Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World

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This book offers the first in-depth treatment of Jewish images of and behavior toward Blacks during the period of peak Jewish involvement in Atlantic slaveholding. Based on a wide range of sources in several languages, many previously unexplored and unpublished in English, it addresses some basic scholarly questions : What do primary sources tell us about relations between early modern Blacks and Jews? What do Jewish sources, textual and archival, convey about Blacks? If Jews lived according to Jewish law, did Jewish behaviour toward their slaves take shape under its influence? What does the Jewish legal tradition say about slavery and behaviour toward slaves? Is there a connection between Jewish textual attitudes toward Blacks and Jewish behaviour toward them? If so, how do the two inform one another? Attempting to move beyond inter-ethnic polemics, this book constructs a cultural and social portrait of Jews - mostly Sephardic - amid a larger socio-economic context, one from which Jews differed little, their religious Otherness notwithstanding.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A work of immense scholarship and elegant writing—encyclopedic in scope."
-Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies

"The study as a whole is an important contribution to research and should be read by all thsoe interested in understanding the formation of the modern Jewish mentality."
-Abraham Melamed, University of Haifa

"Schorsch has written an imposing and illuminating[...]book on an important and often polemically cahrged subject. Ideally, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World will be a major contribution to that yet-to-be-written history of the origins and development of European racism."
-April G. Shelford, American University, American Jewish History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521820219
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2003
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Schorsch is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in the Religion Department of Columbia University. He has published articles in American Jewish History, European Judaism, and Jewish Culture and History, among other academic journals and is also the Jewish Book Editor for Tikkun magazine.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
List of abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 Abravanel's ambivalent Africans 17
2 Jews and their slaves : theory and reality 50
3 Blacks in Jewish society east of the Atlantic 70
4 Moshe's Kushite wife 102
5 Imagining Kushites 116
6 The curse of Ham : explorations in cross-cultural genealogy 135
7 Inventing Jewish whiteness : the seventeenth-century western Sephardic diaspora, part I 166
8 Inventing Jewish whiteness : the seventeenth-century western Sephardic diaspora, part II 192
9 The religious life of slaves belonging to Jews : seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch and English colonies 217
10 Into the enlightenment : Jews and Blacks in the long eighteenth century 254
(In)conclusion 294
App. 1 Names of slaves belonging to Sephardic Jews of Barbados (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) 305
App. 2 Names of slaves belonging to Sephardic Jews of Jamaica (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) 307
App. 3 Names of slaves belonging to Sephardic Jews of Surinam (eighteenth century) 308
App. 4 Names of slaves belonging to Sephardic Jews of Curacao (eighteenth century) 318
App. 5 Names of Sephardic Jews in eighteenth-century Jamaica (died before 1800) 331
App. 6 Names of Sephardic Jews in Curacao (died before 1800) 333
Glossary 337
Notes 339
Works cited 479
Index 531
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