By Young-Keon Seo
Deviations and Alienations of Marginalized People in Medieval European Communities: The Seventh Korean-Japanese Symposium on Medieval History of Europe (2010)
Introduction: The great pogrom of 1391, beginning in Seville, quickly spread to other towns, and many Jews converted to Christianity in the process. Indeed Spain had come closest to make the mass conversion of Jews, long-cherished desire of Christians come true. However, soon Christians came to feel that it was a disaster rather than a blessing. Now conversos, Jewish converts, were, to a significant extent, recognized as pseudo-Christians adhering to the past faith.
Generally the basic position of the academic world to this problem was to emphasize the continuity, not transformation: in terms of senses, there was no difference in discrimination between before and after the mass conversions. There exist two exclusive positions around the cause for persistence of discrimination. The first blames the continuity of discrimination upon the unchanging nature of the discriminating, the second upon that of the discriminated.
These arguments around the nature of discrimination exclude the transformation in Spanish society between before and after the mass conversions. As David Nirenberg suggests appropriately, it is true that the mass conversions of tens of thousands of Jews after 1319 transformed the sacred and social worlds. The Christian society faced with the unprecedented situation of mass conversions produced the new social discourses around the realities of conversos. The attitudes of Spanish Christians to the Jewish conversions changed remarkably at the end of the 14th century. In that sense, this period can be said to be one of the milestones in the history of Spain’s anti-Semitism.