Skip to main content Accessibility help

Reason in the History of Persecution

Observations on the Historiography of Jewish-Christian Relations from the Perspective of Forced Baptisms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Elsa Marmursztejn
Université de Reims (CERHIC) – Institut universitaire de France


Forced baptism, as a long-lasting instance of the persecution of Jews in Western societies, has been a highly controversial historiographical issue. Taking into account the risks involved in such a stance—as being a “lachrymose conception of Jewish history” and advocating “teleological,” “anachronistic,” “judiciary” views—this article deals with the historiographical trends which, ruling out the “persecuting society” paradigm and systematically minimizing the part played by religious factors to explain the forms of persecution, have resulted in specific works on historical causality and temporality. Two situations (the first Crusade in 1096 and the Crusade of the Pastoureaux in 1320) enable us to observe the mechanisms of rationalization in this new history of persecution, and show the diversity of its objects and approaches.

Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages
Copyright © Les Éditions de l’EHESS 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1. For the Finaly case, see Catherine, Poujol, Les enfants cachés. L’affaire Finaly, 1945-1953 (Paris: Berg International, 2006).Google Scholar

2. Fourth Council of Toledo, canon 57, trans. Amnon, Linder, The Jews in the Legal Sources of the Early Middle Ages (Detroit/Jerusalem: Wayne State University Press, 1997), 48687 Google Scholar, taken up in Gratian’s Decretum, D. 45, c. 5, Emil, Friedberg, ed., Decretum Gratiani (Leipzig, 1879), I: col. 16162 Google Scholar.

3. Fourth Council of Toledo, canon 60, trans. Linder, Amnon, The Jews in the Legal Sources, 488, Decretum Gratiani, C. 28, q. 1, c. 11 (Fr. I, 1087)Google Scholar. For the link between the baptism and kidnapping of Jewish children, see Marmursztejn, Elsa, “Effacer et soustraire. Infanticides et baptêmes forcés au Moyen Âge,” Penser/Rêver 17 (2010): 13255.Google Scholar

4. See Hazan, Katy, Les orphelins de la Shoah. Les maisons de l’espoir, 1944-1960 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2000), 63100 Google Scholar; Wievorka, Annette, Déportation et génocide. Entre la mémoire et l’oubli (Paris: Plon, 1992), 36990.Google Scholar

5. Aquinas, Thomas, Quodlibet II, 7 in Sancti Thomae de Aquino Opera Omnia, ed. Gauthier, R.-A. (Rome/Paris: Commission léonine/Éditions du Cerf, 1996), 22124, v. 25–2.Google Scholar

6. Scotus, John Duns, Opus oxoniense, lib. 4, d. 4, q. 9, ed. Marmursztejn, E. and Piron, S., “Duns Scot et la politique. Pouvoir du prince et conversion des juifs,” in Duns Scot à Paris, 1302-2002, eds. Boulnois, O. et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 21–62, here 58–62Google Scholar.

7. Anthony of Florence, Summa theologica III, tit. 14, cap. 13, § 9 (Nuremberg: A. Koberger, 1477); see Michaud-Quantin, Pierre, “La conscience individuelle et ses droits chez les moralistes de la fin du Moyen Âge,” in Universalismus und Partikularismus im Mittelalter, ed. Wilpert, P. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1968), 46.Google Scholar

8. Marmursztejn and Piron, “Duns Scot et la politique.”

9. Baer, Yitzhak F., Galut (1936; New York: Schocken, 1947)Google Scholar, and particularly Yerushalmi, Yosef H., Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982).Google Scholar

10. Grévin, Benoît, Iogna-Prat, Dominique and Sansy, Danièle, “Destins des juifs d’Europe du Nord : une question d’histoire globale,” Médiévales 41 (2001): 713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

11. Aristotle, Rhetoric, book II, chap. 8 (1386a), quoted in Ginzburg, Carlo, “To Kill a Chinese Mandarin: The Moral Implications of Distance,” Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on Distance (1998; New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 159.Google Scholar

12. Yerushalmi, Zakhor, 48–50.

13. Ibid., 50 and 132 n. 44.

14. Scholastic questions about forced baptism frequently refer moreover to the children of Jews “and other unbelievers.” See in particular recent studies by Isabelle Poutrin on the forced conversion of Muslims in Spain: Isabelle Poutrin, “L’Église et les consentements arrachés. Violence et crainte dans le baptême et l’apostasie (Espagne, XVIe-XVIIe siècle),” Rivista di Storia del Cristianesimo 7, no. 2 (2010): 489–508; Id., “Sisebut et les morisques. Le roi wisigoth Sisebut, figure des débats sur la conversion des musulmans et l’expulsion des morisques d’Espagne (XVIe-XVIIe siècles),” in L’expulsion des morisques. Quand ? Pourquoi ? Comment ?, ed. B. Vincent (Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, forthcoming).

