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This is, as far as I can discover, the only one-volume History of the Jews of Italy in English, and that makes its nearly 600 pages an indispensable mine of information for the non-specialist. Considering that until 1859 Italy was, in Metternich's phrase, only a geographical expression, Roth had a formidable task, since the history of each Italian state, and often the history of each municipality, is different, sometimes radically so as far as the treatment of the Jews is concerned. All the same, I think the book could have been better organized. There is little attempt to keep the chronology as clear as possible; dates of rulers and popes are often missing; a knowledge of non-Jewish history, especially during the medieval period, is often taken for granted; the names of more or less distinguished Italian Jews is often little more than a catalogue; and there seem to be some contradictions, as when Roth within a few pages both describes atrocious mob behaviour against the Jews and also talks about the Italians of the time being a basically friendly people.
However, what does emerge is the extreme uncertainty of Jewish life in Italy for many centuries: so often they were expelled from a city or principality, recalled a few years later, and then expelled again; harsh legislation against them was passed but was often not enforced or even abandoned, only to be reintroduced and implemented in full at a later stage. The vileness of prejudice, malice, cruelty and greed defaces even the glory days of what we think of as Italian culture and civilization - the Renaissance and the Baroque.
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