This article begins in the early Middle Ages, and specifically addresses questions concerning the economic and political situation of Jewry in Western Europe. The period of the high Middle Ages follows, with a focus on developments in community life and the character of Jewish society. The discussion considers the Jewish foundation myths that were born in the twelfth century in an attempt to explain and interpret the social and cultural changes of the time. It examines the nature of the interaction and the form of discourse that characterized the medieval relations between a Christian majority and a Jewish minority culture. It also describes the legal status of the Jews in Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire. The article also discusses Jewish life in Spain, since, for a significant segment of the period under study, Spain was under Muslim rule.
Repeated defeats at the hands of the Romans and the subsequent pan-European migration made the Jewish people pragmatic and their religion, rid off radical traits, with the exception of rare, obscure flares. Nevertheless, the painful memories and the hope of a holistic redemption always maintained presence in the Jewish psyche, waiting for the opportune moment to flare up. The resigned postmillennialism and rational, secular, European Jewish philosophy was content with the creation of Israel on the lost land. The subsequent turmoil, and the perpetual war footing of Israel reoriented the new generation of Jews in a catastrophic millennialism and radical ideas of redemption, inspired by the permanently belligerent milieu of its existence. It facilitated a tendency to aspire for a messianic age. Fascinated by prospects of a Jewish commonwealth and rebuilding of the temple on Mount Zion, the conservative Protestants have been funding the radical Jewish cause.