The twelfth century in Europe, hailed by historians as a time of intellectual and spiritual vitality, had a dark side. As Robert Chazan points out, the marginalization of minorities emerged during the "twelfth-century renaissance" as part of a growing pattern of persecution, and among those stigmatized the Jews figured prominently.
The migration of Jews to northern Europe in the late tenth century led to the development of a new set of Jewish communities. This northern Jewry prospered, only to decline sharply two centuries later. Chazan locates the cause of the decline primarily in the creation of new, negative images of Jews. He shows how these damaging twelfth-century stereotypes developed and goes on to chart the powerful, lasting role of the new anti-Jewish imagery in the historical development of antisemitism.
This coupling of the twelfth century's notable intellectual bequests to the growth of Western civilization with its legacy of virulent anti-Jewish motifs offers an important new key to understanding modern antisemitism.