Becoming Jewish in early modern France: Documents on Jewish community-building in seventeenth-century bayonne and peyrehorade

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Abstract

This article sheds light on the complex process by which Ibero-Catholic refugees of Jewish origin, known collectively as conversos and New Christians, adopted normative Judaism and forged Jewish communities in the southern Aquitainian towns of Saint-Esprit-lès Bayonne and Peyrehorade in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Through an examination of testimony that two of the refugees rendered to officers of the Spanish Inquisition, the work reconstructs the social context and practical means by which Iberian immigrants obtained and internalized the knowledge - the models of belief, ritual practice, and quotidian behavior - that would cause others in the Jewish Diaspora to recognize the makeshift colonies, and more importantly, cause the refugees to view themselves, as normatively and unambiguously Jewish. Against a dominant historiographical tendency to impute a deep-seated Jewishness to conversos, therefore, my analysis explores the constructed and contingent quality of the Franco-Sephardi communities in question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume40
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2006

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seventeenth century
refugee
France
community
Inquisition
cause
Judaism
diaspora
testimony
religious behavior
town
immigrant
examination
Jewish Community
Refugees
Community Building
Conversos
Causes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

Cite this

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title = "Becoming Jewish in early modern France: Documents on Jewish community-building in seventeenth-century bayonne and peyrehorade",
abstract = "This article sheds light on the complex process by which Ibero-Catholic refugees of Jewish origin, known collectively as conversos and New Christians, adopted normative Judaism and forged Jewish communities in the southern Aquitainian towns of Saint-Esprit-l{\`e}s Bayonne and Peyrehorade in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Through an examination of testimony that two of the refugees rendered to officers of the Spanish Inquisition, the work reconstructs the social context and practical means by which Iberian immigrants obtained and internalized the knowledge - the models of belief, ritual practice, and quotidian behavior - that would cause others in the Jewish Diaspora to recognize the makeshift colonies, and more importantly, cause the refugees to view themselves, as normatively and unambiguously Jewish. Against a dominant historiographical tendency to impute a deep-seated Jewishness to conversos, therefore, my analysis explores the constructed and contingent quality of the Franco-Sephardi communities in question.",
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