15. See the classic study by Simon, Marcel, Israel, Verus. Étude sur les relations entre chrétiens et juifs dans l’Empire romain (135-425) (Paris: De Boccard, 1948), 92124.Google Scholar

16. Grévin, Iogna-Prat and Sansy, “Destins des juifs d’Europe du Nord,” 8–9, 13.

17. Grévin, Benoît, “Israël en Edom : à propos de quelques publications récentes sur l’histoire du judaïsme en Europe du Nord au Moyen Âge central (XIe-XIVe siècles),” Médiévales 41 (2001): 14964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18. Moore, Robert I., The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987).Google Scholar

19. Salo W. Baron held the first a chair in Jewish history in North America and was the first Jewish member of the renowned department of history at Columbia University. The historian was the subject of a biography by Liberles, Robert, Salo Wittmayer Baron: Architect of Jewish History (New York: New York University Press, 1995)Google Scholar. Baron, Salo W., “Ghetto and Emancipation,” The Menorah Journal 14 (1928) repr. in The Menorah Treasury: Harvest of Half a Century, ed. Schwarz, L. W. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1964), 5063, here 63.Google Scholar

20. Schorsch, Ismar, “The Lachrymose Conception of Jewish History,” From Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism (Hanover/London: Brandeis University Press, 1994), 37780 Google Scholar, precisely reconstructed the historiographical context in which it appeared.

21. Letteris, Meir, Emek Habaca. Historia persecutionum Judaeorum, comprehendens periodum ab anno LXX usque MDLXXV, a Josepho Ha-Cohen (Vienna, 1852)Google Scholar.

22. Wiener, Meir, Emek Habacha von Joseph Ha-Cohen (Leipzig, 1858)Google Scholar.

23. Schorsch, “The Lachrymose Conception,” 377–78.

24. Baron, Salo W., A Social and Religious History of the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937)Google Scholar.

25. Ibid., 2: 40.

26. Ibid.

27. The eighteen volumes of the second edition were published between 1952 and 1983.

28. On this point, see Marmursztejn, Elsa, “La construction d’un passé meilleur : Salo Wittmayer Baron et la condition des juifs d’Europe avant l’Émancipation,” Penser/Rêver 19 (2011): 10120 Google Scholar.

29. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 61–62.

30. Ibid., 57–60.

31. Ibid., 53–54.

32. Ibid., 54–55.

33. Ibid., 59–60.

34. Ibid., 60.

35. Engel, David, “Crisis and Lachrymosity: On Salo Baron, Neobaronianism and the Study of Modern European Jewish History,” Jewish History 20, no. 3/4 (2006): 4364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

36. Ibid., 248.

37. By showing that the diaspora communities, both during the struggle for emancipation and following its completion, carried on a creative dialogue with the surrounding societies and with Jewish traditions, from which arose new Jewish identities and a growing sense of belonging to those societies (Engel, “Crisis and Lachrymosity,” 245 n. 7).

38. “A Conversation about Salo Baron between Robert Liberles and Steven J. Zipperstein,” Jewish Social Studies 1, no. 3 (1995): 66–82, here 75–76.

39. Baron, Salo W., “Emphases in Jewish History,” Jewish Social Studies 1 (1939): 1538.Google Scholar

40. Ibid., 37.

41. Ibid., 37–38.

42. Baron, Salo W., “The Modern Age,” in Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People, ed. Schwarz, L. (New York: Random House, 1956), 315484, here 315.Google Scholar

43. Ibid., 316.

44. “A Conversation about Salo Baron,” 76.

