Jewish Studies Medieval Anti-Judaism
Merrall Llewelyn Price
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0171


“Anti-Judaism” refers to antipathy toward Judaism as a faith and to Jews as practitioners of that faith. It generally has been accepted that it makes sense to talk about hostility toward Jews well into the High Middle Ages, and even sometimes later, as a manifestation of anti-Judaism rather than anti-Semitism. In part, then, the story of medieval anti-Judaism is a debate about when and how this transition might have occurred; its causes and its effects; its manifestations socially, culturally, and economically; its chronological and geographic variances; and its impact on the daily lives of Jews living as a vulnerable minority. The literature in this area is huge, and the selections are necessarily limited. The citations in this article represent only a portion of the scholarship that is useful, enduring, original, approachable, or otherwise valuable. The focus throughout is on anti-Judaism in Christian Europe, with particular focus on the High Middle Ages and later.

General Overviews

Although the early 20th century was an extremely fruitful period for Jewish historiography, many of the earliest influential works are no longer available, no longer accessible, or have been superseded or synthesized by more contemporary scholars. Older texts cited in this section are those that have endured or, despite their date, have made contributions not matched elsewhere. Poliakov 1974–1985, for example, is a monumental achievement; however, the section on the “Jewish mentality” (p. 293) now seems particularly dated and problematic. Marcus and Saperstein 1999, as a collection of source materials, holds up well given its original publication date of 1938. Stow 1992 is a comprehensive and dense history focusing on medieval Latin Europe. Langmuir 1990 contains some of the author’s most important essays on medieval anti-Judaism and the development of anti-Semitism. Although these essays do not make a single argument, they are crucial reading and a compelling introduction to the field. Nirenberg 2013 is important for context and chronology, although the scope of his work goes far beyond the Middle Ages. Chazan 1997 and Cohen 1997 are useful in tracing the growth of anti-Jewish hostility. Cluse 2004 and Frassetto 2006 are collected volumes that offer wide-ranging snapshots of aspects of medieval anti-Judaism at particular times and places. Elukin 2007 is an important counterpoint to an impression of unrelenting tension and hostility between Jews and their neighbors.

  • Chazan, Robert. Medieval Stereotypes and Modern Antisemitism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

    Chronological study of attitudes toward Jews in Europe in the High Middle Ages and the late medieval period, first as new immigrants, then as economic threats and finally as enemies of Christianity. Focuses particularly on the social context for the development of new anti-Jewish motifs in the 12th century.

  • Cluse, Christoph, ed. The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages (Tenth to Fifteenth Centuries). Proceedings of the International Symposium held at Speyer, 20–25 October 2002. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004.

    Collection of thirty-three short essays, plus an introduction, providing an overview of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in predominantly Christian Europe during the Middle Ages. Argues that these were also European communities, with significant influence on the larger culture.

  • Cohen, Jeremy, ed. From Witness to Witchcraft: Jews and Judaism in Medieval Christian Thought. Conference held in the Herzog August Bibliothek, 17–21 October 1993. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1997.

    Collection of seminal conference papers in English and French by eminent historians of Jewish–Christian relations beginning with an examination of the Augustinian doctrine of witness and ending with a consideration of the relationship between Jews and accusations of witchcraft in early modern Germany. Useful especially for its consideration of the way in which shifting attitudes toward Jews are reflected in Christian theological and liturgical works.

  • Elukin, Jonathan. Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish–Christian Relations in the Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

    Analysis of the relationship between Jews and Christians in the period between Late Antiquity and the expulsions, which Elukin characterizes as the strategies of individual monarchs rather than the inevitable results of anti-Judaism. Challenges the idea that anti-Judaism was the medieval norm, arguing instead for a thriving quotidian relationship between Jews and their Christian neighbors.

  • Frassetto, Michael, ed. Christian Attitudes toward the Jews in the Middle Ages: A Casebook. New York: Routledge, 2006.

    Not a casebook in the literal sense, but a collection of eleven previously unpublished articles, ranging broadly from 9th-century Italy to 14th-century England. Argues for the 11th century as a turning point in Christian–Jewish relations.

  • Langmuir, Gavin. Toward a Definition of Antisemitism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

    A collection of fourteen important essays from different stages of Langmuir’s career, this volume seeks a definition and explanation of the anti-Semitism that began in the 13th century and would institutionalize Jewish inferiority, arguing it was a distinct phenomenon, qualitatively different from the anti-Judaism that preceded it.

  • Marcus, Jacob R., and Marc Saperstein. The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 315–1791. Rev. ed. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1999.

    Revised and generally available edition of the extremely comprehensive collection of source materials first published in 1938, with a new introduction and updated bibliography. Divided into chronological sections on the state, the church, and the individual.

  • Nirenberg, David. Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013.

    An intellectual and cultural history of anti-Judaism from paganism to the early 21st century. Although its central focus is not the Middle Ages, Nirenberg’s study is valuable as a chronological rethinking of anti-Judaism, examining how different periods laid the foundations for the way in which Judaism would be viewed in future periods.

  • Poliakov, Léon. The History of Anti-Semitism. 4 vols. Translated by Richard Howard, Natalie Gerardi, Miriam Kochan, and George Klin. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974–1985.

    This four-volume history, originally in French, is fundamental to the study of anti-Judaism. Volume 1, “From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews,” traces the history of what Poliakov calls “anti-Semitism” from the crucifixion of Jesus into early modern Europe. Still useful, but not footnoted as well as one might like.

  • Stow, Kenneth. Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

    Focuses on the history of Jews in western Europe, other than Iberia, beginning with the 5th century and ending with their expulsions. Argues that, despite the Christianizing of Latin Europe during this time, the driving force in the decline of attitudes toward the Jews was the state rather than the church.

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