Monday, October 11, 2010

The mixed legacy of 1492

The Boston Globe
By James Carroll
October 11, 2010

IT IS commonly observed that 1492, in addition to being the year of Christopher Columbus, was also the year of the Jews — their expulsion from Spain by the same Ferdinand and Isabella who sponsored the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. But the overlap of events (actually, Columbus set sail in the very week of the banishment) has historic significance, for it was in Iberia that ancient Christian anti-Judaism had recently morphed into genetic anti-Semitism — the idea that Jews are contemptible not because of their religion, but because of their “blood impurity.’’ This notion of a group’s innate biological inferiority tragically gripped the European imagination just as the encounter with the New World occurred.

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