45. Marmursztejn, “La construction d’un passé meilleur.”

46. Baron, Salo W., “Newer Emphases in Jewish History,” Jewish Social Studies 25, no. 4 (1963): 23548, here 239.Google Scholar

47. Ibid., 240.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid., 242.

50. Ibid., 240.

51. Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, Bagatelles pour un massacre (Paris: Denoël, 1937), 3839 Google Scholar: “Long live the good Jewish whine! Long live the complaining that succeeds! Long live the immense lamentation! It softens up all those of good heart and brings all the walls that appear tumbling down with gold [...]. Within this fondue of sentiment, the Jew trims, chops, gnaws, wears away, poisons and prospers [...]. Long live the excellent jeremiad! [...] The counter of Lamentations! [...] Crying sustains! Crying dissolves! Crying is the triumph of the Jews! An admirable success! The world is ours through tears! Twenty million well-trained martyrs is quite a force! The persecuted rise up pale and haggard from the darkness of the ages, from centuries of torture... Here they come, the ghosts... remorse... hanging from our sides...”

52. Nirenberg, David, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 6 Google Scholar.

53. Ibid., 3.

54. Ibid., 4–5.

55. Ibid., 5.

56. Ibid., 7.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid., 246.

59. Generally favorable toward a work designed to provoke and which unsettles the “influential model in Anglo-Saxon historiography to which certain Europeans have rallied, that of the ‘persecuting society’ [...]. According to this view of the problem, in which the historiographic perspective is the Nazi Holocaust, a ‘persecution’ mentality or collective culture, which was to become typical of the West over the long term, developed in the middle of the Middle Ages [...]. The author takes the opposite stance by exploring [...] an ‘intentionalist’ and praxeological alternative: each player in the social game in 14th century Aragon used the existing discourse about religious groups for their own private ends. The possible uses and their potential to succeed depend above all on the local context rather than on any pan-European mentality” (Philippe Buc, “Anthropologie et histoire (note critique),” Annales HSS 53, no. 6 (1998): 1243–44).

60. Ibid., 1248.

61. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 222.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid., 223.

64. The provocative wording is qualified in a note: Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 225 n. 88.

65. Ibid., 225.

66. Bloch, Marc, The Historian’s Craft (1949; New York: A. Knopf, 1953), 2934.Google Scholar

67. Bloch, Marc, The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula in England and France (1924; Montreal: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 5.Google Scholar

68. Baron, A Social and Religious History, 2: 40.

69. Baron, “The Modern Age,” 316.

70. Fourth Council of Toledo, canon 57, trans. Amnon Linder, The Jews in the Legal Sources, 486-487; Decretum Gratiani, D. 45, c. 5 (Fr. I, 161-162).

71. Caffiero, Marina, Battesimi forzati. Storia di ebrei, cristiani et convertiti nella Roma dei papi (Rome: Viella, 2004), 79.Google Scholar

72. Ibid., 81–85.

73. This is what happened in the Mortara case in 1858: see Kertzer, David, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (New York: A. Knopf, 1997).Google Scholar

74. Caffiero, Battesimi forzati, 85–86.

75. Sanctissimi Domini nostri Benedicti papae XIV Bullarium (Venice, 1778), 2: § 29, 95.

76. Ibid., § 27, 94.

77. Ibid., § 29, 95; Fourth Council of Toledo, canon 60, trans. Linder, Amnon, The Jews in the Legal Sources, 488 Google Scholar; Decretum Gratiani, C. 28, q. 1, c. 11 (Fr. I, 1087).

78. Poujol, Les enfants cachés, 106, 192–93.

79. Jules Isaac, Genèse de l’antisémitisme (1956; Paris: Ed. 10-18, 1998), 239.

80. “L’affaire Finaly,” Bulletin rationaliste, organe trimestriel de la fédération de libre-pensée de la Haute-Savoie et des rationalistes de l’enseignement, 3rd et 4th quarters 1953. The reference is noted in Poujol, Les enfants cachés, 72.

81. “L’affaire Finaly,” Bulletin rationaliste, 5.

