Jewish History: 711-1492

WOH 3285/REL 3938/JST 3930

Fall, 2009


Instructor: Dr. Nina Caputo

Class time: MWF Period 7 (1:55-2:45 p.m.)

Office Hours: Wednesday, 12:00-1:50 p.m., and by appointment

Office: Keene-Flint 216

Phone: (352) 273-3379




Course description: This course will survey major historic developments in medieval Jewish society under both Islam and western Christendom.  We will look at the divergence of Judaism and Christianity, the rise of the Babylonian geonim, the social and cultural history of Jews in the Arab Mediterranean world, the emergence of Jewish communities in Medieval Ashkenaz, and the impact on Jewish society of the Crusades, the Reconquista, the emergence of the mendicant orders, and the Black Death. In the lectures, readings and assignments, students will examine the interaction of Jews with the majority culture, political structure, and economy, as well as changing cultural trends within Jewish society. The distinctive religious climate of the medieval period will serve as a unifying theme throughout. We will study primary sources as well as recent historical scholarship. Class is conducted as lecture and discussion of texts with an occasional film or slide lecture.

Prerequisites: None.

Recommended background:  Familiarity with medieval history (EUH 2001 or EUH 3122) and some familiarity with Judaism or Jewish civilization (REL 2600).


Course Requirements : a) Two papers (4-5 pages each), due 30 September and 28 November, each worth 20 points; b) A midterm exam, worth 20 points; c) A final exam, worth 35 points; d) Informed and well considered class participation, worth 5 points; e) Regular and punctual attendance is required. Excused absences (such as illness, university business, etc.) must be certified by documentation, such as a doctor's note. If you miss more than 3 class meetings without a valid written excuse you will be docked a full grade increment.


University of Florida GatorLink Email : Class announcements will be sent out to your gatormail accounts via the classrolls mailing list. Check your GatorLink email account on a regular basis; you will be held responsible for all amendments to reading or writing assignments posted there. 'I don't check my GatorLink account' will not be considered a valid excuse for failure to complete an assignment or follow instructions.

Written assignments : Historical writing demands that you make your arguments in a clear and precise manner and that you back them up with historical evidence. Thus, written assignments will be graded on the basis of style as well as content . Completion of the written assignments is absolutely required . Late assignments will not be accepted.

Reading assignments : If you do not make a good faith effort to finish the reading assignments before the Friday meeting, you will likely find yourself frustrated and confused during the lectures. If you find yourself falling behind in the readings, I suggest you at least skim the assigned readings before lecture so you are familiar with the themes and issues addressed on that day.

Academic Honesty : In writing papers, be certain to give proper credit whenever you use words, phrases, ideas, arguments, and conclusions drawn from someone else's work. Failure to give credit by quoting and/or footnoting is PLAGIARISM and is unacceptable. Any student caught plagiarizing will automatically fail the assignment and will face official prosecution at the instructor's discretion. To be sure that you are fully aware of the relevant policies please review the Student Honesty Guidelines at:


Please do not hesitate to contact the instructor during the semester if you have any individual concerns or issues that need to be discussed. Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office ( The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor when requesting accommodation.


If you are a history major or minor, and wish to receive important announcements on courses, scholarships and awards at your email address,  please sign on to the History Department listserv. Compose a message to: In the text of the message type the following: subscribe


The following books are available for purchase at Goerings Books, 1717 NW 1st Ave.



·             Lawrence Fine, Judaism in Practice

·             Norman Stillman, Jews of Arab Lands

·             Mark Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross



·             Ivan Marcus, Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe

·             Avraham Grossman, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe

·             Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, ed. Michael A. Signer and John Van Engen

·             Bernard F. Reilly, The Medieval Spains


I           24-28 August

Introduction: The Foundations of Medieval Judaism

·             READINGS

Josephus, Jewish Wars (Book 6, read chapters 8-10)

Fine, 1-36, 39-48 (text #5)


II        31 August -4 September

Shared Roots, Contested Authority

·             READINGS

Cohen, 4-29

Strabo The Geography

Roman Inscriptions (what can you learn about the a community’s beliefs and values from grave epitaphs? Bring examples to support your analysis and conclusions)

Stillman, 3-21, 149-151


III      7-11 Septmeber

Jewish Life and Culture Under Islam: Legal and Communal Foundations

No class 7 September, Labor Day

·             READINGS

Stillman, xxiii-xxv (Chronological Table); 22-39; 113-136; 152-162

Brody, Introduction

Cohen, 111-120


IV      14-18 September

Jewish Life and Culture Under Islam: Legal and Communal Foundations

·             READINGS

Brody, Chapter 3 and 4

Stillman, 165-183, 210-211, 252-254

Cohen, 52-74


V         21-25 September

Jewish Life and Culture Under Islam: Economy

·             READINGS

Stillman, 40-63, 163-164, 192-197, 200-205

Cohen, 88-103


VI      28 September - 2 October

Jewish Life and Culture Under Islam: Culture and Literature

No class 28 September - Yom Kippur

·             READINGS

Brody, Chapter 8

Stillman, 211-232

Cohen, 131-136, 145-169

Fine, 229-236


VII 5-9 October

5 October, Midterm

7 October, No Class

Jewish Life and Culture Under Islam: Conclusion and Review

·             READINGS

Fine, 413-428

Stillman, 233-251


VIII 12-16 October

Early Christianity and the Jews

No Class 16 October, Home Coming

·             READINGS

Cohen, 30-51

Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle to the Romans, chapters 9-10

Augustine, The City of God, Book XVII, ch. 46

John Chrysostom, Homily Against the Jews, IV

Later Roman Law

Toldot Yeshu


IX     19-23 October

Jews in Medieval Latin Christendom: Settlement in Western Europe

·             READINGS

Cohen, 77-88, 107-111

Charlemagne's Capitulary for the Jews

Agobard of Lyon, On the Insolence of the Jews

Jewish Trade

Charter of Speyer


X         26-30 October

Jews in Medieval Latin Christendom: Culture and Religion

·             READINGS

Marcus, in Biale

Malkiel, "Jewish Christian Relations"

Fine, 191-202


XI      2-6 November

The Crusades: Impact and Responses

·             READINGS

Fine 438-452

Christian Accounts

Shepkaru, "Death Twice Over"


XII   9-13 November

Jewish-Christian Relations: Mutual Perceptions and Cultural Encounters

No class 11 November, Veterans Day

·             READINGS

Cohen, 121-131

Gilbert Crispin:


XIII 16-20 November

Jewish-Christian Relations: Mutual Perceptions and Cultural Encounters

·             READINGS

Fine, 115-130

McCulloh, "Jewish Ritual Murder"

Langmuir, "Thomas of Monmouth":


XIV 23-27 November

Shifts in the Legal Status of European Jewry

No class 25 November, Thanksgiving

·             READINGS

Fine, 429-437

Pope Innocent III, Constitution for the Jews

Lateran IV, Canon 1 and 67-70


XV   30 November-4 December

Jewish-Christian Dialogue

·             READINGS

Cohen, Review 145-161

Disputation Texts

Berger, "Mission to the Jews"

Chazan, "The Barcelona Disputation"


XVI 7-9 December

The Case of Spain

·             READINGS

Cohen, 169-199

Nirenberg "Mass Conversion"

Limpieza de Sangre

Synod of Castilian Jews

Edict of Expulsion

Account of Expulsion


Final, Tuesday 15 Dec. time of class