Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

El Call de la Ciutat de Mallorca a l'entorn de 1350: alguns aspectes socials i econòmics

Margalida Bernat i Roca


This is the continuation of an article published on the same topic in Tamid
4 (2002-2004), pp. 111-136. The author addresses a number of social and economic
aspects of the aljama of Majorca, observing that, within their closed and
relatively small groups, Jewish communities reflected many of the general traits
of the Christian society around them. In the case of the City of Majorca, some
distinctive features are observed, despite a very similar structure in which the
differences are to a great extent attributable to outside pressure rather than to
deliberate choice from within.
Professional activities. Certain sectors, such as the textiles and tanning industries,
were of major importance, and Jews were highly active as traders. The
areas where Jews were allowed to live were determined by royal decree. In the
case of the City of Majorca, the decision was made by Jaume I on 18th July,
1300. The first locations designated by Jaume I concentrated on three areas of
the city: the Call Menor, around the street that is now known as Sant Bartomeu,
an area in the vicinity of the port, near the shipyards, and another which came to be known as the Call Major. As for the workshops, the regulations
were less restrictive: workshops and shops owned by Jews in the City of
Majorca were not required to be adjoining their homes and could be located
outside the Jewish quarter.
In 1350 there were 735 heads of household in the Call Major. The occupation
of a large number of them, some 59.86%, is not known. This does not
mean that they had no occupation, but simply that there is no record of those
individuals profession in the source consulted. The remaining 40.14%, however,
are recorded as having an interesting range of occupations. They were involved
in 55 different professions which may be grouped into twelve distinct
areas of activity, as reflected in Table 1. There is no record of anybody being engaged
in fishing or farming.
A third of the active population was in one way or another involved in textiles
manufacturing. However, within this activity, there is no indication of the
individuals involved in handling the raw materials; curiously enough, the most
widely represented trade is not weaving (not included) or wool treating (similarly,
not mentioned), but silk spinning, with 13 representatives.
In the field of clothes manufacturing, the most significant occupation is
that of tailor, with 57 individuals, representing 9.39% of the total textiles sector,
which was concentrated in the Call Major. The source mentions the significant
number of 7 dyers.
With 84 documented individuals, trade and transport constitute the second
most important activity in terms of the number of people recorded, showing
that the Jewish community of Majorca was well integrated in the trading network
of the period, both at the local level and over greater distances.
The most popular trade related to leather and hides was that of shoemaker,
with the considerable number of 21 individuals engaged in this activity. There
is no record of any tanners or bleachers - the workers whose job it was to prepare
the raw materials. The tanneries in those days were located in the district
still known as Sa Calatrava, just to the south-west of the Call Major.
Seventeen individuals are described as being engaged in artistic or cultural
activities of some kind. Most were schoolteachers or bookbinders, seven belonging
to each of these two professions.
As for administrative posts, the Jewish community had four secretaries, or
neemanim, who formed the governing council, as well as a treasurer and a
Those who were engaged in occupations relating to wood and metalwork accounted
for 1.49% of the working population. The trade with the highest number
of individuals in this sector was that of silversmith, with six representatives. The personal services sector included seven individuals: four doctors, two
hairdressers and a folla fembra, i. e. a prostitute.
Regarding the doctors, they are known to have played an important part in
the intellectual life of the Call in the City of Majorca; some served as physicians
in the royal household.
There were also two butchers recorded in the documents. There is no evidence
of any baker catering exclusively for the Jewish community. Several individuals
were involved in the manufacture of soap.
The role of women in medieval Jewish society was very limited. They were
regarded as part of a familys property, but some women are recorded as having
been involved in professional activities, as well as in the management of assets.
In principle, Jews paid taxes in proportion to their wealth; taxes were levied
on their properties. In the case of the poll tax known as monedatge, however,
exactly the same sum was paid by all, irrespective of their personal assets.

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