This book challenges a common historical narrative, which portrays medieval Jews as moneylenders who filled an essential economic role in Europe. It traces how and why this narrative was constructed as a philosemitic narrative in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in response to the rise of political antisemitism. This book also documents why it is a myth for medieval Europe, and illuminates how changes in Jewish history change our understanding of European history. Each chapter offers a novel interpretation of central topics, such as the usury debate, commercial contracts, and moral literature on money and value to demonstrate how the revision of Jewish history leads to new insights in European history.
Julie Mell is an Assistant Professor of History and North Carolina State University.
Introduction: Jousting with Windmills PART I: MODERN HISTORY AND MEDIEVAL NARRATIVES 1. The Economic Function of the Jews: A Nineteenth-Century Story 2. Twentieth-Century Jewish Émigrés and Trajectories in European Economic History PART II: MERRY OLD ENGLAND: SOME FACTS 3. "Rich as a Jew"?: An Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth and Frequency of Moneylending in the Anglo-Norman Jewish Population 4. An Economic Function for the Crown?: On Tallage, Taxation, and the Legal Status of the Jews