After Expulsion

1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry

224 pages

January, 2013

ISBN: 9780814729113



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Jonathan Ray is the Samuel Eig Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University.  

All books by Jonathan S. Ray

Honorable Mention for the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer book award in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History presented by the Association for Jewish Studies

On August 3, 1492, the same day that Columbus set sail from Spain, the long and glorious history of that nation’s Jewish community officially came to a close. The expulsion of Europe’s last major Jewish community ended more than a thousand years of unparalleled prosperity, cultural vitality and intellectual productivity. Yet, the crisis of 1492 also gave rise to a dynamic and resilient diaspora society spanning East and West.
After Expulsion traces the various paths of migration and resettlement of Sephardic Jews and Conversos over the course of the tumultuous sixteenth century. Pivotally, the volume argues that the exiles did not become “Sephardic Jews” overnight. Only in the second and third generation did these disparate groups coalesce and adopt a “Sephardic Jewish” identity.
After Expulsion presents a new and fascinating portrait of Jewish society in transition from the medieval to the early modern period, a portrait that challenges many longstanding assumptions about the differences between Europe and the Middle East.


  • "After Expulsion charters the (literally and metaphorically) troubled waters of the sixteenth-century Mediterranean with deftness and elegance. It takes us on a journey from Seville to Fez, Salonica and Venice. It fills a notable gap in the literature by offering a synthetic and yet thought-provoking narrative of the most complex period in the early modern history of the Sephardic diaspora."

    —Francesca Trivellato, Frederic W. Hilles Professor of History, Yale University

  • “Ray’s exciting volume contains a wealth of original insights on the subtle and complex process that transformed the Jewish outcasts of Spain of 1492 into a new society that would become known as the Sephardic diaspora. Based upon a careful reading of a wide variety of Spanish and Hebrew primary and secondary sources, Ray provides a new and rich understanding of the crucial sixteenth century in Jewish history. His refreshing historical analysis provides fruitful and novel interpretations of Sephardic and early modern Jewish history.”

    —Jane S. Gerber, Professor of History and Director, Institute for Sephardic Studies, City University of New York

  • "This valuable and readable scholarly work will attract academics"


  • "After Expulsion is a rich and compelling history...With its intense focus on one century, Ray's book makes a distant time and trauma painfully vivid and immediate to the reader." 

    —Jane Mushabac, Jewish Currents Magazine

  • "It should serve as useful supplementary reading for undergraduates and a lucid general survey for lay readers."

    —Norman Roth, Renaissance Quarterly

  • "After Expulsion will prove to be an indispensable volume in the library of any reader interested in the history of Judaism in early modern Europe. Ray has written a brilliant, groundbreaking study fundamental in our understanding of the intricacies of the long and difficult configuration of the Sephardic Diaspora.” 

    Sixteenth Century Journal

  • “…[T]his book is…groundbreaking in what it does accomplish, and in terms of the many ideas Ray presents that others will undoubtedly pursue, research, and publish.  For anyone who had assumed that there was a cohesive Sephardic identity of the Jews who left Spain at the end of the fifteenth century…this book is a revelation.”

    American Historical Review

  • “In tracing the social and political development of the Sephardic community during the sixteenth century, Ray reminds historians to exercise restraint in projecting community identities and affiliations backward in time.  It is an important point, one that also fruitfully calls into question assumptions about the primacy of religious identity.  Such cautions are timely, especially as more and more scholars take the ‘religious turn’ and, together with Ray’s inventive and careful revision of the poorly understood formative period of Sephardic identity, should win for this interesting book a broad readership.”

    The Journal of Modern History

  •  “After Expulsion implicitly invites the reader to succumb to the outmoded, rigid spell of historical structuralism, In this sense, Ray has offered a challenging achievement by proposing an explicit “culturalist” narrative that implicitly endorses “structuralist” interpretations of the Sephardim and the Mediterranean.”

    Jewish History