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College of Arts & Sciences
Jewish Studies Program

Andrew Berns Lecture: "Why We Should Care About Jewish Farmers in the Middle Ages"

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 4:00pm

Location: Gambrell 217


Assistant Professor of History


"Why We Should Care About Jewish Farmers in the Middle Ages"


Modern Jewish scholarship insists that Jews did not farm in the Middle Ages; they were rabbis, medical doctors, merchants and artisans.  The view that Jews did not farm complements the notion that Jews created capitalism.  My paper challenges outworn narratives of progressive Jewish alienation from the land, and presents evidence from late medieval Crete showing that Jews were involved in agriculture.  This study of intersections between Jewish law, culture, and agricultural life contends that Jews were not agents of the Commercial Revolution.  On the contrary Judaism encouraged its adherents to be better stewards of the land, not its exploiters.


Andrew Berns', first book, The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy, was published by Cambridge University Press in November 2014. He joined the Department of History at the University of South Carolina-Columbia in the Fall of 2013.