HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Murder of William of Norwich: The…
Loading...

The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in…

by E.M. Rose

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
325347,362 (4.33)None

None.

None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

Showing 5 of 5
This book is a full examination of what the author maintains is the first historical example of the 'blood libel" --the claim that Jews as a community would ritually kill a Christian youth, usually around Easter time. What happened in this case was that an apprentice leatherworker named William was found dead in the woods outside Norwich. At the time, there seems to have been no public claim that Jews were involved, but several years later Simon, a knight in debt to a Jewish banker, killed the banker, and at his trial (ultimately before King Stephen) the bishop (who ha not been in office when the youth was killed) claimed the banker had been the leader of a group of Jews who killed William. This was apparently enough to prevent Simon's conviction, though the Jews were also never convicted and Rose maintains that (contrary to later examples of this kind) there was no pogrom against the Jews. A local monk (who also had not been present when William died) wrote up the case attempting to prove William should be regarded as saint and a martyr. According to Rose, Thomas achieved only modest success, but decades later, similar charges resurfaced elsewhere, first in Gloucester, where, as in Norwich, the death of a man named Harold was blamed on Jews to little effect, and then in Blois and elsewhere in northern France, were the results were more serious --over 30 Jews were burned to death by the local count. I do not find Rose's explanation what Rose argues was a very minor event in Norwich could set off a long series of charges against Jews lasting until the 20th century. I caught one clear error in the book --it refers to Stephen and his rival Matilda as "children" of King Henry I. Matilda was his daughter, but Stephen was only his nephew. If Stephen had been Henry I's son, he would have inherited the throne without trouble. ( )
  antiquary | May 16, 2018 |
In the 12th century Norwich was the second largest city in England but it did not have a patron saint to draw pilgrims to it. Across Europe the ruling classes were in need of money to fund their expeditions on crusade and the only place to borrow money was from the Jews. When the time came to repay the money the nobility looked for a way out and a Europe-wide programme of anti-semiticism began. In Norwich a youth was found dead in the woods and his death was attributed to a ritual murder committed but the jewish population of the city. When a knight, reneging on his debt, murdered a jewish money-lender, his defence was revenge for the murder of the youth William. Seizing upon the opportunity the leaders of Norwich's priesthood began attributing miracles to murdered youth in order to provide themselves with a 'home-grown' saint to rival St Edmund of nearby Bury. The ripples were felt across in France as retribution was taken for similar 'ritual murders'.

Before reading this book I had some knowledge of the anti-semiticism that took place in medieval Europe but this book filled in some of the detail and the motivation. The idea of ritual murder was promulgated to cover for a need to ensure that debts weren't paid in full and money was forfeit to the Crown, the Jews being both rich and ostracised from society. Whilst the murder of William of Norwich is used as a scenario to focus this book the actual details are sketchy and the real details comes from descriptions of atrocities elsewhere. The level of research is meticulous, nearly half the length of the book is taken up with details of source material, and the writing is really engaging. This is a fascinating story. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
In 1144 the body of young William of Norwich was found. He had been tortured and then murdered by a person or persons unknown but for a variety of reasons blame was unfairly placed on the entire Jewish community.
This incredibly well researched and well written book details the history of what is the first known accusation of ritual murder attributed to Jews in medieval times. It is an enlightening account of Jewish/Christian relations in this time period. I found it to be a fascinating read although some may find it a bit dry. Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more not only about the origins of the blood libel but also a not so well known part of Jewish/Christian history. ( )
  Veronica.Sparrow | Nov 15, 2015 |
In 1144 the body of young William of Norwich was found. He had been tortured and then murdered by a person or persons unknown but for a variety of reasons blame was unfairly placed on the entire Jewish community.
This incredibly well researched and well written book details the history of what is the first known accusation of ritual murder attributed to Jews in medieval times. It is an enlightening account of Jewish/Christian relations in this time period. I found it to be a fascinating read although some may find it a bit dry. Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more not only about the origins of the blood libel but also a not so well known part of Jewish/Christian history. ( )
  Veronica.Sparrow | Nov 15, 2015 |
Pros: fascinating interpretation, lots of endnotes and explanation

Cons: highly academic

The accusation that the Jews of the city of Norwich murdered the apprentice William in a mockery of the crucifixion, and the Life of St William that was later written, set the stage for similar accusations in the future, accusations that eventually saw Jews burned at the stake and expelled from the cities they called home.

