The Way of Duty

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Commenting on “Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder” Gavin I. Langmuir wrote “Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder,” which was published in Speculum’s October 1984 issue. In this article Langmuir discusses Thomas of Monmouth’s investigation of St. William of Norwich’s death, and accusations of ritual murder brought against Jews. Langmuir starts the article with some background information on “The Life and Passion of Saint William the Martyr of Norwich,” written by Thomas of Monmouth. He then makes his thesis statement: “Williams’s death had occasioned the first of the connected series of accusations from the twelfth to twentieth century that Jews committed ritual murder.” (Langmuir, Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder, 821) Langmuir’s argument is that Thomas of Monmouth’s book is the modern inception of the myth that Jews commit ritual murder to reenact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Since the accusation of ritual murder was also present in antiquity, Langmuir attempts to prove disconnect between Norwich and those prior myths. He also goes into detail about William’s murder, then Monmouth’s investigation and writings. He convincingly argues that Monmouth had allot to gain both in this world and the next by reporting William’s killing as a ritual murder preformed by Jews. Simply stated, Monmouth saw what he wanted to while investigating the crime. Langmuir uses a broad range of sources in his attempt to prove that the accusation at Norwich was not connected to the two accusations in antiquity. In this attempt he most frequently cites two works by Heinz Schreckenberg. He also cites over ten other authors while bringing this point home. On the other hand Langmuir’s argument of Monmouth’s motivation for creating the myth burrows deeply into a limited body of material, mostly Monmouth’s book itself. He also uses two other sources when discussing Theobald, and only cites Miracles and Pilgrims by Finucane other than that. In the middle...
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