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Love, Work, and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1874774334
ISBN-10: 1874774331
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Editorial Reviews


'Fascinating and erudite ... The fruit of detailed and extensive research, it succeeds in combining scholarly rigour with vivid readability: the result is a compelling picture of daily life in all its dimensions... Toaff's sympathetic study, by setting the Umbrian Jews of an earlier period in the appropriate social context, allows us to view the more tolerant and complex world which existed ... There is, perhaps, a lesson here for the Jewish historiography of our own time too.' Mark Mazower, Jewish Book News & Reviews 'A very thoroughly documented and most readable presentation ... The Jews of Umbria and Love, Work, and Death constitute two very important and complementary contributions to the reconstruction of a significant and interesting chapter in the history of Jewish life in the pre-modern Diaspora by a scholar thoroughly at home in the relevant languages, literatures, and methodologies. Moreover, the English translation of Love, Work, and Death further opens up the history of the Jews of the Italian peninsula to the reader without Italian. Finally, while most welcome for its own sake, in a wider context, Professor Toaff's work marks an important contribution to the comparative analysis of different Jewish societies over the ages.' Benjamin Ravid, Jewish Quarterly Review 'Professor Toaff is the acknowledged master of the social history of Umbrian Jewry... It is to be hoped that the new ideas interspersed in Toaff's presentation will stimulate further research and yield fresh perspectives on medieval Jewish society and culture.' David Malkiel, Journal of Jewish Studies 'The book has much improved in its English translation: including an index (mandatory item) and a rich bibliography, both lacking in the original edition ... Toaff is well versed in both Latin and Hebrew sources, and is able to present an impressive picture of the Jewish minority.' Alessandra Veronese, Mediterranean Historical Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Italian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Littman Library Of Jewish Civilization (May 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1874774331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1874774334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,926,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Yes indeed, but not many! Not more than 500 people at any time in the period of this study, from the 14th to the early 16th Centuries, with the only large community in Perugia and with several smaller cities boasting just a single Jewish family. That amounts to less than 0.2% of the population of the province. Umbria was a portion of the Papal States, the region governed and taxed directly by the Vatican. As might be expected, Umbrian Jewry was an offshoot of the Roman Jewish community, with which it retained close ties, familial, economic, and cultural. Small as it was, Umbrian Jewry consituted a microcosm of the Italian Jewish world of the late Medieval era, and it left behind enough personal documents, civic records, and legal transcripts to form the basis of this careful, dispassionate study by professor Ariel Toaff. Examined from such an intimate, ground-level perspective, Toaff writes: "The picture of medieval Italian Jewry...is lively and varied: full of subtleties and contradictions and thus more difficult to interpret [than the standard historiography], but ultimately far more revealing. Here the moneylender is no longer the undisputed protagonist, but plays second lead; money is handled not only in banks, but in shops and worksplaces, at markets and fairs; and anti-semitism is hardly ever endemic..."

Some points I found interesting:

* The priories of towns and villages often recruited Jews who would lend money to the commune and facilitate marketplace financial transactions. Often such communes made special concessions to the Jews, and offered protections, to keep them in place.

* Italian Jews were ravenous carnivores. Of course, so were most Italians of any prosperity at all.
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Format: Paperback
This book is compelling social, cultural and economic history that reads like a novel. It is beautifully translated. An exciting, stimulating read.
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