Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: The Origins of the Office of the Head of the Jews, ca. 1065-1126

Princeton University Press
Free sample

Under three successive Islamic dynasties--the Fatimids, the Ayyubids, and the Mamluks--the Egyptian Office of the Head of the Jews (also known as the Nagid) became the most powerful representative of medieval Jewish autonomy in the Islamic world. To determine the origins of this institution, Mark Cohen concentrates on the complex web of internal and external circumstances during the latter part of the eleventh century.

Originally published in 1981.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 14, 2014
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Pages
410
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ISBN
9781400853588
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Civil Rights
Political Science / Human Rights
Religion / Judaism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Power in the Portrayal unveils a fresh and vital perspective on power relations in eleventh- and twelfth-century Muslim Spain as reflected in historical and literary texts of the period. Employing the methods of the new historical literary study in looking at a range of texts, Ross Brann reveals the paradoxical relations between the Andalusi Muslim and Jewish elites in an era when long periods of tolerance and respect were punctuated by outbreaks of tension and hostility.

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.

They are voices that have been silent for centuries: those of captives and refugees, widows and orphans, the blind and infirm, and the underclass of the "working poor." Now, for the first time, the voices of the poor in the Middle Ages come to life in this moving book by historian Mark Cohen. A companion to Cohen's other volume, Poverty and Charity in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt, the book presents more than ninety letters, alms lists, donor lists, and other related documents from the Geniza, a hidden chamber for discarded papers, situated inside a wall in a Cairo synagogue. Cohen has translated these documents, providing the historical context for each.

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.

From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a “groundbreaking” (Time) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves.

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.”

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it's core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

Advance praise for How to Be an Antiracist
 
“A combination of memoir and extension of [Kendi’s] towering Stamped from the Beginning . . . Never wavering . . . Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth. . . . This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory. . . . Essential.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In this sharp blend of social commentary and memoir . . . Kendi is ready to spread his message, his stories serving as a springboard for potent explorations of race, gender, colorism, and more. . . . With Stamped From the Beginning, Kendi proved himself a first-rate historian. Here, his willingness to turn the lens on himself marks him as a courageous activist, leading the way to a more equitable society.”—Library Journal (starred review)
The advent of Islam in the seventh century brought profound economic changes to the Jews living in the Middle East, and Talmudic law, compiled in and for an agrarian society, was ill equipped to address an increasingly mercantile world. In response, and over the course of the seventh through eleventh centuries, the heads of the Jewish yeshivot of Iraq sought precedence in custom to adapt Jewish law to the new economic and social reality.

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.

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