Tag Archives: European History

Prof. Magda Teter wrote “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review of Books.

On April 29, 2021, Prof. Magda Teter published, “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review Books. Below is an excerpt of Teter’s debut NYRB piece.

“The questions about poverty and charity we are facing now, in the middle of a major economic and public health crisis, are not new. They reflect our moral values as well as our social, legal, and political structures. (Tellingly, in the US, charitable giving is intertwined with tax codes.) To be sure, these values do change over time and vary across regions and cultures. In Judaism, tzedakah—roughly, charity—is a moral obligation, a mitzvah. (Although a mitzvah is also considered a good deed, in Hebrew it means a religious precept or commandment.) “Formal institutions for poor relief,” not just individual almsgiving, Kaplan writes, were already

“prescribed” in the Mishnah and the Tosefta—ancient Jewish texts from the second and third centuries CE. Zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

In Christianity, by contrast, charity is not a commandment or a pillar of religious practice, though Jesus’ teachings about poverty and wealth have played an important part in the development of Christian views on charity and on the role of the poor within society. In Christian medieval communities, for example, poverty was not considered shameful. Quite the opposite: poverty as a voluntary way of life was seen as a manifestation of piety, embodied most famously by Saint Francis of Assisi and the members of mendicant orders. In the seventh century Saint Eligius reportedly said, “God could have made all men rich, but He wanted there to be poor people in this world, that the rich might be able to redeem their sins.” The poor begging at church entrances were a common sight, offering the wealthy an opportunity to give alms. Even the word for “hospice” suggested an aura of holiness. In Paris, it was Hôtel-Dieu, and among Jews of Northern Europe it was called a hekdesh, related to the Hebrew root for “holy,” k-d-sh.

Then, Kaplan notes, echoing the historian Thomas Max Safley, “something happened to charity in early modern Europe.” In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, crop failures led many of the rural poor to move to cities. Frequent epidemics overwhelmed local hospices, and religious individuals and institutions alike were unable to provide adequate support to the sick and the poor. More formal solutions were needed, and almsgiving and poor relief became increasingly regulated. Now the poor were no longer seen as a means of redemption for the rich but as a public nuisance and a social burden, and perhaps as a vector of disease.

The cities began to define who was deserving and undeserving of aid. Public begging was increasingly banned, poverty was gradually criminalized, and residency was required to qualify for poor relief. In 1516, for example, Paris banished “vagabonds.””

You can follow Prof. Magda Teter on Twitter @MagdaTeter.

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Prof. Magda Teter’s book, Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Anti­se­mit­ic Myth Libel, wins National Jewish Book Award.

The Jewish Book Council awarded Prof. Magda Teter‘s book, Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Anti­se­mit­ic Myth Libel, the JDC-Herbert Katzki Award. Prof. Teter is the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies and Professor of History.

Magda Teter
Magda Teter

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Prof. Steven Stoll Publishes “Charlie Chaplin and Karl Marx in Conversation: On Working and Being in Modern Times” in Public Seminar.

On September 21, 2020, Professor Steven Stoll published, “Charlie Chaplin and Karl Marx in Conversation: On Working and Being in Modern Times,” in the Public Seminar,” in Public Seminar.

Stoll writes: “At a time when some predict that the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic could leave many unemployed for months or years, and when the working-class already endures the worst of everything, in a rolling crisis of despair, Modern Times doesn’t look like an excavated relic but a message from the dawn of the American Century to its dusk. The story of the Worker, played by Chaplin, and his homeless partner, the Gamin, played by Paulette Goddard, depicts alienation and disillusionment with capitalism, law enforcement, and the world of industrial work that had failed the working class.”

You can read the full article here.

Prof. Steven Stoll

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Former Graduate Student, Louie Valencia, nominated for European Studies Book Award

The content below has copied and pasted from the Council for European Studies website:

The European Studies Book Award shortlist has been announced and it includes many notable and exciting books. The award honors the work of talented scholars who have written their first book on any subject in European Studies published within a two-year period. A multi-disciplinary Book Award Committee appointed by the Council for European Studies’ Executive Committee will choose the winner. Listed below are the shortlisted books.

News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900-1945 by Heidi J. Tworek (Harvard University Press);

Organic Resistance: The Struggle over Industrial Farming in Postwar France by Venus Bivar (The University of North Carolina Press);

Antiauthoritarian Youth Culture in Francoist Spain by Louie Dean Valencia-García (Bloomsbury Academic);

To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture by Eleonory Gilburd (Harvard University Press);

The First Modern Risk: Workplace Accidents and the Origins of European Social States by Julia Moses (Cambridge University Press);

The Return of Alsace to France, 1918-1939 by Alison Carrol (Oxford University Press);

Political Survivors: The Resistance, the Cold War, and the Fight against Concentration Camps after 1945 by Emma Kuby (Cornell University Press);

The Growth of Shadow Banking: A Comparative Institutional Analysis by Matthias Thiemann (Cambridge University Press).

The winner will be announced by early April in the European Studies Newsletter as well as on EuropeNow Daily. The winning author will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

This year’s jury is made up of: Megan Brown, Lindsey Chappell, Jonah Levy, Brittany Murray, Thomas Nolden (Chair), and Mark Vail.

Past awardees of the prize include Max Bergholz for Violence as a Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community, Francine Hirsch for Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union, Chip Gagnon for The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s, Todd Shepard for his book, The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (Cornell University Press), Mark I. Choate’s Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad, Bonnie M. Meguid’s Party Competition between Unequals: Strategies and Electoral Fortunes in Western Europe, Paulina Bren for her book The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring, and Harris Mylonas for The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities.”

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Professor Magda Teter Receives NEH Senior Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Jewish History

We are absolutely delighted to announce that Fordham historian Magda Teter is a recipient of the 2020-2021 NEH Senior Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Jewish History. 

Below is a description of her fascinating project.

Magda Teter

Project Title: “The Dissemination and Uses of the Jewish Past: The Role of The Present in The Production and Politics of History.”  

Project Description: As historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot noted in his groundbreaking book on the production of history, Silencing the Past, “history is always produced in a specific historical context.” Trouillot’s work distinguished between “what happened”—the historical events, and “what is said to have happened”—how historians, professional or not, recount historical events. Thus, not just the context of the historical events matters, but also the historical context of the time in which historians do their work. The overarching questions that loom over my project concern the impact of the present on the study of the past and the compounding effects on the shaping of the field—beyond the known connections with political emancipation, i.e., the acquisition of equal rights by Jews, religious reform, and nationalism that played an important role in shaping the works of Jewish history. When Jewish Studies emerged in the nineteenth century, the field and its scholars were excluded from the academy, but they formed scholarly societies and institutes, published scholarly books and journals. The topics that interested these early scholars were inflected by their own personal interests related to the social and political position of Jews in Europe. They were concerned with current events. Many journals related to Jewish Studies, in fact, devoted a separate section to contemporary events, and allowed for a more rapid response to the current events by publishing not only studies but also primary sources from the archives. These primary sources, in turn, influenced generations of scholars and scholarly projects. And yet, modern scholars have sometimes used these sources uncritically, neglecting to examine how these primary texts and images entered circulation, what might be missing, and of what conversation these sources were a part. My project will explore that.

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