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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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The Mongol Shock

The Mongol Shock

Can Judaism Survive when Trade and Urban Economies Collapse?

(p.248) Chapter 9 The Mongol Shock
The Chosen Few

Maristella Botticini

Zvi Eckstein

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at the Mongol invasion of Persia and Mesopotamia, beginning in 1219 and culminating in the razing of Baghdad in 1258. The Mongol invasion of Persia and Mesopotamia contributed to the demise of the urban and commercial economy of the Abbasid Empire and brought the economies of Mesopotamia and Persia back to an agrarian and pastoral stage for a long period. As a consequence, a certain proportion of Persian, Mesopotamian, and then Egyptian, and Syrian Jewry abandoned Judaism—whose religious norms, especially the one requiring fathers to educate their sons, had once again become a heavy burden with no economic return—and converted to Islam. This process of conversions of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as episodes of persecutions, massacres, and plagues in these regions and in western Europe, explain why world Jewry reached its lowest level by the end of the fifteenth century.

Keywords:   Mongol invasion, Persia, Mesopotamia, Abbasid Empire, urban economy, Judaism, Islam, conversion, world Jewry

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