The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Relations between Jewish Financiers and the Czech Aristocracy around the Year 1500

An absolute lack of cash in late-Medieval European society was the main reason for the huge rise in different forms of loans. This was a situation also typical of the Czech lands at the turn of the 15th and 16th century, with Jews taking up a significant role in the world of finance. The conditions under which Jews were allowed to provide loans were set down in law by monarch Vladislaus Jagiellon in the Jewish Code in 1497. The Supreme Burgrave of Prague was specified therein as the competent authority for the registration of loans provided by the Jewish financiers of Prague, its court also having jurisdiction for any possible recovery.

The issue of financial loans provided by Jews to the Czech aristocracy is also the main topic of the proposed paper. The well-preserved agenda of the aforementioned court of the Supreme Burgrave of Prague, which reflects in great detail the financial relationships between Jewish creditors and the aristocratic recipients of loans, serves as the source for the processing and evaluation of this topic. The paper primarily concentrates on the financial activities of members of the Prague Horowitz family, one of the richest and most prominent in the Prague Jewish community in the 15th and 16th century. It endeavours to present the family and financial ties among Jewish financiers themselves and at the same time to characterise their higher-aristocratic Czech clients.