82. Ibid., 6.

83. Cazier, Pierre, “De la coercition à la persuasion. L’attitude d’Isidore de Séville face à la politique antijuive des souverains visigothiques,” in De l’antijudaïsme antique à l’antisémitisme contemporain, ed. Nikiprowetzky, V. (Lille: Presses universitaires de Lille, 1979), 12546.Google Scholar

84. Blumenkranz, Bernhard, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental, 430-1096 (1960; Paris/Louvain: Peeters, 2006), 10813.Google Scholar

85. Cazier, “De la coercition à la persuasion,” 142.

86. Ibid., 143–44.

87. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, lib. 7, cap. 53, § 102, quoted in Cazier, “De la coercition à la persuasion,” 134: “Likewise, following the rules set by my predecessors, I have no doubt that whosoever receives baptism with false disposition but within the Church [...] does in truth receive it [...]. But suppose a society that is not made up of believers, and suppose the person to receive baptism does not himself believe either, and that all this takes place in every way as if it were a game, a comedy or a jest, would this be true baptism even so? I think we would have to ask God [...] to enlighten us about it.”

88. Ibid.

89. Isidore of Seville, Sentences, lib. 2, cap. 7 (“De conversis”), sent. 8, quoted in Cazier, “De la coercition à la persuasion,” 141.

90. Ibid., 142.

91. Parisoli, Luca, “La contribution de Duns Scot à la science juridique et à la science de la legislation. Ses analyses à propos du baptême,” Collectanea Franciscana 73 (2003): 589616 Google Scholar, particularly 606–11 on the forced baptism of Jewish children.

92. The Catalan Carmelite Guido Terreni refutes the key arguments of Duns Scotus in 1339 in his Commentarius super Decreto Gratiani. De consecratione, D. 4, c. 100, in Guiu Terrena carmelita de Perpinyà, ed. B. F. M. Xiberta (Barcelona: Institucio Patxot, 1932), 315–18; Gilbert Dahan, “Les juifs dans le Commentaire du Décret de Gui Terré,” Sefarad 52, no. 2, (1992): 393–405.

93. Parisoli, “La contribution de Duns Scot,” 607–608.

94. Quadri, Goffredo, Autorità e libertà nella filosofia di Giovanni Duns Scoto (Naples: Studio di propaganda editorial, 1939), 2427 Google Scholar, quoted in Parisoli, “La contribution de Duns Scot,” 608 n. 27. Jean-Luc Solère, “Le droit à l’erreur. Conversions forcées et obligation de conscience dans la pensée chrétienne,” in De la conversion, ed. J.-C. Attias (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1997), 296, shows on the contrary that thinkers like Abelard and Thomas Aquinas “laid the foundations for what could be religious toleration in the fullest sense: [...] admitting that the other, the heretic, the person who is different or indifferent, has a right to his error, has the right to be mistaken and to persevere in all good faith, without being bothered, when his conscience [...] so dictates.”

95. Marmursztejn and Piron, “Duns Scot et la politique,” 26–39 and 46–52.

96. Jean Duns Scot, Opus oxoniense, lib. 4, d. 4, q. 9, ed. Marmursztejn and Piron, “Duns Scot et la politique,” 58–62.

97. Parisoli, “La contribution de Duns Scot,” 608.

98. Fourth Council of Toledo, canon 60, trans. Amnon Linder, The Jews in the Legal Sources, 488; Decretum Gratiani, C. 28, q. 1, c. 11 (Fr. I, 1087).

99. Parisoli, “La contribution de Duns Scot,” 610.

100. Marmursztejn and Piron, “Duns Scot et la politique,” 61–62.

101. The text of the note is published in Poujol, Les enfants cachés, 187.

102. She explains: “The son of a Jew is Jewish and part of his identity is targeted by the genocide that has affected his people and still affects them today. This may be one of the characteristic features of the process, the only one of its kind, known as the ‘Memory of the Shoah.’ Hence the endlessly revived sense of outrage, the permanently open wound, the immediate leap into the present. As evidence, I cite the press campaign in 2004 and 2005 that followed my discovery of a document proving that the Catholic Church did indeed issue an order not to return baptized Jewish children to their parents” (ibid., 297).

