Who and where were the medieval Jews?

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The Jews of the Middle Ages lived across Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The largest and most established Jewish communities were in Spain, and in the area that is now Iraq and Iran. There was also a large Jewish settlement in France and Germany.

Jewish merchants had travelled further afield. There were Jewish communities in China, India and elsewhere in the Far East.

In many parts of Europe, before the Crusades, Jews lived reasonably well, often under the protection of the local ruler. This was because rulers recognised that Jews could be trusted and had good trading contacts in other countries.

At the beginning of the medieval period Jews had developed communities all over mainland Europe. However, during the period various laws were put in place that discriminated against Jews.

In 1290 the Jews were expelled from England. Jews were also banished from other countries.

Gradually the centres of Jewish population moved from Western Europe (England, France, German lands) to Eastern Europe (Poland) and to the world of Islam (Turkey).