Saturday, 26 November 2016

Critical Information for Your "Dear Santa" Letter

Yes, it’s that time of year again. If you haven’t already, you will soon be writing your letter to Santa. You might be shocked to learn that my letter is always very Jewish, so I thought I’d give you some tips about what to include in your wish list this year.

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been pretty dismal. The nutters were put in charge of the asylum and, consequently, Britain will be leaving the European Union and Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States of America. Additionally, so many (so-called?) celebrities have died that when, on New Year’s Eve they do the list of those who have died in the previous year on the television, as they invariably do, the list will either be broadcast at warp speed, or they’ll have to start on 1 December. In terms of medieval Anglo-Jewry, that everybody has followed assiduously all year, however it’s been a pretty decent year. Here are the highlights in terms of books:

·         This year saw the publication of Judith Olszowy-Schlanger’s Hebrew and Hebrew-Latin Documents from Medieval England: A Diplomatic and Palaeographic Study. I think technically this was published in 2015, however, as far as I know it only became available in 2016, hence it is included here. It’s on the very pricey side but if you think you can get a copy from Santa then it’s more than worth it – every page contains a new nugget of information. If anybody wants to send me a copy of this then I would be elated as I no longer have access to a copy.

·         After so many years relying on the work of Edward Synan and Kenneth Stow, we’ve finally had a new history of the Papacy and the Jews this year. Published by Oxford University Press, Rebecca Rist’s Popes and Jews, 1095-1291, is a masterpiece which has much in it that relates directly or indirectly to the Jews of medieval England.

·         Just out in the last few weeks, Kati Ihnat’s book Mother of Mercy, Bane of the Jews: Devotion to the Virgin Mary in Anglo-Norman England was published by Princeton University Press. I think it’s fair to say that this was one of my favourite books of the year. Of course, you don’t need Santa for this one, you can win a free copy from me if you hurry.

·         Finally, two books that I haven’t been able to get access to this year, but I’ve heard excellent things about are Kathy Lavezzo’s The Accomodated Jew: English Antisemitism from Bede to Milton, published by Cornell University Press, and Samantha Zacher’s edited collection, Imagining the Jew in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture, published by Toronto University Press. I’ve requested review copies of both of these books but, as yet, haven’t heard anything – if I do then I’ll upload a review as quickly as possible for you, dear reader.

It has also been a good year in terms of reprints. This is the point when people like me, who purchased the outrageously expensive hardback edition think, as Del Boy taught us, “What a plonker” I was. For you, dear reader, who had the common sense to wait, it means that these books are available at much more reasonable prices. The main books to look out for in this category are:

·         The proceedings of the York 2010 conference edited by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson Christians and Jews in Angevin England: The York Massacre of 1190, Narratives and Contexts, published by Boydell and Brewer. This contains essays by some of the royalty of the medieval Anglo-Jewish historiograph, as well as some new scholars – notably Pinchas Roth, two paper by him on England should be published next year (which are epic).
·         Given my love of Jewish women, I have to include this volume published by Manchester University Press. Simha Goldin’s brilliant study of Ashkenazic women was published in paperback earlier this year and I love it (even if it just lumps in England): Jewish Women in the Middle Ages: A Quiet Revolution.

If none of those take your fancy then why not ask Santa for an IOU? There are some excellent book coming out next year so perhaps you might like to ask Santa to pre-order you one of these beauties:

·         Palgrave Macmillan will be publishing Julie Mell’s The Myth of the Jewish Moneylender in January (according to their website). I’ve been eagerly anticipating the publication of this two volume study since I first read the book over Christmas 2015.
·         In about March, Ruth Nisse’s book Jacob’s Shipwreck: Diaspora, Translation, and Jewish-Christian Relation in Medieval England, looks epic and I can’t wait to read it.
·         About June next year, Tales in Context: Sefer ha-ma’asim in Medieval Northern France will be published by Wayne State University Press, which I’ll be reviewing in early 2017.

·         Finally, at the very end of this year, the University of Pennsylvania Press will publish Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century, an edited collection which brings together some of my favourite historians, and which I’ve been promised a review copy of when it becomes available.

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