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Medieval Persecution in Europe, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 609

Essay

Describe the circumstances of medieval Europe that caused Jews to be outsiders in the cities where they had lived for generations.

Despite the fact that there were many Jewish people within the population of Western Europe during the medieval period, the rulers were primarily Christian. This made it difficult for the Jewish population to gain acceptance or political representation and they were often marginalized within society. Furthermore, they were often the source of persecution and the victims of attack due to their differences with the larger Christian population of the time. Not only were Jewish people unable to own land during this period, but they were also segregated into their own living areas, known as ghettos. They were often suspected of being sympathetic with Muslims as well, creating an atmosphere in which they were often distrusted by the Christian population. Furthermore, the social roles that Jews were able to play were often restricted, as there were often religious associations with the political roles at the time.

Monarchs utilized these restrictions to their benefit by using the Jews as a source of income and also as scapegoats when they were no longer needed. Due to the restrictions that were in place on Jews regarding the jobs that they were allowed to take, they often became moneylenders, which was looked down on by Christian society. This was an occupation that was looked at as sacrilegious by the church. However, Jews were exempt from these restrictions and were often used by the monarchs as a source of income, as they could borrow money from them and not necessarily pay them back. Furthermore, the Jewish population became a useful scapegoat to turn public sentiment during turbulent times, such as the plague. Misconceptions regarding Jews made them an easy target for fueling public sentiment. The fact that the Jewish populations were not a part of the natural order of serfdom and monarchy, in this sense, made them an easy group, due to their isolation from the rest of society.

During this period, their association with Islam made them the target of attacks that worked to establish a more cohesive Christian identity during the crusades. During this period, hatred of Jews in Europe became widespread, and various communities were scattered or destroyed. The expulsion of Jews from various European nations further demonstrates this codification, as the populations were “purified” out of the need to establish stronger Christian foundations. Pressures from the Catholic church during this period were presented in regards to the need for them to establish their faith and join the growing order that had indoctrinated the teachings of Christ into notions of semi-nationalism towards a common, Christian, European identity.

The Muslim populations of Europe were also heavily persecuted during this time. The increasingly tense conflicts between the European Christians and the Islamic rulers in the Middle East presented difficult circumstances to those of the Islamic faith living in Christian Europe at the time. During this period, there were various Jews and Muslims that were exiled from European countries. The Gypsies presented another misunderstood minority that suffered from the increasingly idealized dogmatism of Christianized Europe. These groups, who were similarly isolated from the rest of society, present an important example of how those who were considered to be ‘outsiders’ were persecuted during the medieval period.

Works Cited

Hunt, Lynn, Martin, Thomas R., Rosenwein, Barbara H., Smith, Bonnie G. Lualdi, Katherine J. The Making of the West, 4th Edition Volume I Bedford E-book to Go + Sources of the Making of the West, Fourth Ed Ition Vol I: A Concise History. Macmillon Higher Education. 2013. Print.

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