The Conspiratorial Imperative: Medieval Jewry in Western Europe

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Abstract

In some ways, it is surprising that we are still able, or willing, to explore the historical vicissitudes of various conspiracies. After all, the self-same cunning intrigues and sinister machinations to destroy humanity have now been contrived for thousands of years by preternaturally powerful and intelligent monsters. One might thus reasonably have expected either that the conspirators finally would have disposed of us, or that we would have disposed of that age-old theme. Indeed, on the whole, world conspiracies have proven singularly disappointing and ineffective. The 13-year Nazi Reich, with its millenial aspirations and destructive fury, probably constitutes the one instance of a successful modern conspiracy, the product ofa frenzied collective imagination assuming political power. Yet the conspiratorial themes upon which this popular imagination feeds have shown extraordinary tenacity throughout the ages. At times they have endured in their original form since antiquity, without any transformation or adapation whatsoever.