Salonica’s Jews in the Mediterranean: Two Historiographical Perspectives (1945–2010)
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French or Francophone historians have constructed two successive images of Salonica in the modern age. This article discusses these two images—products of two different perspectives, inquiries, and approaches to writing history—and their relationship to the landmark years of 1492 and 1943. The first image bears the mark of Fernand Braudel. It focuses on Salonica as a city of the Mediterranean. The Ottoman expansion between the middle of the fifteenth century and the first decades of the sixteenth century rendered the Mediterranean a site of both confrontation and exchanges. Salonica was connected to multiethnic commercial networks that extended westward to Venice and Livorno. This image of the city emphasizes its mostly Iberian Jewish population, one of the principal minorities—along with Greeks and Armenians—who operated as intermediaries in these networks. The second image was drawn by Salonica’s Jewish intellectuals at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it did not gain wider scholarly currency until the 1970s and 1980s. It depicts Salonica from the middle of the nineteenth century to the empire’s end as a Jewish city par excellence—“the Jerusalem of the Balkans.” This was also the image of Salonica as the empire’s “window onto the West” and mediator of its modernization.
KeywordsMediterranean Fernand Braudel Historiography Ottoman Empire Balkans Migration flows Salonica Salonica’s Jews
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