The history of the Jews in Sicily covers a period of over a
thousand years, from Antiquity to the Expulsion, based on some
40,000 archival records, most of them hitherto unpublished. It
illustrates the political, legal, economic, social and religious
vicissitudes of the Jewish minority and its relations with the
surrounding majority of Romans, Moslems and Christians. While the
antecedents of the Jewish presence on the island are shrouded in
mystery, more and more historical records surface with the passage
of time. Those become abundant toward the later Middle Ages. At
that time the Jews in Sicily were citizens and suffered from
relatively few disabilities. This was true in particular in the
economic sphere. No discriminatory legislation forced them into
moneylending and trade in old clothes. They engaged in agriculture
and industry, trade and commerce, including international trade and
shipping, and in most professions, which in turn enhanced their
social status. There was as an unusually large number of craftsmen
and physicians among them. The majority, however, were labourers,
on the land and in town. In the fifteenth century the Jewish
population reached 25,000 or thereabouts, over half of contemporary
Italian Jewry. All this came to a sudden end with the expulsion
order issued by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Some 80% of the Jews
went into exile, while the remainder converted to Catholicism, only
to be caught in the net of the Spanish inquisition. "This final
volume of Simonsohn's series provides readers with an excellent
opportunity to obtain the gist of the scholarship in the previous
volumes. Replete with tables detailing commodity prices, wages and
salaries, marriage contracts, and demographics this work is an
extremely informative and very readable description of the
interaction between Jews and non-Jews in a not-so-closed society in
the Middle Ages." Randall C. Belinfante, Librarian/Archivist,
American Sephardi Federation, New York (AJL Reviews, Nov/Dec 2011)
This book is also available in hardcover.
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