This is a highly academic book that goes over a wide variety of background information (family trees, identities of various players - and their relations to others who may have had influence, the second crusade, the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, etc.). As Rose is using very limited sources with regards to the actual blood libel cases, there’s a sometimes circuitous route from the background information to how it ties into the cases. It’s quite a fascinating piece of deductive reasoning, putting minor clues together to form a cohesive and intelligent narrative, - even if it’s admittedly based on numerous suppositions.

Rose is obviously aware of all of the scholarship that’s been done on this topic and refutes a lot of theories. For example, there’s the idea that all blood libel cases involved rioting and executions or expulsions, which may be the case for later centuries, but when the cases first appeared any negative consequences generally followed years later, and tended to have political and/or economic reasons behind them (from forcing the Jews to ransom themselves so their captor could pay bills to acquiring their land and assets). While a lot of Rose’s conclusions are based on thin information, there’s enough supporting evidence to show that - though they can’t be proved conclusively -they are plausible.

Rose proves that the murdered children themselves (assuming there’s even a body) are secondary to the economic and political concerns of those citing the accusation. Though nominated for sainthood the boys hardly ever appear in liturgical calendars, prayers, artwork, etc.

I found the earlier chapters very intense, and had to pay close attention in order to not get lost in the various strings being woven into the narrative. Later chapters (particularly the ones in part 2), were much more linear and easier to follow.

Some of the background information was fascinating in its own right, like the extreme financial cost of going on crusade, the raids done by both sides during the civil war and how knights forced churches and civilians to ransom themselves to pay the costs of war (and/or for booty). It also brought out the financial problems some nobles and churches had, and how unpalatable some of the clients were from the point of view of the moneylenders (both Christian and Jewish).

Though the book is highly academic, Rose gave enough background information to allow me - a relative newcomer to the case - to follow along easily. Not only that, the book revealed a lot about the state of research on these cases and how previous historians have interpreted the data. It’s a fascinating history that examines numerous sides of the origins of the blood libel and how the story may have originally spread. ( )
  Strider66 | Jun 30, 2015 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0190219629, Hardcover)

In 1144, the mutilated body of William of Norwich, a young apprentice leatherworker, was found abandoned outside the city's walls. The boy bore disturbing signs of torture, and a story spread that it was a ritual murder, performed by Jews in imitation of the Crucifixion as a mockery of Christianity. The outline of William's tale eventually gained currency far beyond Norwich, and the idea that Jews engaged in ritual murder became firmly rooted in the European imagination.

E.M. Rose's engaging book delves into the story of William's murder and the notorious trial that followed to uncover the origin of the ritual murder accusation - known as the "blood libel" - in western Europe in the Middle Ages. Focusing on the specific historical context - 12th-century ecclesiastical politics, the position of Jews in England, the Second Crusade, and the cult of saints - and suspensefully unraveling the facts of the case, Rose makes a powerful argument for why the Norwich Jews (and particularly one Jewish banker) were accused of killing the youth, and how the malevolent blood libel accusation managed to take hold. She also considers four "copycat" cases, in which Jews were similarly blamed for the death of young Christians, and traces the adaptations of the story over time.

In the centuries after its appearance, the ritual murder accusation provoked instances of torture, death and expulsion of thousands of Jews and the extermination of hundreds of communities. Although no charge of ritual murder has withstood historical scrutiny, the concept of the blood libel is so emotionally charged and deeply rooted in cultural memory that it endures even today. Rose's groundbreaking work, driven by fascinating characters, a gripping narrative, and impressive scholarship, provides clear answers as to why the blood libel emerged when it did and how it was able to gain such widespread acceptance, laying the foundations for enduring antisemitic myths that continue to the present.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:02:07 -0400)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.33)
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3 1
3.5
4 2
4.5
5 3

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 126,495,414 books! | Top bar: Always visible