This concluding chapter assesses what the contribution of the Jews was to seventeenth-century European civilization. It is reasonably clear that the general significance of the Jews has to be assessed under two main heads — the economic and the cultural. The problem is to specify the exact nature of the Jewish role. The techniques of Jewish commerce and finance did not differ from other commerce and finance except in that a vast array of restrictions cut the Jews out of most guilds, most retail trade, and the ownership of land and buildings. The key factor which imparted a certain importance to the post-1570 Jewish role was the simultaneous penetration during the sixteenth century of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, as well as of the Marranos living in Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, into maritime and overland long-distance transit trades linking the Levant with Italy, Poland with the Levant, Poland with Germany, and Portugal and the Portuguese Empire with northern Europe. The commercial importance gained by the Jews in the Levant and Poland, largely as a result of the previous expulsion from the West, in other words, formed the basis of the Jewish revival in Italy, Germany, Bohemia–Moravia, and the Low Countries after 1570. This entrenched position in so many crucial but distant markets proved a factor of great potency, especially in view of the close correspondence and intimate cultural contact between western Jewry and the Jews of the Levant and Poland.
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