Some historians perceive hatred of the Jews to be an ‘eternal’ racism that, in spite of minor shifts in its formulation, can be traced back over two millennia as a central and abiding component of European culture. While such lines of continuity certainly can be found (for example in the mythical view of the Jew as deicide) what such an essentializing approach tends to overlook is the extent to which anti-Jewish prejudice itself changed radically according to the historic context. How a Catholic artisan and guildsman of fourteenth-century Toledo or Prague, situated within a feudal and pre-industrial age, looked toward his Jewish neighbours was grounded in a total world-view that was quite unlike the perceptions of a factory worker of the late nineteenth century, living within a capitalist and secular age. Through the many centuries of European history, long phases of quite stable and relatively unchanging anti-Jewish patterns of prejudice can be contrasted with more dramatic watersheds or short periods of crisis, when the traditional archetypes have tended to fragment under stress and pass through a major restructuring and reformulation, before those new ways of seeing, in turn, became stable and enduring. Such a point of transition emerged during the 1870s and gave rise to a type of anti-Semitic racism that was to remain dominant in its new formulations down to the present.
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