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.