The George Washington University
History 113: History of the Jews in Christian
Europe to the Eighteenth Century
Spring 2003

Professor Marc Saperstein

This course is being offered in conjunction with Prometheus. Every student registered for the course will receive a password to access the course on the web ( More detailed information about individual sessions, links for additional resources, and a chat room for discussing issues pertaining to the course, will be available. Most important: assigned readings in addition to the four required books will be accessible through Prometheus in the Gelman electronic reserve, enabling you to access them from your own computer.

Examines the position of the Jews in relation to church and state; traditional Jewish society and self–government of the Jewish community; movements of Jewish spirituality in their cultural contexts (philosophy, mysticism, German and Polish Hasidism); changing population centers; the background of emancipation and enlightenment.



Jacob R. Marcus The Jew in the Medieval World (revised edition, with an introduction and updated bibliographies by Marc Saperstein. Page assignments below are to this edition, not to the old one. Students should bring this to class regularly, as we will be referring to it virtually every meeting.)

Kenneth Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe (bookstore)

Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages (bookstore)

Jonathan Israel, European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750 (bookstore)

Readings on Electronic Reserve, available as link on Prometheus; indicated by * below.



Tues, Sept 2—Introduction: Jewish History from Without and Within

Thurs, Sept 4—The Jews in Antiquity


Marcus, pp. xxv–xxiii (Preface), xiii–xxiv (Introduction).

Marcus, pp. 3–13, 120-23

*Gavin Langmuir, "Majority History and Postbiblical Jews"

Tues, Sept 9 and Thurs, Sept 11—Jews in Christian Europe Before 1096


Marcus, pp. 22-26, 124-27, 404-6, 270-73

*Charters in Chazan, pp. 58–63 (bring to class on Thursday)

Stow, 8–73, 77–101


Tuesday: Agobard of Lyons, "On the Insolence of the Jews" (Prometheus link)

Tues, Sept 16—The Crusades, Martyrdom


Marcus, pp. 128-36, 147-52, 340-41

Stow, pp. 102–20


Antiochus Strategos, "The Sack of Jerusalem"

"Contemporary Christian historians on the attacks against Rhineland Jews" (both links on Prometheus)

Thurs, Sept 18—Shifts in Jewish–Christian Relations (12th Century)


Marcus, pp. 27–30, 135–46

Stow, pp. 231–47

Tues, Sept 23—Shifts in Jewish–Christian Relations (13th Century)


Marcus, pp. 153–73

Stow, pp. 247- 80.

Innocent III's "Constitution" on behalf of the Jews, and "Letter to Philip Augustus of France," (links on Prometheus)

Thurs, Sept 25—Inner Life: Jewish Law, Talmud Study, Community


Stow, pp. 135–209

Katz, pp. 113–24

Marcus, pp. 341-42, 447-51

Responsum of R. Joseph Colon (distributed)


A court case and rabbinic responsum regarding a daughter’s inheritance, Barcelona, 1293 (link on Prometheus)

A short written exercise (3–4 pages), analyzing the passage entitled "Responsum of R. Joseph Colon," which will be distributed by September 18, is due on Thursday, September 25. It will not be accepted late, as the text will be discussed in that class.

Tues, Sept 30—Inner Life: Rationalism and its Opponents


Marcus, pp. 214-18

Stow, pp. 73–77

*Yitzhak Baer, Conflicts over Philosophy, from A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 1: 96–110, 289–305

Thurs, Oct 2— German Hasidism (Hasidut Ashkenaz)


Marcus, pp. 432- 33

Stow, pp. 121–34

"The Doctrine of Repentance of German Pietism" (distributed)

Tues, Oct 7 Classical Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah)


Zohar: "The Bodies of the Torah and the Soul of the Torah" (distributed)

Stow, pp. 73-77

Katz, pp. 190–94

Israel, pp. 65-66

*Baer, "Social Background ... of the Zohar," from A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 1: 261–77

Thurs, Oct 9—Mid-Term Exam (in class)

Tues, Oct 14—Fourteenth Century Disasters (Black Death, 1391 Pogroms)


Marcus, pp. 49- 55

Stow, pp. 281–97

*Solomon Alami, "Why Catastrophes Come" ("Iggeret Musar")

Thurs, Oct 16—Conversos and the Spanish Inquisition


Marcus, pp. 195-201

"The Establishment of the National Inquisition in Spain" (distributed)

*"Inquisitorial Trials of Ines Lopez" (Gelman Electronic Reserve)


Catholic Encyclopedia article in "Inquisition" (Prometheus)

"The 1432 Synod of Valladolid and the Reconstruction of Castilian Jewry" (Prometheus)

Tues, Oct 21—The Expulsion from Spain and its Aftermath


"The Edict of Expulsion" (link on Prometheus: print and bring to class)

Marcus, pp. 59- 64

Stow, pp. 297–302

A short written exercise (3–4 pages), analyzing the passage entitled "The Edict of Expulsion" (link for October 21) is due at the meeting on October 21. It will not be accepted late, as the text will be discussed in that class.