103. Ibid., 298.

104. Richard of Poitiers, Chronicon, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France (Paris, 1877), 12: 411–12: “Antequam tamen illuc pergerent, Judaeos per omnem fere Galliam, praeter eos qui baptisari voluerunt, multa strage peremerunt. Dicebant enim injustum fore ut inimicos Christi in terra sua vivere permitterent, qui contra rebelles Christi persequendos arma sumpserunt.” Salomon bar Samsom also puts this argument into the mouths of the crusaders who rallied to the pope’s call: Eva Haverkamp, ed., Hebräische Berichte über die Judenverfolgungen während des ersten Kreuzzugs (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2005), 298; on this “new-style persecution,” see in particular Chazan, Robert, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 21720.Google Scholar

105. Breuer, Mordechai, “Women in Jewish Martyrology,” in Assis, Y. T. et al., Facing the Cross: The Persecutions of 1096 in History and Historiography [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2000), xiii.Google Scholar

106. In response to the injunction in Leviticus (22, 32) not to profane the holy name of God which was used to justify martyrdom. See Cohen, Jeremy, Sanctifying the Name of God: Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memories of the First Crusade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 20.Google Scholar

107. Haverkamp, ed., Hebräische Berichte, 262.

108. Ibid., 274.

109. Marcus, Ivan G., “The Representation of Reality in the Narratives of 1096,” Jewish History, 13 (1999): 3748 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God, 106–29.

110. Haverkamp, ed., Hebräische Berichte, 354.

111. Ibid., 354–58.

112. The question of whether there are precedents for choosing martyrdom other than the instances envisaged by Talmudic law or for the murder of relations to prevent their conversion is, however, the subject of vigorous debate. The features of the pre-Ashkenazic tradition mentioned by Avraham Grossman are challenged by Haym Soloveitchik on the basis of detailed textual analysis: Grossman, Avraham, “The Roots of Early Ashkenazic Martyrdom,” in Sanctity of Life and Martyrdom: Studies in Memory of Amir Yekutiel [in Hebrew], eds. Gafni, I. and Ravitzky, A. (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1992), 99130 Google Scholar; Id., “The Cultural and Social Background of Jewish Martyrdom in Germany in 1096,” in Juden und Christen zur Zeit der Kreuzzüge, ed. A. Haverkamp (Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1999), 73–86. On the other hand, see Soloveitchik, Haym, “Halakhah, Hermeneutics and Martyrdom in Medieval Ashkenaz (part II),” The Jewish Quarterly Review 94, no. 2 (2004): 27899 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

113. Marcus, Ivan G., “From Politics to Martyrdom: Shifting Paradigms in the Hebrew Narratives of the 1096 Crusade Riots,” [1982] in Essential Papers on Judaism and Christianity in Conflict. From Late Antiquity to the Reformation, ed. Cohen, J. (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 46983, see 475.Google Scholar

114. Ibid., 476.

115. Ibid., 472, 478–79.

116. Nirenberg, David, “The Rhineland Massacres of Jews in the First Crusade: Memories Medieval and Modern,” in Medieval Concepts of the Past: Ritual, Memory, Historiography, eds. Althoff, G., Fried, J. and Geary, P. (Washington/Cambridge: German Historical Institute/Cambridge University Press, 2002), 279309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

117. Myers, David, “ Mehabevin Et Ha-Tsarot: Crusade Memories and Modern Jewish Martyrologies,” Jewish History 13, no. 2 (1999): 49-64 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

118. Nirenberg, “The Rhineland Massacres,” 280.

119. Ibid.

120. Ibid., 295–98.

121. Ibid., 303: “Through their literature of destruction, Jews perceive the cyclical nature of violence and find some measure of comfort in the repeatability of the unprecedented.”

122. “We will hear an echo [in sources on the events of 1096] of what befell our generation. We will also draw from them strength to bear the pain and offer a bit of consolation in order to continue. Our enemies wanted to annihilate us, but we are still alive” (quoted in Myers, “Mehabevin Et Ha-Tsarot,” 60).

123. Ibid., 61.

124. The “dangers” of which were “particularly evident in the post-Holocaust world in which the impulse to ‘cherish affliction’ has become a central pillar of Jewish identity, even when that impulse has been shorn of its traditional rationale” (ibid.).

125. Chazan, European Jewry, 209–10.

126. Elukin, Jonathan, Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 7683.Google Scholar

127. Which appear in certain texts he uses; Haverkamp, Eva, “Martyrs in Rivalry: The 1096 Jewish Martyrs and the Thebean Legion,” Jewish History 23, no. 4 (2009): 319 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, stresses that bishops and townspeople “welcomed the life-threatening situation for the Jews as an opportunity to baptize them.”

