Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Murky pre-modernity

January 31 is my self-imposed deadline for this chapter. This chapter, alas, is the one where I cover material that has nothing nothing nothing to do with my alleged areas of expertise. Specifically, it's the one where I cover such matters as: what the Bible says about intermarriage; what medieval Jews and Christians said about intermarriage; what happened, just prior to the French Revolution, when Catholics and Protestants married, which they apparently did, even though there was no civil marriage, because Christian-Christian was less problematic than Christian-Jewish. I'm feeling a mix of in over my head (of course the day Wikipedia's on strike is the day I need to learn about the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215) and the usual regret that whatever it is I happen to be researching at the moment isn't my area. Why don't I study the Middle Ages? What did it mean that marriages that were not theoretically possible were also banned? It's all so exciting!

But the further I get from that chunk of history bounded by the Revolution and the Dreyfus Affair, the more unwieldy things get. I have enough experience with this sort of thing that I can figure when a secondary source is or is not legit, but I have very little sense of the historiography. So, while I can immediately tell where an author of a work about 19th C French Jews stands, with the rest, the internal disputes will - and this I think I'm just going to have to accept, if I keep to the deadlines - elude me.

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