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History in Review

Jewish Life in the Middle Ages

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Jewish Life in the Middle Ages
By Israel Abrahams. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. xxvi, 452.) ISBN: 0-486-43758-2.

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - March 30, 2005

The Middle Ages in Europe are known for their repression of science, the power of the Catholic Church, and for feudalism. Where did the Jews fit into this overtly Christian society, and what was day to day life like for the Jews of Europe during this formidable period? Israel Abrahams answers this complex question in his fascinating book, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages.

First published in 1896, this book provides a detailed overview of Jewish daily life during the Middle Ages and provides insights into how they interacted with the gentile community. This book examines the role of the synagogue, communal organizations, the ghettos, marriage, home life, charities, pastimes, available occupations, educations, modes of dress, customs, personal relationships with Christians, and more. Combined, this book serves to present a general overview of what Jewish Life was like during the Middle Ages.

Abrahams (1858-1925) was well suited to write this text. He was an eminent scholar and educator. Abrahams was the founder and President of the Jewish Historical Society of England. He taught at Jews' College, London and at the University of Cambridge, and he was the co-founder, along with Claude Montefiore, of the Jewish Quarterly Review. He was also a respected author who penned a number of influential Jewish texts.

Jewish Life in the Middle Ages is an accessible and riveting social history of Jewish life during the Middle Ages. This text is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Jewish History and Culture, Medieval Studies, or Social History. It is well suited for use as a supplemental reading text in college level courses, as a reference text, as well as a general introduction to this fascinating period of Jewish history.

Related Reviews:

Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages, Edited by Elkan Nathan Adler.
19 firsthand accounts of Jewish travel during the Middle Ages that were written between 801 and 1755. The accounts touch upon Jewish life in Europe, Africa, and the Near East.

The Medieval World, Edited by Peter Linehan and Janet L. Nelson.
Thirty-nine orginial essays on life in the Middle Ages, covering just about everything from politics to sexuality. Written by 38 medieval scholars, this book raises the standard of medieval scholarship.

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