In the late sixteenth century, after the expulsions of the Middle Ages, the Jews of western and central Europe came to enjoy a period of relative stability. This book describes how they set about restoring old communities and creating new centres in the Hapsburg Empire, France, England and the German states. Sephardi Jews, expelled from Spain and Portugal, were pioneers in the emergence of Hamburg, Amsterdam, London and Bordeaux as key-points in the Atlantic economy. Tension and friction everywhere accompanied these achievements, both inside the Jewish communities and in their relationship to the Christian world. Rich Jews and poor Jews had conflicting interests and their struggle inside the communities sometimes led to a breakdown of communal discipline. In seventeenth-century Prague, for example, this was on such a scale that the emperors had to intervene to restore harmony. The book ends with the troubled Jewish response to the nineteenth-century world of political freedom, intellectual challenge and anti-semitism.

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