For most of the Middle Ages, canon law’s position toward the Jews of Latin Christendom was straightforward: they were to be marginalized, but not expelled. Over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, jurists began to question whether canon law might indeed require the expulsion of the Jews. This question turned on the interpretation of an ecumenical decree, Usurarum voraginem, that had been drafted in response to Christian moneylending, but whose ambiguous phrasing took on new meaning as a result of shifting political dynamics and new trends in canonistic jurisprudence. Ultimately, even a reigning pope would come down in favor of an expansive reading of the decree, rupturing a tradition of papal resistance to Jewish expulsion that had endured for nearly a thousand years. By tracing jurists’ debates over the meaning of the decree alongside the response of secular and ecclesiastical authorities, this paper explores the interaction between legislative intent, legal interpretation, and the expulsion of the Jews in the late Middle Ages.
I am currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, with a particular interest in economic history and the intersection of legal norms and social practices. My dissertation, “Banishing Usury: The Expulsion of Foreign Moneylenders in Medieval Europe, 1200-1450,” examined the repeated expulsions of foreign (mostly Christian) moneylenders during the late Middle Ages.
I earned an A.B. in History from Harvard College in 2007, writing my senior honors thesis on trade networks in the medieval Adriatic Sea under the supervision of the late Angeliki Laiou. I then earned an MPhil in Medieval History from Cambridge University, where David Abulafia supervised my thesis on the medieval commerce of Savona, a port city in northwestern Italy. Since then, my research has ranged from Roman imperialism to Italian Romanesque sculpture to the practice of preaching in late medieval Europe.