander of ritual murder was criminally used by the infamous (anti-Semites) Desportes and Rohling,"3 while a historian of anti-Semitism mentions in passing that about two hundred years ago Christian missionaries in China were also held responsible for stealing children, cutting out their hearts and gouging their eyes out for the purpose of concocting charms.4 The number of such quotations could be augmented ad lib as very many historians have treated the topic. So...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299131135
Related ISBN
9780299131142
MARC Record
OCLC
835455593
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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