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jewish persecution


            Since the dawn of time prejudice has been an apparent, if not blatant, part of any society. This was no different during the Middle Ages. It was hardly unusual until the mid 1900s. Social Minorities learned to accept this hate and work around it. However, many minorities flourish not despite of but because of prejudice. In this case we will examine the persecution of Jews and women in medieval society.
             A place to begin is the position Jews held in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. Jews were thought to be people that dressed differently and, in Palestine, spoke in a strange tongue; although outside Palestine, they spoke Greek like the rest. They were labeled atheists because they did not believe in any of the Greco-Roman gods or goddesses. Worse still, they were called "enemies of the human race" because they did not eat the foods that others did or mingle with them in gymnastics, the theater, race courses, or similar social pursuits. These accusations left them despised and at the same time grudgingly admired for their love of learning, their shrewdness and, in the case of a few, their skills in the art of medicine. .
             In Roman times Jews were citizens, but in the later middle Ages they were treated under the law as resident foreigners. They lived under the protection of the King, yet this also meant that they were vulnerable to his whims. Jews were also unable to own Christian slaves, or take Christian oaths, thus excluding them from the feudal and manorial systems. Thus, the only occupations available to them were those of artisans, traders, or money lenders. Persecution of Jewish communities began with the massacres in the Rhineland by Crusaders. In the twelfth century, the increasing centralization of states allowed for the existence of more uniform law, and urbanization expanded the role of money in society. The rise of guilds excluded Jewish artisans. These changes meant that Jewish traders and money lenders began to hold more important positions in society.


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