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Aspects of Jewish Culture in the Middle Ages: Papers of the by Paul E. Szarmach

By Paul E. Szarmach

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I shall not concern myself with the outright bias of commission or omission that continues to plague most books on medieval history when it comes to the Jews. That task has already been performed by Gavin Langmuir of Stanford in a careful and eloquent study of "Majority History and Post-Biblical Jews" published in 1966 in the Journal of the History of Ideas, which I heartily recommend to all. I have rather in mind those medievalists, be they in history or literature, with a serious interest in medieval Jewry or an incipient desire even to direct some of their own research toward medieval Jewish topics.

Whether the reports have really been heard is a question to which we shall return. Another landmark of sorts was reached in the Cambridge Medieval History, begun in 1911. Six volumes appeared with only sparse and scattered references to Jews. Suddenly, in the seventh volume, devoted to the fourteenth century and published in 1932, medieval Jewish history came into its own with an entire chapter. It was written by the late Cecil Roth, then Reader in Jewish studies at Oxford. In an assignment which, despite its assurance of immortality, few would envy, he managed to compress fourteen centuries of Jewish history, from the Roman dispersion to 1492, into thirty pages.

Professor Goitein's masterful reconstruction of A Mediterranean Society out of Genizah fragments is appropriately titled; it retrieves for us all not only a Jewish society, but hitherto lost chapters in the history of the Near East as a whole. In Sofia, of all places, the Historical Institute of the Bulgarian Academy has already published two volumes with the resounding title: Fontes Hebraici ad < previous page page_21 next page > < previous page page_22 next page > Page 22 Res Oeconomicas Socialesque Terrarum Balcanarum Pertinentes.

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