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Editor: Yosef Kaplan
From the sixteenth century on, hundreds of Portuguese New Christians began to flow to Venice and Livorno in Italy, and to Amsterdam and Hamburg in northwest Europe. In those cities and later in London, Bordeaux, and Bayonne as well, Iberian conversos established their own Jewish communities, openly adhering to Judaism. Despite the features these communities shared with other confessional groups in exile, what set them apart was very significant. In contrast to other European confessional communities, whose religious affiliation was uninterrupted, the Western Sephardic Jews came to Judaism after a separation of generations from the religion of their ancestors. In this edited volume, several experts in the field detail the religious and cultural changes that occurred in the Early Modern Western Sephardic communities.

"Highly recommended for all academic and Jewish libraries." - David B Levy, Touro College, NYC, in: Association of Jewish Libraries News and Reviews 1.2 (2019)


Avicenna’s Neoplatonic account of divine providence and theodicy was hugely influential on later philosophical and religious thought in the Islamic world. However, it was severely criticised by one of his earlier commentators, the theologian-philosopher Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210). While Avicenna champions an optimist theodicean thesis of a plenitude of good to support the theory of providence integrated into his cosmogony, his commentator counters by arguing for a plenitude of evil and an overall pessimist anti-theodicy. Rejecting Avicenna’s ontological-cum-cosmological account of evil, al-Rāzī argues that a theodicy must be strictly subject-centred and is ultimately a futile exercise. This article includes a study and translation of the relevant section in his commentary on Avicenna’s al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt (Pointers and Reminders).

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
Opening New Archives, Revisiting a Global City
In Ordinary Jerusalem, Angelos Dalachanis, Vincent Lemire and thirty-five scholars depict the ordinary history of an extraordinary global city in the late Ottoman and Mandate periods. Utilizing largely unknown archives, they revisit the holy city of three religions, which has often been defined solely as an eternal battlefield and studied exclusively through the prism of geopolitics and religion. At the core of their analysis are topics and issues developed by the European Research Council-funded project “Opening Jerusalem Archives: For a Connected History of Citadinité in the Holy City, 1840–1940.” Drawn from the French vocabulary of geography and urban sociology, the concept of citadinité describes the dynamic identity relationship a city’s inhabitants develop with each other and with their urban environment.


The developing myth about the events at Karbala, as well as the image of al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī and the cult connected with him, were important factors in the shaping of early Shiite identity. In this article, I argue that some of the earliest traces of this process are found in the account of the Tawwābūn, or Penitents, events which took place in the years immediately following the death of al-Ḥusayn at Karbala in 60/680. Important elements of this story originate at least as early as the late first/early eighth century. In the story we see the image of al-Ḥusayn in process of transformation from that of someone merely human to someone ascribed traits that transcend the human. In the same course of events, the story of his death at Karbala is in process of being elevated from a tragic story to a myth with its associated rituals.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World

A little-known thirteenth-century manuscript preserved in Damascus contains by far the largest Syriac medical work that has survived till today. Despite the missing beginning, a preliminary study of the text allows us to argue that it is the medical handbook (entitled Kunnāšā) of Īšōʿ bar ʿAlī, a ninth-century physician and student of Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq. The seven books of the handbook appear to follow the model of Paul of Aegina’s Pragmateia both in composition and content. The actual significance of the handbook in the history of Syriac and Arabic medicine is yet to be assessed, but there can be no doubt that it will be a pivotal source that illustrates the development of Syriac medicine during a period of four centuries at the moment when it was being translated to lay the foundations of the nascent medical tradition in Arabic.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
Iberia and the Emergence of Modernity
This book examines the religious and ideological consequences of mass conversion in Iberia, where Jews and Muslims were forcibly converted or expelled at the end of the XVth century and beginning of the XVIth, and in this way it explores the fraught relationship between origins and faith. It treats also of the consequences of coercion on intellectual debates and the production of knowledge, taking into account how integrating new converts from Judaism and Islam stimulated Christian scholars to confront the converts’ sacred texts and created a distinctive peninsular hermeneutics. The book thus assesses the importance of the “Converso problem” in issues such as religious dissidence, dissimulation, and doubt and skepticism while establishing the process by which religious dissidence came to be categorized as heresy and was identified with converts from Judaism and Islam even when Lutheranism was often in the background.
Jesuits of Jewish Ancestry and Purity-of-Blood Laws in the Early Society of Jesus
In The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews the author explains how Christians with Jewish family backgrounds went within less than forty years from having a leading role in the foundation of the Society of Jesus to being prohibited from membership in it. The author works at the intersection to two important historical topics, each of which attracts considerable scholarly attention but that have never received sustained and careful attention together, namely, the early modern histories of the Jesuit order and of Iberian “purity of blood” concerns.
An analysis of the pro- and anti-converso texts in this book (both in terms of what they are claiming and what their limits are) advance our understanding of early modern, institutional Catholicism at the intersection of early modern religious reform and the new racism developing in Spain and spreading outwards.