The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe - E.M. Rose


Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                Recently, I was talking about the arrival of Islam in West Africa, and I used the term clash.  Someone asked if this meant battle as with swords, and I replied no, pointing out that way back then Christianity was responsible in a larger degree for killing because of religion than Islam or Judaism – look at the Crusades.


                It’s funny how things change, and depressing because they don’t really change that much.


                Blood Libel, or the belief (fictional story) that Jews killed a Christian (usually a child) to fulfill a rite or bake bread has been around for a long time.  Today, even the passing literature student can get a taste of it in Chaucer.  One could argue that it has been around since the phrase “the Jews killed Jesus” – something that disregards the fact that Jesus was Jewish and the Romans nailed him to the cross.


                Today, blood libel is less in the Christian world (though you can still find people who do the whole killed Jesus thing) and more in the Muslim world, not all that surprising.  Perhaps what is more surprising is that it really hasn’t adapted to Blood Libel accusations against Christians or Muslims.


                And that outside the scope of this book.


                Emily M. Rose’s history looks at the earliest Blood Libel story –that of William of Norwich, tracing its impact in England and then crossing the Channel to look at its impact in France.  The English section looks at the murder and the story about the murder in light of the war between Stephen and Matilda as well as the role of the Church in everyday life as well as the role of the Church in the lives of William’s family.  It then moves to the murder of a Jewish man who was killed by a knight who owed him money.  This murder is seen not only in the light of William’s but also in terms of the crusades.   It puts a slightly more sinister look on the use of the rumor.  Combine that section with the one about Paris and the Jewish bones found in that well in Norwich become representative of even more horror.


                The writing at time is a little dry at times, but it is a worth a read.