128. Elukin, Living Together, 83.

129. Baron, A Social and Religious History, 2: 29, 36–37.

130. Ibid., 31: the exaltation of martyrdom to “sanctify the name of God” is mentioned as one of the responses generated by persecution, without any direct link to the events of 1096.

131. Grossman, “The Cultural and Social Background of Jewish Martyrdom in 1096,” in Y. T. Assis et al., Facing The Cross, ix-x; Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God, 13–30.

132. Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God, 60.

133. Cohen’s proposition is part of a debate on the “facticity” of the chronicles which has, since the 1980s, pitted Marcus and Chazan in particular against one another. See on the one hand Marcus, “From Politics to Martyrdom,” especially 471; Id., Chazan’s European Jewry reviewed in Speculum 64, no. 3 (1989): 685–88; Id., “History, Story and Collective Memory: Narrativity in Early Ashkenazic Culture,” Prooftexts 10, no. 3 (1990): 365–88. On the other hand, see Chazan, European Jewry, 46–49; Id., “The Facticity of Medieval Narrative: A Case Study of the Hebrew First Crusade Narratives,” Association for Jewish Studies Review 16 (1991): 31–56; Id., God, Humanity and History: The Hebrew First Crusade Narratives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 22–24, 124–39. David Malkiel synthesizes the debate in Reconstructing Ashkenaz: The Human Face of Franco-German Jewry. 1000-1250 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 76–77.

134. Salomon bar Samson maintains that in Ratisbon converts only received baptism under harsh constraint when they were unable to resist the enemy who “did not want to kill them,” (Haverkamp, ed., Hebräische Berichte, 480).

135. Stow, Kenneth, “Conversion, Apostasy and Apprehensiveness: Emicho of Flonheim and the Fear of Jews in the 12th Century,” Speculum 76, no. 4 (2001): 91133, see 924–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

136. Ibid., 925.

137. Which should be read as those of Jews who were killed, not just of those who committed suicide. Stow, “Conversion, Apostasy and Apprehensiveness,” 932–33, is not seeking here to put the number of suicides into perspective but to interpret the generally accepted difference between the Ashkenazis’ choice of martyrdom in 1096 and the choice of conversion by Iberian Jews between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. If it is accepted that the number of converts was higher than estimated from sources designed to justify the choice of martyrdom, the real opposition between these two experiences lies less in action than in memory. The classic opposition between the respective attitudes of Sephardis and Ashkenazis to martyrdom is also challenged in Malkiel’s recent work Reconstructing Ashkenaz, 254–61, which refers back in particular to Elisheva Carlebach, Between History and Hope: Jewish Messianism in Ashkenaz and Sepharad (New York: Third Annual Lecture of the Victor J. Selmanowitz Chair of Jewish History, Touro College, 1998).

138. Haverkamp, ed., Hebräische Berichte, 13.

139. Yuval, Israel, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006)Google Scholar.

140. As emerges from the Christian sources studied by Mary Minty, “Kiddush HaShem in German Christian Eyes in the Middle Ages,” [in Hebrew] Zion 59 (1994): 233–44; see Stow, “Conversion, Apostasy and Apprehensiveness,” 924 n. 44.

141. Ibid., 930, with no reference to the works of Yuval.

142. Marcus, Ivan G., “Hierarchies, Religious Boundaries and Jewish Spirituality in Medieval Germany,” Jewish History 1, no. 2 (1986): 726 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, see 24–25 n. 27. For the emergence of the accusation of ritual murder, see McCulloh, John M., “Jewish Ritual Murder: William of Norwich, Thomas of Monmouth, and the Early Dissemination of the Myth,” Speculumi 72, no. 3 (1997): 698740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

143. Roth, Cecil, “The Feast of Purim and the Origins of the Blood Accusation,” Speculum 8, no. 4 (1933): 52026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb, 165–67.

144. Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb, 167.

145. Ibid., 167–69.

146. Ibid., especially 136–38.

147. Albert of Aix, Historia Hierosolymitanae expeditionis. Recueil des historiens des croisades. Historiens occidentaux (Paris, 1879), 4: 293: “Matres pueris lactentibus, quod dictu nefas est, guttura ferro secabant, alios transforabant, volentes potius sic propriis manibus perire, quam incircumcisorum armis extingui.”

