Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln about Jews and Christians

Reading Assignment

Please write answers to the following questions. Use the Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln to complete your answer (your answers should include specific references to the text). Construct thoughtful, 2-3-paragraph responses each, approximately 6-8 sentences in length with references to the text (specific citations are required). Your answers must be typed with double-spaced formatting and written in 12-point, Times New Roman font. The assignment is due on Sunday, October 22 by 11:59 pm. You must submit the assignment via “TURNITIN.”

1. What do these memoirs reveal about the lives of women in the seventeenth-century Hamburg Jewish community?

2. What, if anything, do these memoirs reveal about the Jewish community in Hamburg and their relationship to the Christian majority?

3. What kinds of networks connected this small, minority community to the broader global trends we’ve been discussing in class? And how did Glückel’s professional and personal achievements reflect these connections?

Reading Primer – 

To set the stage, the Mediterranean basin transformed in early modern times. Far more compact and less resource rich than that of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean was very diverse. In this period, the Ottoman Empire, centered at Istanbul, deployed weapons using gunpowder and an effective administrative apparatus to encompass much of southwest Asia, the Arabian peninsula, and North Africa. The Ottomans were also a formidable sea power, particularly in the sixteenth century. As Sunni Muslims, the Ottomans clashed with the Shi’ite Safavids to their east, and with mostly Catholic Christians, especially the Habsburgs, to their west. Relations with orthodox Russians to the north were somewhat more friendly. Other Europeans, meanwhile, split into nationalistic and schismatic Christian camps, mostly Protestants against Catholics. Long wars fueled by religious and ethnic differences nearly filled the early modern period. Caught in between, the Jews of Europe and the Mediterranean remained mobile, often subject to persecution. Many fled to Ottoman territories, but others found haven in Amsterdam and a few other Protestant-dominated cities. In the midst of general conflict and a number of natural crieses, science flourished in Europe. The resulting discoveries revolutionized the pursuit of knowledge worldwide.

Born in the German merchant crossroads of Hamburg at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Gikl Bas Judah Leib (1646-1724), also known as Gluckel of Hameln, spent the remainder of the seventeenth century coming of age, marrying, having children (fourteen of them, twelve surviving), and learning to manage her family’s jewel business. As a widow in her forties, she began composing a memoir in Yiddish for her children’s sake, and it serves as one of the very few diaries from the period not written by a noblewoman at court. As an observant Jew and member of the Ashkenazi community, Gluckel weaves her faith and providential understanding of history closely together. She also chronicles both the good fortunes and hardships faced by European Jews in an age of severely limited religious tolerance.

With all that in mind, you might look at themes that address the following to help guide your reading:

1. Gluckel’s description of the Jews living in Hamburg.

2. Gluckel’s perspective as a woman.

3. Everyday life for Jewish and non-Jewish women alike.

4. Jewish-Christian relations in Europe.

5. Merchant and commercial international connections in an emergent global era.

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