Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Allison Kavey

Committee Members

Francesca Bregoli

Elisheva Carlebach

Mary Gibson

David Sorkin

Subject Categories

European History | Jewish Studies | Legal | Medieval History | Women's History


Renaissance Kingdom of Naples, Jewish Self-Government, Jewish Citizenship, Municipal Identity


This study intends to make a contribution to the debate concerning Jewish citizenship in Renaissance Europe by suggesting that de jure status does not provide sufficient information on the municipal belonging of individuals and groups. Citizenship in Renaissance Italy was an equivocal concept. Political rights were usually granted on the basis of wealth and “respectability” (measured in terms of lineage, and education). Jews, women, the poor, and “debased” groups may have not enjoyed such rights; nonetheless they were part of the social, economic, and cultural life of the Renaissance city.

Municipal belonging is better assessed by individuals’ de facto enjoyment of municipal rights, shared vernacular language, utilization and appropriation of public space as one’s own, and adherence to local norms. Individuals who shared these features constituted a juridical community. Jews of terra di Bari, for example, voted in the public square, lived in the center of town in open quarters, spoke Apulian vernacular languages, and used public notaries and gentile courts often adhering to the Lombard norms that veined the legal culture of the land. This means that Jews were not a permanent parallel society; instead, they were embedded into the municipal juridical of the Kingdom of Naples.

This study suggests that citizenship is an imperfect concept because its definition was subject to constant negotiation, and it varied through time and space. Municipal belonging can be bettered assessed by imagining the existence of Juridical Communities. In fact, their members are defined by cultural paramenters as expressed in the pragmatic solutions they adopted to cope with specific local conditions. For example, Jewish women of Bari adopted strategies to protect their interests in a male dominated society that were closer to those of their Christian neighbors than to those adopted by Ashkenazi women in Northern Italy. Regardless of their de jure status Christians and Jews of Apulia who adopted similar strategies in the protection of wealth, transfer of property, and communal administration belonged to a specific juridical community because their worldview was informed by a common legal culture.