Economic Pursuits of the Jews in the Middle Ages
The Jews in the middle ages progressed economically through various occupations. Their economic status was very volatile for many reasons. No area of Jewish life in Western Europe offers such a perpetual change as the economy does. The Jews most specifically participated in international trade, crafts, slave trade, local trade, and most popularly in money lending.
The Jewish people participated in commerce in the countries of western Mediterranean . However, Jewish roles in commerce were rather limited because Syrian merchants in Gaul who supplied the population with luxury articles imported from the East monopolized the whole commerce scene . There would be a consistent war between Muslim and Christian fleets at sea, which left the Jewish merchants at a neutral status. As a result, Jewish merchants who were kidnapped at sea by pirates had a better chance of getting their ransom paid by their co-religionists . Jewish merchants had become very competitive which supposedly put some fear on others. Consequently, in 945, the Venetian government ordered its ship owners not to carry Jewish passengers .
Jewish merchants traded in amber, textiles, hides, arms, spices, precious stones, and other luxury articles . Their clientele consisted mainly of royal and ducal courts and the aristocracy, both secular and clerical . There were other groups engaged in international trade, and Jewish merchants were not the dominant role in the commerce scene . In the cities re-conquered from the Muslims in Spain, Jews played a decisive role in the revival of commerce and industry, and especially in the production and merchandising of clothing . As well, England's Jewry had a role in commerce, too .
After the year 1100, The Jewish role in international trade began to decline . The Hansa cities began to replace the Jewish traders. Their ships were heavily armed, and were no match for the Jews .
Some believe that Jews...
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