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Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities

Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities

(p.143) [7] Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities
Neighboring Faiths
David Nirenberg
University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses the impact of the mass conversions of 1391 on conceptions of genealogy and lineage among Jews, Christians and Conversos in fifteenth-century Spain by making three major arguments. Firstly, that the conversion to Christianity of many thousands of Jews caused by the massacres, forced disputation, and segregations that marked the period between 1391 and 1415 produced a violent destabilization of traditional categories of religious identity. Secondly, that in the face of this destabilization Jews, Christians, and Conversos created new forms of communal identity by engaging in a dynamic and dialogic process of rereading their own traditions and those of their rivals. Over the course of the fifteenth century (that is, from the massacres of 1391 to the generation of the expulsion of 1492), this process elevated genealogy to a primary form of communal memory. Thirdly, that in each of these communities this genealogical form of collective memory gave rise to new forms of historical consciousness and historical writing, some of which continue to characterize the historiography of Spain and its Jews.

Keywords:   1391, Jews, Christians, Converso, genealogy, historiography, historical consciousness

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