Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Chosen FewHow Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691144870

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691144870.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 07 July 2022

Were the Jews a Persecuted Minority?

Were the Jews a Persecuted Minority?

(p.52) Chapter 2 Were the Jews a Persecuted Minority?
The Chosen Few

Maristella Botticini

Zvi Eckstein

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the arguments set forth to explain why the Jews became a population of skilled craftsmen, traders, bankers, and physicians and why they created a worldwide urban diaspora. These arguments are grouped into two main categories: ones that highlight exogenous factors (discrimination, restrictions, persecutions, massacres) and ones that emphasize endogenous choices (voluntary self-segregation in order to maintain religious rites, voluntary migration to cities to preserve group identity). The chapter then presents the thesis that in a world populated by illiterate people, the ability to read and write contracts, business letters, and account books using a common alphabet gave the Jews a comparative advantage over other people. The Jews also developed a uniform code of law (the Talmud) and a set of institutions (rabbinic courts, the responsa) that fostered contract enforcement, networking, and arbitrage across distant locations. Thus, high levels of literacy and the existence of contract-enforcement institutions became the levers of the Jewish people.

Keywords:   Jewish people, discrimination, persecutions, voluntary self-segregation, voluntary migration, Talmud, rabbinic courts, response, contract enforcement, literacy

Princeton Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.