Oct 17, 2018



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Shylock Reconsidered: Jews, Moneylending, and Medieval Society
University of California Press
Amazon Review/s; and Journal Review.
Excert from review: Moneylending provided the major source of livelihood for the Jewish communities of medieval Christian Europe, particularly in the centuries following the First Crusade. Even after Jews were expelled from England and most regions of Western Europe, the Jewish moneylender, usually imagined, like Shakespeare's Shylock, as an avaricious and editor, remained a potent inhabitant of the European mind. This well-documented volume challenges this negative image by examining evidence from the archives of Marseille of a fourteenth-century lawsuit involving Bondavid Draguignan, a Jewish moneylender accused by a Christian debtor of making a fraudulent claim. Shatzmiller uses this court action as the basis for his discussion of the general issues of medieval moneylending, usury, indebtedness, and Jewish-Christian relations. The study of the documents lead us to cast aside the perception of an unbroken history of hatred and misunderstanding between Jews and Christians, and to acknowledge the existence of friendship, consideration, magnanimity and mutual recognition instead. He also explores the medieval ambivalence towards matters of usury as evidenced through Christian opposition of such gain in spite of the need for a credit system, and the welcome profits gained by the Crown from the activity of Jewish money lenders. Additionally Jews were never the only moneylenders in the Middle Ages, nor were they predominant. Shatzmiller describes the Jewish category of ma'arifiya, or preferred customers, with whom a Jew had an established business relationship and whose custom the Jew cultivated by providing special services, such as postponement of repayment, remittance of part of the owed interest, or not asking security for a loan.

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