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¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The Jews newly arriving in Stühlingen, having been expelled from the cities, were not permitted to own and operate farms, were barred from the craft guilds, and were hobbled by a variety of restrictions in their letters of protection. Their first priority had to be to establish an economic base to meet their hefty tax burden, to support themselves and their families, and to maintain their community institutions.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Rural populations tend to be inherently reserved towards outsiders in general,1 and in the seventeenth century were outright hostile to the manifest “Christ killers” in particular.2 It is remarkable that the Jews were able, under such adverse conditions, to find an ecologic niche not only to survive but even to flourish. The only possible way for them to succeed was by providing added value over what was already locally available. In other words, Jews had to plug an existing gap in the rural market economy. In the following study, we will explore the nature of seventeenth-century rural market economies in southern Germany and identify gaps. We will examine the skill and tool set Jews brought with them to match these gaps. Finally, we will survey the nature of the solutions Jews brought to market deficiencies in early modern Stühlingen.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Starting in the Stone Age, hunter-gatherers evolved into self-sufficient subsistence farmers. With growing skills and technological progress, some managed to produce excess over their daily need; but what to do with the surplus? They could exchange it for luxuries, for implements to further increase their productivity, or they could shelter it in suitable form for a rainy day. It took society centuries, if not millennia, to figure out how to render this exchange process efficient. At first glance, barter seems to provide the solution: I give you my surplus, and you give me what I want or need! But what if I can spare a basket of apples but need a cow? Or, I have the apples now, but your cow needs to give suck to a calf for the next three months. In the words of the renowned nineteenth-century British economist William Stanley Jevons:
“Barter suffers from three serious inconveniences: a want of coincidence of needs, a want of measure of value, and a want of means for subdivision”3
1Malcolm, “Outsiders Within.”
2Perry and Schweitzer, “Anti-Semitism.”
3Jevons, “Money and the Mechanism of Exchange”, ch. 1.