Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Jews and Judaism in Medieval and Early Modern Times

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Oriental Studies

DESCRIPTION This study-unit aims to give students an overview of the history of the Jews and Judaism in medieval and early modern times. Lectures will examine different aspects of Jewish communities in Europe: origins; juridical statutes; cultural features (Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities); and practices.

Focusing on the Mediterranean context and following both chronological and theme-based approaches, amongst other topics, lectures will present and discuss: the economic and cultural development of Jewish communities mainly in Spain, Italy and Malta; some major medieval Jewish philosophers; the expulsion of the Jews of Spain (1492) and its repercussion on the Jewish communities around Europe and beyond; the Papal policies toward Jews and the creation of the Ghetto; and the Extra-European Jewish communities after the expulsion.

Study-unit Aims:

The aims of the study-unit are:
1. to introduce the key events of medieval and early modern Jewish history in Europe and the Mediterranean;
2. to describe and discuss the major cultural, economic, and political structures of Jewish communities in Europe and the Mediterranean;
3. to identify and analyze historical sources concerning medieval and early modern Jewish history.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. cite and describe the major historical events that had an impact on the Jewish communities in the medieval and early modern periods in Europe and the Mediterranean;
2. identify and analyze cultural, economic, and political structures of Jewish communities in Europe and the Mediterranean;
3. distinguish and compare Ashkenazi and Sephardi cultures, languages, and practices;
4. name the major Jewish philosophers and recount the content and impact of their major writings;
5. highlight the particularity of the Jewish-Muslim-Christian relationships during the medieval and early modern periods and explain the related historiographical debates.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. read critically secondary literature;
2. analyze historical documents;
3. synthesize and evaluate complex sets of data;
4. reflect critical thinking in a structured and argumentative essay.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- COHEN, Mark, Under Crescent and Cross. The Jews in the Middle Ages. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
- ISRAEL, Jonathan I., Diasporas within a Diaspora. Jews, Crypto-Jews and the World Maritime Empires (1540-1740). (Leiden: Brill, 2002.)
- ROTH, Cecil, A History of the Marranos. (New York: Sefer-Hermon Press, [1959]1992).
- ROTH, Cecil, Jews of Malta. In ‘Transaction of the Jewish Historical Society of England’, vol. 12, 1928-1931, 187-251.
- STOW, Kenneth, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe. (Cambridge (Massachussetts): Harvard University Press, 1998).
- STOW, Kenneth, The Papacy and the Jews: Catholic Reformation and Beyond. In ‘Jewish History’, vol. 6, no 1/2, The Frank Talmage Memorial Volume, 1992, 257-279.
- WETTINGER, Godfrey, The Jews of Malta in the Late Middle Ages. (Malta: Midsea Books Ltd., 1985).
- YERUSHALMI, Yosef Haim, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Foreword by Harold Bloom. (Washington: University of Washington Press, [1982]1996).
- ZELDES, Nadia, The Former Jews of the Kingdom: Sicilian Converts after the Expulsion, 1492-1516. (Leiden: Brill, The Medieval Mediterranean, 2003).

Further readings will be provided to the students during lectures.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment 50%
Presentation (15 Minutes) 50%


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.