148. Bernold of Constance,Chronicon, ed.G. H. Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores (Hanover, 1844), 5: 465: “Diabolo et propria duricia persuadente, ipsos interfecerunt.”

149. Gesta Treverorum, ed. G. H. Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores (Hanover, 1848), 8: 190.

150. This biblical commentary of Ashkenazi origin, taken up in two fourteenth-century works from Provence, is quoted by Soloveitchik, Haym, “ Halakhah, Hermeneutics and Martyrdom in Medieval Ashkenaz (Part I),” The Jewish Quarterly Review 94, no. 1 (2004): 77108, see 102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

151. Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb, 162.

152. Confessio Baruc olim Iudei modo baptizati et postmodum reversi ad iudaismum, in Le registre d’inquisition de Jacques Fournier, évêque de Pamiers (1318-1325), ed. J. Duvernoy (Toulouse: Privat, 1965), 1: 177–85.

153. Pope between 1335 and 1342 under the name Benedict XII.

154. At the start of the document he is called Baruc Theutonicus: Confessio Baruc, 1: 177.

155. Grayzel, Solomon, “The Confession of a Medieval Jewish Convert,” Historia Judaica 17, no. 2 (1955): 89120.Google Scholar

156. Grayzel, Solomon, “Popes, Jews, and Inquisition, from Sicut to Turbato,” in Essays on the Occasion of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Dropsie University, 1909-1979, eds. Katsch, A. I. and Nemoy, L. (Philadelphia: Dropsie University, 1979), 15188.Google Scholar

157. Yerushalmi, Yosef Y., “The Inquisition and the Jews of France in the Time of Bernard Gui,” Harvard Theological Review 63, no. 3 (1970): 31776 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, see 329–30 n. 38.

158. Barber, Malcolm, “The Pastoureaux of 1320,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 32, no. 2 (1981): 14366 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, on this 144–49.

159. The distinction between absolute and conditional compulsion is set out by Innocent III in a letter to the Archbishop of Arles in 1201, placed in the Liber extra in 1234 and known as the decretal Maiores. In it the Pope answers several questions on the necessity of intention in baptism (and first of all, on the usefulness of baptism for children unable to give their consent). While asserting that it is against the Christian faith to compel anyone who is unwilling to adopt and observe Christianity, the Pope required on the other hand that the distinction be made between “compelled and compelled”: unlike a person who rejected it outright, a person who did not consent but who let themselves to be baptized under threat—conditionaliter volens, licet absolute non velit—effectively received the sacramental character and had to keep the Christian faith (Liber extra, lib. 3, tit. 42, c. 3, Fr. II, 644-646). The genesis of norms about compulsion has been traced by Poutrin, “L’Église et les consentements arrachés,” 492–98.

160. Confessio Baruc, 185.

161. Ibid., 189.

162. Ibid., 179.

163. Ibid.

164. Ibid., 184. Grayzel, “The Confession of a Medieval Jewish Convert,” 101 n. 27, identified a reference in this passage to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides: “But in time of persecution, that is, when a wicked king arises, like Nebukadnezzar and his like, and he decrees against Israel to destroy their faith or one of the commandments, he [the Jew] must permit himself to be killed and not transgress even one of the other commandments [that is, outside of the three for which a Jew must suffer martyrdom at all times: idolatry, immorality and the shedding of blood], whether he is compelled to such violations in the presence of ten fellow-Jews or is alone with the idolator.” In the Talmud, the principle whereby martyrdom should be preferred to the profanation of God’s name in the presence of ten other Jews is not specified by the distinction between the order of the prince and popular violence, and it is not specified in the Epistle on Persecution either, where Maimonides distinguishes in addition between being forced “to perform actions” and being forced “simply to utter words”: “to him who comes to ask us whether he should let himself be killed or accept [the prophetic mission of Mohamed], we answer: let him recognize [Mohamed] and not let himself be killed; but let him not stay in this king’s realm [...]; he must go into exile in a suitable place and absolutely not stay in a place of persecution and whoever does stay transgresses and profanes the Holy Name and is close to deliberate sin.” (Maimonides, Épîtres (Paris: Gallimard, 1993), 38–41).

165. Barber, “The Pastoureaux of 1320,” 153–55.

166. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 43.

