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The Chosen FewHow Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492$
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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

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Segregation or Choice?

Segregation or Choice?

From Merchants to Moneylenders, 1000–1500

(p.201) Chapter 8 Segregation or Choice?
The Chosen Few

Maristella Botticini

Zvi Eckstein

Princeton University Press

This chapter assesses the argument that both their exclusion from craft and merchant guilds and usury bans on Christians segregated European Jews into moneylending during the Middle Ages. Already during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, moneylending was the occupation par excellence of the Jews in England, France, and Germany and one of the main professions of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and other locations in western Europe. Based on the historical information and the economic theory presented in earlier chapters, the chapter advances an alternative explanation that is consistent with the salient features that mark the history of the Jews: the Jews in medieval Europe voluntarily entered and later specialized in moneylending because they had the key assets for being successful players in credit markets—capital, networking, literacy and numeracy, and contract-enforcement institutions.

Keywords:   craft guilds, merchant guilds, usury bans, European Jews, moneylending, credit markets, capital, networking, contract-enforcement institutions

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