Ram Ben-Shalom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In the Middle Ages, the Jews of Provence were at the forefront of some of the most important religio-cultural developments in the Mediterranean Basin. Let it suffice to mention the Hebrew translation project of Arabic philosophical and scientific works, which introduced the Jews of Christian Europe to the accomplishments of the Jews of Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus), and contributed to the creation of the Aristotelian-Maimonidean philosophical school and the spiritual upheaval and debate to which it subsequently gave rise. Another consequence of this undertaking was the first historical appearance of the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah. The yeshivot of Provence achieved renown as centres of learning, in the realms of Torah, Halakhah, mysticism, pietism and sacred poetry. The chapter discusses the history of the Jews of southern France, from Roman times, when they first settled in the region, to their final expulsion in 1500-focusing on topics such as Jewish communal institutions, the supreme leadership of the neśi’im, systems of taxation, enactments (taqqanot), courts, occupations and moneylending by Jews. The chapter also addresses relations between Jews and the Christian authorities, the Church and its inquisitors-the first to include the Jews of Provence and their books in their interrogatory practices. Repeated expulsions from the Kingdom of France and Languedoc (beginning in 1306), and occasional anti-Jewish riots-during the Shepherds’ Crusade (1320) and the Black Death (1348), for example-resulted in the forced conversion of some Jews (anusim) and the martyrdom of others. Nevertheless, Provençal Jewry’s long-lived social and polemical encounter with Christianity also produced spiritual approaches that advocated religious tolerance toward the Christian faith, as well as periods of cultural renaissance.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Judaism
Subtitle of host publicationVolume VI: The Middle Ages: The Christian World
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781139048880
ISBN (Print)9780521517249
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.


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