167. Ibid., 48.

168. Ibid., 43.

169. Ibid., 48. The political, religious and financial motives for royal protection are analyzed in Dahan, Gilbert, Les intellectuels chrétiens et les juifs au Moyen Âge (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1990), 4453 Google Scholar. The prince essentially envisaged the protection of his Jewish subjects as a duty of justice that would ensure peace; he sometimes justifies it by the Church’s demand that the Jewish people survive as a witness; in some cases, the Jews bought this protection. The prince also protected them, however, because he regarded them as his property. On the question of the Jews in servitude to the sovereign, see Dahan, Les intellectuels chrétiens, 65–76; Gavin I. Langmuir, “Judei nostri and the Beginning of Capetian Legislation,” Traditio 16 (1960): 203–40; Id., “Tanquam servi: The Change in Jewish Status in French Law about 1200,” [1980] Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990): 167–94.

170. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 49.

171. Ibid.

172. Ibid., 51.

173. Extended to all “medieval persons” in Nirenberg, David, “Warum der König die Juden Beschützen musste, und warum er sie verfolgen musste,” in Die Macht des Königs. Herrschaft in Europa vom Frühmittelalter bis in die Neuzeit, ed. Jussen, B. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005), 229 Google Scholar. In support of this generalization, Nirenberg quotes Pierre le Chantre: “Hii vero latrunculi sunt nunc sanguisuge principum qui, cum omnia suxerint, evomunt in fiscum” (taken from the Latin Patrology when quoted in Nirenberg. The text here comes from the recent and most accurate version by Monique Boutry, ed., Verbum adbreviatum, pars 1, cap. 48, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): 324), to which Abelard may be opposed in, for example, A Dialogue of a Philosopher with a Jew, and a Christian (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1979), 32–33: “Dispersed among all the nations, alone, without an earthly king or prince, are we not burdened with such great demands that almost every day of our miserable lives we pay the debt of an intolerable ransom? [...] The princes themselves who rule over us and for whose patronage we pay dearly desire our death all the more to such a degree that they then snatch away the more freely what we possess.”

174. Menache, Sophia, “The King, the Church and the Jews: Some Considerations on the Expulsions from England and France,” Journal of Medieval History 13, no. 3 (1987): 22336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

175. Jordan, William C., “Home Again: The Jews in the Kingdom of France, 1315–322,” [1997] Ideology and Royal Power in Medieval France: Kingship, Crusades and the Jews (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), xiv, 27–45, on this 27.Google Scholar

176. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 50. For the crusades as a form of taxation, see Barber, “The Pastoureaux of 1320,” 160–61.

177. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 49.

178. de Laurière, Eusèbe, ed., Ordonnances des rois de France de la troisième race (Paris, 1723), 48889 Google Scholar.

179. Céline Balasse, 1306. L’expulsion des juifs du royaume de France (Bruxelles: De Boeck, 2008), 178–79.

180. The readmission edict of July 28, 1315 recalled the Jews for twelve years: “Edict or etablissement recalling the Jews for 12 years, and provisions against usury,” Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, 1308-1327 (Paris: Belin-Leprieur/Plon), 3: 116.

181. It must be remembered that the duty to protect the Jews was very generally based on the doctrine of their guilt and servitude and the need to ensure conditions for the fulfillment of the prophecy that they would convert nearing the end of times. In Oldrado da Ponte, for example, whose collection of consilia dates precisely from the 1320s, there is the notion that the prince must protect the Jews, enslaved by the death of Christ, because they are his serfs: Oldrado da Ponte, consilium 87, in Jews and Saracens in the Consilia of Oldradus de Ponte, ed. N. Zacour (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990), 83.

182. Nirenberg, David, “Le dilemme du souverain : génocide et justice à Valence, 1391,” in Un Moyen Âge pour aujourd’hui. Mélanges offerts à Claude Gauvard, eds. Claustre, J., Mattéoni, O. and Offenstadt, N. (Paris, PUF, 2010), 496508 Google Scholar, on this 498.

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 21st January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Linked content

This is a translation of: La raison dans l’histoire de la persécution

Hostname: page-component-76cb886bbf-m9qpn Total loading time: 0.899 Render date: 2021-01-21T12:32:26.742Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Reason in the History of Persecution
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Reason in the History of Persecution
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Reason in the History of Persecution
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *