A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Spain
Publisher: Princeton University Press
This book significantly revises the conventional view that the Jewish experience in medieval Spain--over the century before the expulsion of 1492--was one of despair, persecution, and decline. Focusing on the town of Morvedre in the kingdom of Valencia, Mark Meyerson shows how and why Morvedre's Jewish community revived and flourished in the wake of the horrible violence of 1391. Drawing on a wide array of archival documentation, including Spanish Inquisition records, he argues that Morvedre saw a Jewish "renaissance." Meyerson shows how the favorable policies of kings and of town government yielded the Jewish community's demographic expansion and prosperity. Of crucial importance were new measures that ceased the oppressive taxation of the Jews and minimized their role as moneylenders. The results included a reversal of the credit relationship between Jews and Christians, a marked amelioration of Christian attitudes toward Jews, and greater economic diversification on the part of Jews. Representing a major contribution to debates over the Inquisition's origins and the expulsion of the Jews, the book also offers the first extended analysis of Jewish-converso relations at the local level, showing that Morvedre's Jews expressed their piety by assisting Valencia's conversos. Comparing Valencia with other regions of Spain and with the city-states of Renaissance Italy, it makes clear why this kingdom and the town of Morvedre were so ripe for a Jewish revival in the fifteenth century.