History of Antisemitism - Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth Century

In many European countries the 18th century "Age of Enlightenment" saw the dismantling of archaic corporate, hierarchical forms of society in favour of individual equality of citizens before the law. How this new state of affairs would affect previously autonomous, though subordinated, Jewish communities became known as the Jewish question. In many countries, enhanced civil rights were gradually extended to the Jews, though often only in a partial form and on condition that the Jews abandon many aspects of their previous identity in favour of integration and assimilation with the dominant society.

According to Arnold Ages, Voltaire's "Lettres philosophiques, Dictionnaire philosophique, and Candide, to name but a few of his better known works, are saturated with comments on Jews and Judaism and the vast majority are negative". Paul H. Meyer adds: "There is no question but that Voltaire, particularly in his latter years, nursed a violent hatred of the Jews and it is equally certain that his animosity...did have a considerable impact on public opinion in France." Thirty of the 118 articles in Voltaire'sDictionnaire Philosophique concerned Jews and described them in consistently negative ways,

In 1744, Frederick II of Prussia limited the number of Jews allowed to live in Breslau to only ten so-called "protected" Jewish families and encouraged a similar practice in other Prussian cities. In 1750 he issued the Revidiertes General Privilegium und Reglement vor die Judenschaft: forcing these "protected" Jews to "either abstain from marriage or leave Berlin." In the same year, Archduchess of Austria Maria Theresa ordered Jews out of Bohemia but soon reversed her position, on condition that they pay for their readmission every ten years. This was known as malke-geld (queen's money). In 1752 she introduced a law limiting each Jewish family to one son. In 1782, Joseph II abolished most of these practices in his Toleranzpatent, on the condition that Yiddish and Hebrew were eliminated from public records and that judicial autonomy was annulled.

In accordance with the anti-Jewish precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia's discriminatory policies towards Jews intensified when the partition of Poland in the 18th century resulted, for the first time in Russian history, in the possession of land with a large population of Jews. This land was designated as the Pale of Settlement from which Jews were forbidden to migrate into the interior of Russia. In 1772, the empress of Russia Catherine II forced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to stay in their shtetls and forbade them from returning to the towns that they occupied before the partition of Poland.

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Famous quotes related to eighteenth century:

    Our age is pre-eminently the age of sympathy, as the eighteenth century was the age of reason. Our ideal men and women are they, whose sympathies have had the widest culture, whose aims do not end with self, whose philanthropy, though centrifugal, reaches around the globe.
    Frances E. Willard 1839–1898, U.S. president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union 1879-1891, author, activist. The Woman’s Magazine, pp. 137-40 (January 1887)

    F.R. Leavis’s ‘eat up your broccoli’ approach to fiction emphasises this junkfood/wholefood dichotomy. If reading a novel—for the eighteenth century reader, the most frivolous of diversions—did not, by the middle of the twentieth century, make you a better person in some way, then you might as well flush the offending volume down the toilet, which was by far the best place for the undigested excreta of dubious nourishment.
    Angela Carter (1940–1992)