Simon Schama’s Jewish history

2017_40_mendozaRowan Williams at The New Statesman:

The story as it unfolds in Europe and the Middle East after the disruption of 1492 is one in which certain themes regularly and depressingly recur. There is the sheer physical insecurity – even for the merchant princes and the viziers of autocrats, a change of ruler or foreign policy could spell disaster, even violent death. There is the conscription of the huge international networks of Jewish traders and brokers into the dismal business of financing the wars and the vanity projects of European monarchs (as Jews had financed the building of abbeys and cathedrals in the Middle Ages).

Jewish financiers had no choice but to bankroll the destructive extravagance of 17th- and 18th-century rulers: while they could exercise limited influence through their wealth, they were also subject to the naked blackmail of knowing that their safety and that of their people depended on keeping monarchs happy, and that they would be the first scapegoats if things went wrong. Adults among spoiled and feral children, Jewish scholars, administrators and bankers serviced the staggering debts of “enlightened” and not so enlightened despots for generation after generation.

Yet again European Jewishness is caught in a catch-22 trap: forbidden entry into “mainstream” professions, Jews are restricted to trade and finance and are then reproached for their obsession with money. The rules of the social and religious game are fixed to make the Jew invariably the loser in the long term.

more here.