Jewish life among Christians in the Middle Ages is often imagined as an experience of unmitigated suffering: economic exploitation followed by bloody persecution, climaxing in a series of expulsions from Western Europe. In this book, Jonathan Elukin asks us to change that mental image by shifting our focus. Instead of emphasizing the conflicts between Christians and Jews, Elukin shows how deeply interconnected the two groups were in their everyday lives. They lived together, worked together, and even attended each other’s weddings. This day-to-day interaction created “habits of tolerance” that made living together possible.
Elukin, who teaches history at Trinity College, makes use of cutting-edge scholarship on medieval Europe to clarify the differing circumstances that controlled Jewish lives. Jews in different places learned how to defend themselves appropriately, depending on the local balance of power between princes, bishops, merchants, and peasants. Spanning more than a millennium (5th to 16th centuries), he gives the reader a flowing account of both individual events and large-scale trends. Sometimes, the complexity of the details does not receive justice, and it is a shame that almost no internal Jewish sources are discussed. As a lucid, up-to-date survey of Christian- Jewish relations in the pre-modern period, it is helpful and thought-provoking. Index, notes.