Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in Central European History 42 (2009), 339–384. Copyright (c) Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association. Used by permission.


The theme of Jonathan Elukin’s elegant and well-argued book is Jewish-Christian coexistence in medieval Europe—how was it possible given Christian prejudice and anti-Jewish violence? Older medieval Jewish history stressed the themes of “scholars and suffering,” embodying what the late Salo Baron termed a “lachrymose” view of Jewish history. In recent years historians have stressed how medieval Europe became a “persecuting society,” following the work of R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (1987), and David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence (1996). Elukin argues for a different approach to medieval Jewish experience, eschewing a “one-dimensional narrative of victimization” (p. 4) for a more nuanced inquiry that explores the social and political ties that bound Jews to medieval society. While other medieval Jewish historians such as Robert Chazan and Ivan Marcus have made some of the same points in the past, Elukin is the first to write a sustained book-length argument along these lines.

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