chapter  9
24 Pages

The Working People of the Mediterranean Area during the High Middle Ages

This study is based mainly on the documents of the so-called Cairo Geniza, which is, as we have seen, a huge treasure of contracts, court records, letters and accounts, from the tenth through the thirteenth centuries, originally preserved in a synagogue of Fustat, or Old Cairo. 1 Most of the persons mentioned in these documents were Jews. Therefore the general title given to this essay requires some explanation. As we shall presently see, there was no professional ghetto in those times and places, just as there was no physical ghetto, no forced concentration of Christians or Jews in separate quarters. To be sure, each socio-religious group favored certain occupations to a degree, as is the case even today, e.g. amongst certain minorities in the United States. However, there were no watertight compartments in this respect. Consequently, with some reservations to be made presently, the Geniza documents, as far as they deal with the artisans, are indicative oftheir period and region rather than of anything specifically Jewish.