Non­fic­tion

The Voice of the Poor in the Mid­dle Ages: An Anthol­o­gy of Doc­u­ments From the Cairo Geniza

Mark Cohen

  • Review
By – July 9, 2012

This book builds on and makes a fur­ther con­tri­bu­tion to the great Geniza schol­ar S.D. Goitein’s mul­ti­vol­ume set A Mediter­rannn­ian Soci­ety. In the 20th cen­tu­ry, Geniza research was pio­neered by such schol­ars as Solomon Schechter, Louis Ginzberg, Sim­chah Asaf and Ben­jamin Lewin. These his­to­ri­ans made impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions, but their focus was large­ly on the Rab­binic cul­tur­al elite and eco­nom­ic elite. The Voice of the Poor in the Mid­dle Ages deals with the mar­gin­al­ized and often ignored voic­es of the poor. This is an impor­tant step in fill­ing in the lacu­nae of social his­to­ry. Cohen has mined the pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments of the Cairo Geniza with zest and style, pro­vid­ing a vivid pic­ture of life for the major­i­ty of Jews in the Mid­dle Ages: bat­tling for sur­vival against the forces of medieval poverty.

David Levy (B.A. Haver­ford Col­lege, MLS UMCP, Ph.D. Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty) cur­rent­ly serves as the librar­i­an at TC. LCW. David has pub­lished over 1,800 book reviews and var­i­ous papers in Judaica library sci­ence includ­ing, most recent­ly, Halakhic Eth­i­cal Issues of the Online Envi­ron­ment” (AJL, 2011, Mon­tréal) and Teach­ing Judaica Library Sci­ence” (AJL, 2010 Seattle).

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