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Julius Kirshner (University of Chicago) “Jews as Citizens in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy: The Case of Isacco da Pisa”

January 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The CRRS is proud to co-sponsor the Wilkinson Lectures. These lecture are organized biannually by the Centre for Medieval Studies in honour of Bertie Wilkinson, the distinguished medieval constitutional historian and founder of the CMS.

This year’s lectures, Julius Kirshner, is Professor Emeritus of Medieval and Renaissance History at the University of Chicago and a leading authority on the medieval Roman and canon law. He will present his most recent research on ‘Jews as Citizens in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy: The Case of Isacco da Pisa,’ which represents a major revision of the current orthodoxies on the citizenship status of medieval Italian Jewry.

The event is open to the general public.

by Julius Kirshner

In his 2000 study on Jews as citizens in fourteenth-century Perugia, Ariel Toaff commented that “one of the still open questions and one still at the center of the lively debates among historians of Italian Judaism remains that of the meaning of the rights of citizenship, frequently granted to the Jews by the communes of Italy of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ‘the nature’ of which often leaves one perplexed. In short, one asks whether the Jews were full citizens, with the same rights as Christian citizens, or enjoyed just a kind of protected status that only in name resembled that of a civis, but that was largely temporary in duration and second class in substance.” A major shortcoming of the contributions to this debate, I argue in this paper, is the self-defeating concentration on either proving or disproving that the Jews were genuine citizens of the localities in which they resided. By reconsidering the civic status of Jews within an expansive jurisprudential framework and drawing on an array of untapped sources, my paper provides fresh perspectives that shift the debate into more productive terrain. It provides, equally, a nuanced discussion of the multiple legal sources of rights and protections that kept the Jews at moments of exigency from being utterly at the mercy of discriminatory laws. The paper falls into two parts. In the first, I provide a critical overview of the debate; in the second, a detailed case study of the legal status of Isacco da Pisa, a prominent Jewish banker and steadfast ally of Florence.


January 19, 2011
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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