Trust thy Neighbor? Risk and Trust in Economic Interactions between Jews and Christians in the German Empire c. 1280-1420
Aviya Doron is a PhD student at the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the supervision of Prof. Elisheva Baumgarten, and a member of the ERC research group “Beyond the Elite: Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Europe.”
Her research explores risk and trust in Jewish-Christian economic interactions in the German Empire between 1280 and 1420. The questions at the heart of her work are how risk was conceptualized, experienced and overcome in interreligious personal contacts, and which institutionalized mechanisms governing economic exchange helped build and sustain trust between Jews and Christians. Beyond the prevailing risks involved in any economic exchange at the time, transactions between Jews and Christians entailed further risks arising from religious tensions between them. Thus, her research aims to elucidate how long-established mechanisms for risk mitigation, such as collateral, sworn oaths and written documents, were specifically put into practice in exchanges between Jews and Christians.
To this end, her PhD dissertation focuses on four cities of economic significance in the German Empire: Frankfurt, Cologne, Erfurt and Nürnberg. Combining legal and administrative archival sources in Latin and German and responsa literature, her work draws on insights from institutional economics and social-network analysis in order to clarify how individuals were linked with the greater environment in which they operated and illustrate their embeddedness in a larger web of relations to both institutions and other individuals. Identifying and understanding mechanisms for evaluating risk and building trust can shed new light on the role of economic incentives in shaping the boundaries between religious conflict and daily economic and social contacts.