Thurs, Oct 23 Refuge, Forced Conversion, and Massacre in Portugal


Marcus, 65- 69

*Yerushalmi, The Lisbon Massacre of 1506 and the Royal Image in Shevet Yehudah, pp. 48- 62

Tues, Oct 28 and Thurs, Oct 30 Renaissance and Italian Jewry


Marcus, pp. 191- 94, 283- 88, 438- 46, 458- 67, 477- 81, 489- 91, 497- 501

Stow, pp. 302–308

Israel, pp. 13-18, 60- 64, 143- 49, 160- 62

*Cecil Roth, "The Jews in Renaissance Society"

Tues, Nov 4—Reformation; Jewish Communities of Germany and Central Europe


Marcus, pp. 185–90, 224–26

Luther, selections from "On the Jews and Their Lies" (link on Prometheus)

Israel, pp. 4–13, 72–89, 157–60

Statement of paper topics due on Tuesday, November 4

Thurs, Nov. 6—Jewish Communities of Poland, Catastrophe in 1648


Marcus, pp. 233–39, 513–22

Katz, pp. 65–112, 183–84

Israel, pp. 22-28, 151-57

Tues, Nov 11, Thurs, Nov 13—"Traditional Jewish Society" in Central and Eastern Europe


Marcus, pp. 221, 372- 80, 491- 96, 505- 12, 523- 32

Berakhiah Berakh, from Introduction to "Sefer Zera Berakh" – Distributed: a response to the Catastrophe of 1648. Compare with Nathan Hanover in Marcus, pp. 234- 36.

Israel, pp. 119- 50

Katz, pp. 3–62, 124–69 (bring to class)

Tues, Nov 18—17th-Century Challenges to Traditional Society: "Marrano Skepticism"


*Uriel da Costa, "My Double Life and Excommunication" (electronic reserve)

Marcus, pp. 381–90,

Israel, 177- 84

Thurs, Nov 20- 17th-Century Challenges to Traditional Society: Sabbateian Movement


Marcus, pp. 295-303

Katz, pp. 170–79, 184–90

Israel, pp. 169- 77

Tues, Nov 25 Polish Hasidism


Marcus, pp. 309–19

Katz, pp. 195–213

Israel, pp. 210–15

Thurs, Nov 27 Happy Thanksgiving!

Tues, Dec. 2 and Thurs, Dec 4 Enlightenment and the Beginnings of Emancipation


Marcus, pp. 76–79, 97–110, 391–95

Katz, pp. 214–53

Israel, pp. 101-18, 194-210

Papers (see below) are due on Thursday, December 4



In addition to thorough reading, regular attendance, and thoughtful participation in class discussions, requirements for the course are as follows:

1. A brief written exercise (3–4 pages) analyzing the passage "Responsum of R. Joseph Colon," due in class on Thursday, September 25 (10% of final grade)

2. A brief written exercise (3–4 pages) analyzing the passage "The Order of Expulsion," due in class on Tuesday, October 21 (10 % of final grade).

3. A mid–term exam, taken in class on Thursday October 9 (15%)

4. A short paper (10–12 pages) analyzing one primary text or an issue of dispute among historians, the topic to be chosen by the student from a list to be distributed or in consultation with the instructor. A statement of the paper topic should be submitted to the instructor by Tuesday, November 4, and is due at the final meeting of the course, Thursday, December 4. (30%)

5. A final exam, which must be taken by all students (30%). This exam will be cumulative (especially in the essay questions), but will emphasize material in the second half of the course.

6. Participation in class discussions, 5% of the final grade, will be used to determine a grade in borderline cases

Instructor’s Office Hours are Wednesdays from 2–3:30 and Thursdays from 3:30–5 in 2142 G Street, second floor (Judaic Studies Building). Students are welcome and encouraged to come and discuss any issues arising from the material of the course.

In order to receive accommodations on the basis of disability, students with special needs must give notice and provide proper documentation to the Office of Disability Support Services, Marvin Center 436, 994–8250.