Glenn Dynner in OUP blog:
So much of East European Jewish history is viewed through the lens of antisemitism and violence. But there is a reason that the Jews of Eastern Europe (mainly in the vast Polish-Lithuanian areas annexed by Russia, Prussia, and Austria at the end of the 18th century) formed three-fourths of the world’s entire Jewish population. Jews inhabited crucial economic niches, especially the nobility-dominated liquor trade, as this image by the Polish artist Gustaw Pillati shows.
The Jewish-run tavern became the center of local Christians’ leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities. Luckily for Jews, the nobles who owned the taverns believed that only Jews were sober enough to run taverns profitably. However, reformers and government officials blamed Jewish tavernkeepers for epidemic peasant drunkenness, as the following image by Grabowski illustrates, and sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade.
Read the rest here.