Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth

Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth

by Magda Teter
Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth

Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth

by Magda Teter


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A landmark history of the antisemitic blood libel myth--how it took root in Europe, spread with the invention of the printing press, and persists today.

Accusations that Jews ritually killed Christian children emerged in the mid-twelfth century, following the death of twelve-year-old William of Norwich, England, in 1144. Later, continental Europeans added a destructive twist: Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood. While charges that Jews poisoned wells and desecrated the communion host waned over the years, the blood libel survived.

Initially blood libel stories were confined to monastic chronicles and local lore. But the development of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century expanded the audience and crystallized the vocabulary, images, and "facts" of the blood libel, providing a lasting template for hate. Tales of Jews killing Christians--notably Simon of Trent, a toddler whose body was found under a Jewish house in 1475--were widely disseminated using the new technology. Following the paper trail across Europe, from England to Italy to Poland, Magda Teter shows how the blood libel was internalized and how Jews and Christians dealt with the repercussions.

The pattern established in early modern Europe still plays out today. In 2014 the Anti-Defamation League appealed to Facebook to take down a page titled "Jewish Ritual Murder." The following year white supremacists gathered in England to honor Little Hugh of Lincoln as a sacrificial victim of the Jews. Based on sources in eight countries and ten languages, Blood Libel captures the long shadow of a pernicious myth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674240933
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 01/28/2020
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 558,561
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Magda Teter is Professor of History and Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University. The author of Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation (Harvard) and Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland, she has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Harry Frank Guggenheim foundations and was Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Cullman Center, New York Public Library.

Table of Contents

Illustrations ix

Note on Places and Names xi

Introduction 1

1 From Medieval Tales to the Challenge in Trent 14

2 The Death of Little Simon and the Trial of Jews in Trent 43

3 Echoes of Simon of Trent in European Culture 89

4 Blood Libels and Cultures of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe 152

5 Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews Respond to Blood Libels 208

6 "Who Should One Believe, the Rabbis or the Doctors of the Church?" 236

7 "Jews Are Deemed Innocent in the Tribunals of Italy" 279

8 The "Enlightenment" Pope Benedict XIV and the Blood Accusation 300

9 Cardinal Ganganelli's Secret Report 323

10 Calculated Pragmatism and the Waning of Accusations 345

Epilogue: The Trail Continues 377

Notes 387

Archival and Printed Primary Sources 493

Acknowledgments 515

Index 519

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