Sources on Jewish money lending from late medieval Austria prove that ‘dynasties’ of Jewish financiers were not uncommon among the economic elite of the Jewish communities. My paper will give an analysis of the financial dealings and social situation of Jewish business families. The main focus will be on the cooperation between family members, matters of inheritance, marriage ties and gender roles, as well as on the legal position of Jewish family business. Longer-lasting economic connections between Jewish business families and their Christian customers will also be part of the analysis.
Jewish life in late medieval Austria was, for a good part, an itinerant life. Jews embarked on journeys for various reasons, which ranged from business matters to social as well as religious motives, yet all those travels took place within a legal framework set up by the Christian authorities. In my paper, I will examine the reasons for Jews to undertake a journey and the legal parameters under which they were allowed or forbidden to travel. I will further analyse how rulers utilised the permits and restraints on Jewish mobility to their own benefit, and how these regulations changed from the rather generous privileges of the early 13th to the restrictive provisions of the early 15th centuries.
The development of written culture in the medieval principality of Moldavia occurred only by the beginning of the 15th century and was intensely stimulated by the relations with the German Transylvanian burgs of Hermannstadt, Kronstadt, and Bistritz. Situated on the Eastern borders of the medieval Hungarian kingdom, these autonomous towns were centers of trade run by German-speaking colonists settled by king Geza II of Hungary (1141-1162). I begin noting that commercial privileges and trade-letters were the first written documents that circulated on the territory of Moldavian state. I survey how foreign practices such as letters of free passing or letters of credit, initially employed by the German merchants only, were assimilated by the Moldavian administration and native traders. Further on, my paper illustrates how different strata of the Moldavian society got involved into trade with the German burgs and how, in my reading, this involves familiarization with, and appeal at, written culture. The importance of trade relations with the Transylvanian burgs is emphasized once more by the decline of urban culture and practices of record-keeping after commercial relations changed their focus from the German towns towards the Ottoman Empire as a result of a stronger political dependence of the Moldavian state.