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The Money Language: Latin And Hebrew In Jewish Legal Contracts From Medieval England

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the oft-debated question of the knowledge of Latin by the Jews in the Middle Ages, focusing on the case of Jewish legal documents or starrs from England, dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Jews in medieval England used Hebrew and Aramaic in their literary works and legal documents but spoke French and possibly some English. The language of the overwhelming majority of legal contracts and records involving Jews in medieval England is Latin, and Jewish individuals simply had to cope with the legal and administrative intricacies of a system expressed in this language. Scholars working on intellectual contacts between Jews and Christians have focused primarily on the transmission of Hebrew texts into Latin, and agreed that most intellectual contacts, at least until the end of the twelfth century, were carried out through oral tutorials in the vernacular.

Keywords: Hebrew texts; Jews; legal contracts; Medieval England



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