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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Reuter Lecture 2022: A Wet-nurse Controversy: Jews, Christians, and later Medieval ‘Racism’ Event

Irven M. Resnick
18:00 - 19:30
31 May 2022
This event will be hybrid, held in LTC on Avenue Campus as well as online via Zoom.

For more information regarding this event, please email Clodagh Owens at .

Event details

This event is organised by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture, in partnership with the Parkes Institute.

You can find out more about the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture and their research here .

"A Wet-nurse Controversy: Jews, Christians, and later Medieval ‘Racism’"

Professor Resnick will look at the controversies triggered by the employment of Christian wet-nurses by Jews in the Middle Ages. Medieval Jews employed Christian wet-nurses despite repeated ecclesiastical condemnations, which typically did not prevail over social and economic interests. But in Etsi Judeos (July 15, 1205) Pope Innocent III, who complained loudly that Jews are unscrupulous usurers, thieves, blasphemers, and secret murderers of Christians, included an unsubstantiated rumour that has generated much scholarly debate: that “on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection (Easter),” after they have received the Eucharist, “the Jews make these women pour their milk into the latrine for three days before they again give suck to the children.” The controversy over wet-nurses did not end there, however. Churchmen will also prohibit Christians from employing Jewish wet nurses, to preserve Christian infants from the ‘stain’ of Jewish moral and physical depravity, turning to later medieval medicine and natural philosophy to affirm the racial inferiority of Jewish blood.

Speaker information

Professor Irven M. Resnick ,University of Tennessee (Chattanooga, USA), is professor and chair of excellence in Philosophy and Religion whose research focuses both on medieval Jewish-Christian relations and on the thirteenth-century philosopher-theologian and natural scientist, Albertus Magnus. He is the author of about 60 scholarly articles and the author, translator, or editor of eighteen volumes, including Marks of Distinction: Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High Middle Ages (2012; reissued in paperback in 2022) and Albertus Magnus and the World of Nature (2022, forthcoming). He has been a contributing member to the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters at Ben-Gurion University (Israel), an Associate of the sub-faculty of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford University’s Oriental Institute, a Senior Associate of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University of London (Queen Mary).

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