Cover: Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, from Harvard University PressCover: Sinners on Trial in HARDCOVER

Sinners on Trial

Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation

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Product Details


$50.00 • £40.95 • €45.00

ISBN 9780674052970

Publication Date: 05/01/2011


358 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

15 halftones, 2 maps


Beautifully written and richly documented… On the basis of a large body of primary sources, some of them unknown in previous research, [Magda Teter’s] book sheds new light not only on the history of Poland and Polish Jews but also on the history of the reformations in East Central Europe. In doing so, it opens the way to the fuller integration of these histories into larger narratives of European history in the age of the reformations, helping further break down the east-west borders that still plague research in this area… The book’s writing and argumentation are clear and easy to follow, making it a very enjoyable read.—Adam Teller, American Historical Review

Superb… Teter opens her study with a general introduction to the hierarchical conceptions of the sacred in Catholicism, making clear that at the summit of the hierarchy is the consecrated communion wafer. This is followed by a chapter on the history of church thefts in early modern Poland—the main geographical setting of her book. In these crimes, Jews often served as pawns for the sale of stolen communion vessels, chalices, candelabra, paintings, and other precious sacred objects. A remarkably gifted story-teller, Teter relates about a dozen such crimes and their grim consequences… In her captivating narrative, Teter has painstakingly documented how the body politic and the body of Christ were inextricably bound together through the early modern period, and how the Reformation not only failed to diminish the host-desecration calumny but, at least in Catholic Poland, gave it new energy.—Allan Nadler, Jewish Ideas Daily

If Teter is not the first to take research in this direction, she has considerably advanced the argument by retelling the tale of Polish host desecration accusations with a graceful narrative and rich new detail.—Glenn Dynner, Jewish Review of Books

While the study of early modern Germany has for generations been a thriving field of academic research in North America, the same cannot be said for its eastern neighbor. Scholars in the Anglophone world have largely ignored the rich culture and history of the multiethnic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Magda Teter’s marvelous new book is a welcome addition to what is admittedly a relatively small body of English-language scholarship on the Commonwealth. It would be a great shame, however, if this book were read only by Slavic specialists, for it addresses a far broader range of issues relevant to early modern studies as a whole… Sinners on Trial certainly deserves notice across the broad world of early modern studies.—Howard Louthan, Slavic Review

Teter’s brilliant book shows how accusations of host desecration leveled against the Jews in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Poland took place against the backdrop of conflicts between church and state, king and nobility, and Catholics and Protestants. While these accusations diminished markedly in Western Europe after the Reformation, in Poland, it was precisely the Reformation and the consequent Counter-Reformation that led to a host of new cases.—David Biale, University of California, Davis

Teter’s mastery as scholar and story teller in this compelling book is unsurpassed. She navigates the tensions that beset early modern Polish society with meticulous attention to new archival sources and graceful narrative style. The conflicts along the ever-shifting boundaries between sacred and profane, pious and criminal, Jew and Christian, Catholic and Protestant sometimes erupted with devastating consequences.—Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University

This magnificent book innovatively frames accusations of host desecration by Jews within the context of Protestant–Catholic polemics. Teter places religion and conflict at the center of her narrative as she describes how many people were burned alive, tortured, and imprisoned for crimes of sacrilege. Her startling new arguments demolish misconceptions of ‘a state without stakes.’ Sinners on Trial will quickly become required reading in Polish history, Jewish history, Reformation studies, and religious studies in general.—Brian Porter-Szűcs, University of Michigan

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