The Mediterranean port of Livorno was home to one of the most prominent and privileged Jewish enclaves of early modern Europe. Focusing on Livornese Jewry, this book offers an alternative perspective on Jewish acculturation during the eighteenth century, and reassesses common assumptions about the interactions of Jews with outside culture and the impact of state reforms on the corporate Jewish community. Working from a vast array of previously untapped archival and literary sources, Francesca Bregoli combines cultural analysis with a study of institutional developments to investigate Jewish responses to Enlightenment thought and politics, as well as non-Jewish perceptions of Jews, through an exploration of Jewish-Christian cultural exchange, sites of sociability, and reformist policies. Mediterranean Enlightenment shows that Livornese Jewish scholars engaged with Enlightenment ideals and aspired to contribute to society at large without weakening the boundaries of traditional Jewish life. By arguing that the privileged status of Livorno Jewry had conservative rather than liberalizing effects, it also challenges the notion that economic utility facilitates Jewish integration, nuancing received wisdom about processes of emancipation in Europe.
About the author
Francesca Bregoli is Assistant Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York, where she also holds the Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies.
"This book fills a significant gap in Jewish and Italian historiographies in an impressive and exemplary fashion. It will immediately command attention as a major scholarly work."
—Lois Dubin, Smith College
"In Mediterranean Enlightenment, Francesca Bregoli marshals an array of new archival sources to illuminate Jewish intellectual, political, and cultural life in eighteenth century Livorno. This impressive and significant work of scholarship challenges the conventional narrative of the role of the Haskalah movement, of port cities, and of the very definition of what modernity and tradition meant for Jews. Its implications will resonate far beyond its particular subject."
—Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University