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England, Usury and the Jews in the Mid-Seventeenth Century

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The first half of the seventeenth century saw a profound structural shift in the English economy and economic discourse. One of the controversial issues under dispute was the nature of usury. This paper sheds light on the enduring association of Jews with usury and seeks to demonstrate how the two concepts came to be decoupled in mid-seventeenth century England. It focuses on two case studies—the Jewish readmission polemic and Harrington’s Oceana—and examines two different channels through which this decoupling occurred. Reading these cases through the perspective of usury offers new insights not only into developing attitudes towards the Jews, but also into the different ways of coping with changing relations between traditional theological-economic paradigms and a shifting social reality in early modern England.

Affiliations: 1: Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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