The Court Jew: A Contribution to the History of the Period of Absolutism in Europe

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Transaction Publishers, 1950 - Social Science - 312 pages
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The period of court absolutism and early capitalism extended from the end of the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. A new world view was created, along with a new type of individual possessing new economic orientations to the marketplace and new social attitudes deriving from such concerns. The unified political and religious world of medieval Europe broke into parts: national differentiation and religious options abounded. The autonomy of the nation-state created a need for new attitudes toward religious minorities, even despised ones such as the Jews.

The court Jew phenomenon, as Selma Stern details, was inextricably linked to these larger developments, including the emancipation of Jews as a whole. Dr. Stern's work is an effort to reconstruct this unusual group of Jews who became politically and economically influential and through that mechanism were able to enhance Jewish community life as a whole. In his very existence the court Jew necessarily enlarged, beyond its original meaning, the concept of free expression in European societies.

As the dominating idea of defending one church and one emperor collapsed under the weight of the new European system of power balances, a new conception of the Jew developed, one of a transforming agent in economic and political positions. With trade no longer condemned as sinful, collecting interest for loans no longer prohibited, and the merchant no longe'r compared to a thief, the Jewish money changer and tradesman came to be viewed in a more favorable light. In this new environment, the claims of Christianity remained supreme, but the rights of religious minorities were considered.

At the time of the book's initial appearance, the Saturday Review hailed it as a "picturesque work giving evidence of great writing talent." The reviewer went on to note that "Dr. Stern's work provided exhaustive historical background of European Jewry‚ from 1650 to 1750‚ that period during which the modern European genius emerged." Dr. Stern's work relies heavily upon European archives up to 1938, when the advances of Nazism made further work impossible. As a result, what was started in Europe was completed in America.

 

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Contents

THE COMMISSARY
15
THE COURT CONTRACTOR
38
THE FINANCIAL AGENT AND RESIDENT
60
THE CABINET FACTOR
115
THE COMMERCIAL AGENT
137
THE MASTER OF THE MINT
162
THE SHTADLAN AND INTERCESSOR
177
COMMUNITY FOUNDER AND PATRON
208
THE PERSONALITY OF THE COURT JEW
227
DESTINIES
247
NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
269
INDEX
297
Copyright

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Page 295 - Abba Hillel Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel from the First through the Seventeenth Centuries (Boston, 1959); and Gershom Scholem, "Zum Verstandnis der messianischen Idee im Judentum," Judaica (Frankfurt am Main, 1963).
Page 12 - Despite the great differences in social position, culture, racial background and tradition which separated them, they both lived in the same isolation: the prince because of his omnipotence and inaccessibility and the Court Jew because of his birth and religion, which caused him to be isolated from all classes of society and to be avoided by them all.
Page 13 - because they were the bearers of a new and revolutionary political and economic conception which was bitterly attacked by the old legitimist powers', as Selma Stern thinks.12 The ideas of absolute government and economic mercantilism had existed long before the 18th century; since the 16th century Germany had been the home of great banking houses; the 'feudal and patrimonial forces of the Middle Ages...
Page 18 - Moreover, the Jew seemed to be better qualified for the position of war commissary than the Christian. He was in close contact with his coreligionists throughout Europe. He was therefore able to maintain agents and correspondents in all countries and could receive through them necessary goods and important news.
Page 11 - Jew has identified and defined the type with commendable clarity: Though the Court Jew was a product of his time. a product of the particular combination of Court absolutism. mercantilism and baroque culture. he was nevertheless not merely an automaton created by the ruler and blindly carrying out his will ... He possessed a remarkable degree of industriousness and restlessness. a great interest in speculation and action. a strong desire for success. a lust for money and profit. an ambition to climb...
Page 11 - ... identified and defined the type with commendable clarity: Though the Court Jew was a product of his time. a product of the particular combination of Court absolutism. mercantilism and baroque culture. he was nevertheless not merely an automaton created by the ruler and blindly carrying out his will ... He possessed a remarkable degree of industriousness and restlessness. a great interest in speculation and action. a strong desire for success. a lust for money and profit. an ambition to climb...

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