Jewish ROles in Medieval Europe

There are many disputes as to when exactly the Jewish people and their roles in medieval civilization became apparent to the Christian and Islam peoples of the time. Various time periods are claimed by various different authors, however in this particular case I have utilized the historical writings of Louis Finkelstein. In one of his many books, we find that his perception of Jews in this time are from about 1000 AD to 1603AD. These dates seem to encompass the entire Middle Ages much better than some of the other speculations made by various other Jewish authors.

Many events were taking shape towards the end of the first century, and this is where Finkelstein finds it necessary to mark the start of the Jewish people in the so-called Dark Ages. In the year 1000, Jews were spread across the world in large and small communities from Spain and North Africa, all the way to the Byzantine Empire, which is now in modern day Turkey. Finkelstein particularly chooses this date to being with however, because of the establishing of the courts in this time period. Furthermore, this is where we now see Jews being forced to convert to Christianity or be killed. We see a great upsurge in the so-called need to reform all other religions until they are under Christianity, and Jews were the focus of much of this persecution.

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It is not right to say that all Jewish people of this time were being persecuted and abused by the courts. On the contrary, we do see many Jews who are economically and socially wealthy and who have established extensive trade routes and merchant posts in cities and in the country, mainly around the Mediterranean Sea. We must also recognize however, that the Crusades began in 1096 and caused much hardship and destruction to many Jewish families and their property, although in this time many Jews did not own much land. Moreover, Finkelstein is very confident in his assertion that 1000 and the establishment of the courts is the starting point for the Jews in the Middle Ages.

Lastly, we see that Finkelstein decides to end his time period of the Jews in the Middle Ages with the year 1603. Many other authors have ended their time periods from as early as 1306 with the Jews first expulsion from France (Graetz), to as late as 1791 and the French Revolution (Marcus). Finkelstein decides to use 1603 because of its significance in regard to it being the year Queen Elizabeth dies, along with prosperity of the Elizabethan Era, and James I takes the throne. This has many implications for the Jewish people, most of which could be the rewriting of the Bible and the New Testament.
It is evident that we see many different accounts from many different scholars and authors as to when the period that we define as the Jewish Middle Ages starts and finishes. Louis Finkelstein has narrowed it down to the beginning being the year 1000 AD and the end being the year 1603AD. The roles and privileges of the Jewish people of this time however, was significant to the Christian and Islam powers and has been apparent in world culture for centuries.

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