Baghdad Jewry in late Ottoman times: The emergence of social classes and of secularization

Shlomo Deshen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Mesopotamian Jewry is most intriguing. For over a millennium it was a major center of Jewry in tenns of both size and cultural vigor. During much of that period Mesopotamian Jewry was in fact the predominant center of the Jewish people, and an abundance of historical sources sheds light on the social structure of the community, until the High Middle Ages. Then, quite abruptly, the community virtually disappears from the historical record, not to reemerge until the eighteenth century. Historians explain this as a result of the havoc that the Mongolian invasion wrought in the thirteenth century. In the nineteenth century the community suddenly undergoes enonnous demographic and economic expansion, and blooms as a religio-cultural center. Cultural creativity continues (until again, the sudden demise of the community in 1950), and becomes diversified as a result of a rather unique fonn of modernization and secularization. Baghdad Jewry produced inter alia literary artists, who depicted both conditions in their land of origin and reflections based on their experience as a result of emigration. But study of this major Jewish society straggles far behind that of other communities, including some that are far less weighty. The present contribution is an attempt to plumb some of the available sources, while raising issues comparable to those that sociologically-oriented historians have raised on other Jewish societies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJews among Muslims
Subtitle of host publicationCommunities in the Precolonial Middle East
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781349248636
ISBN (Print)9780333626559
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2016


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