Between Usury and the ‘Spirit of Commerce’: Images of Jews and Credit from Montesquieu to the Debate on Emancipation in Eighteenth-Century France
By bringing French history and Jewish history into dialogue, this article intervenes in the vast scholarship on the relationship between commerce and toleration in eighteenth-century French thought. It focuses on the place of Jews in Montesquieu’s ideas about doux commerce and explores the legacy of Montesquieu’s views on the debate on Jewish emancipation in the 1770s and 1780s. It traces the survival and adaptation of the medieval trope of the Jewish usurer in a variety of discourses, ranging from irenic images of commercial cosmopolitanism to representations of Jewish moneylending marshaled by radical advocates of Jewish “regeneration.” The article concludes by showing that in 1790–91 the doctrine of doux commerce did not provide a consistent argument in favor of civic and political equality even though commercial practices and policies in the French Southwest had favored the integration of Jews during the Old Regime.
Trivellato, Francesca, “Between Usury and the ‘Spirit of Commerce’: Images of Jews and Credit from Montesquieu to the Debate on Emancipation in Eighteenth-Century France,“ French Historical Studies, 39, no. 4 (2016): 645-683.