By April 15, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Introduction: Demographic Movement

Medieval W. Christendom
Perhaps the most striking feature of Jewish life during our period was the growing
mobility of the Jews and the adventurous spirit that moved some of them to seek new
areas in which to settle. While the roots of southern European Jewry were old, during our
period some Jews broke the prior boundaries of prior Jewish settlement and ventured
forth into areas of northern Europe previously uninhabited by Jews. The process of
moving in search of new opportunities continued all through the medieval centuries. The
Jews of northern France were willing to respond to the overtures of the Norman duke
turned English king and to venture westward into England. Jews of the German lands
were enticed into settling further eastward, at the behest of rulers like the dukes and kings
of Poland and Hungary. To be sure, eventually some of the mobility of the Jews of
medieval Europe was forced upon them, as a result of the banishments already noted.
However, even those Jews who suffered expulsion benefited from the initiative of prior
Jews who had opened up new territories for Jewish settlement.

Jewish mobility involved more than simply moving from domain to domain.
Even within particular domains, Jews tended to fan out in search of economic
opportunity. Where Jews specialized economically, especially in northern Europe, there
were normally limitations to the number of merchants or moneylenders that any given
town could absorb. Thus, the relatively abundant evidence for twelfth- and thirteenth-
century English and northern-French Jewry shows steady movement from initial centers
of Jewish settlement, usually in major towns, out into lesser and outlying towns. This is a
reflection of the ongoing Jewish quest for new markets in which to ply their limited
business affairs.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Post a Comment