Originally published in 1981.
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The examined Arabic texts reveal a fragmented perception of the Jew in eleventh-century al-Andalus. They depict seemingly contradictory figures at whose poles are an intelligent, skilled, and noble Jew deserving of homage and a vile, stupid, and fiendish enemy of God and Islam. For their part, the Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic texts display a deep-seated reluctance to portray Muslims in any light at all. Brann cogently demonstrates that these representations of Jews and Muslims--each of which is concerned with issues of sovereignty and the exercise of power--reflect the shifting, fluctuating, and ambivalent relations between elite members of two of the ethno-religious communities of al-Andalus.
Brann's accessible prose is enriched by his splendid translations; the original texts are also included. This book is the first to study the construction of social meaning in Andalusi Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, and Hebrew literary texts and historical chronicles. The novel approach illuminates nuances of respect, disinterest, contempt, and hatred reflected in the relationship between Muslims and Jews in medieval Spain.
In the past, most of what we knew of the poor in the Middle Ages came from records and observations compiled by their literate social superiors, from tax collectors to the inquisitor's clerk, from criminal judges to the benefactors of the helpless, from makers of Islamic waqf deeds to authors of Arabic chronicles, and in Judaism, from Rabbis who wrote responsa to compilers of Jewish-law codes.
What distinguishes this book is that it contains the voices of the poor themselves, found in documents heretofore largely ignored. Because an ancient custom in Judaism prohibited the destruction of pages of sacred writing, the documents were preserved, largely unharmed, for as many as nine centuries.
The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages provides access to the attitudes and philanthropic activities of the charitable, alongside the dramatic writings of the poor themselves, whether penned in their own hands or dictated to a scribe or family member. The book also allows a rare glimpse into the women of the Middle Ages, as well as into the world of private charity--an area long elusive to the medieval historian. For researchers and students alike, this book will be an invaluable social history source for years to come.
Featuring a new introduction by Mark R. Cohen, this Princeton Classics edition sets the Judaeo-Islamic tradition against a vivid background of Jewish and Islamic history. For those wishing a concise overview of the long period of Jewish-Muslim relations, The Jews of Islam remains an essential starting point.
In Maimonides and the Merchants, Mark R. Cohen reveals the extent of even further pragmatic revisions to the halakha, or body of Jewish law, introduced by Moses Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, the comprehensive legal code he compiled in the late twelfth century. While Maimonides insisted that he was merely restating already established legal practice, Cohen uncovers the extensive reformulations that further inscribed commerce into Jewish law. Maimonides revised Talmudic partnership regulations, created a judicial method to enable Jewish courts to enforce forms of commercial agency unknown in the Talmud, and even modified the halakha to accommodate the new use of paper for writing business contracts. Over and again, Cohen demonstrates, the language of Talmudic rulings was altered to provide Jewish merchants arranging commercial collaborations or litigating disputes with alternatives to Islamic law and the Islamic judicial system.
Thanks to the business letters, legal documents, and accounts found in the manuscript stockpile known as the Cairo Geniza, we are able to reconstruct in fine detail Jewish involvement in the marketplace practices that contemporaries called "the custom of the merchants." In Maimonides and the Merchants, Cohen has written a stunning reappraisal of how these same customs inflected Jewish law as it had been passed down through the centuries.