Commercialization among the Jewish Merchants of Marseille
Chapters 4 and 5 refuted the “economic function of the medieval Jew” with data from the economic, legal, and political histories of Anglo-Jewry. Chapter 6 traced the emergence of the stereotype of the Jewish usurer in the interstices of the ecclesiastical campaign against Christian usury, crusading, and an anti-Judaism program in northern France. It is time to return to the broader question of medieval economic history. For as Part 1 clarified, the “economic function of the Jew” was grounded in a view of medieval European economy as static and agrarian, developed by the German Historical School. Two scholarly currents in the interwar and postwar periods challenged this perspective. One recovered “medieval capitalism,” or what later came to be called the commercial revolution of the High Middle Ages. The other recast early medieval economy as a gift economy, which transformed with the commercial revolution into a profit economy. Yet, the “Jewish economic function” did not wither away. Rather it became more deeply entrenched in response to twentieth-century antisemitism and its stereotypes of Jews and money. The masterminds of the postwar paradigms re-inscribed the Jewish economic function into the paradigms of commercial revolution and gift economy/profit economy. This latent contradiction hampers our historical understanding of both Jewish history and European history.