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The King Defends Jews of Barcelona

The Black Death, an outbreak of bubonic plague that swept Europe in 1348-49, is thought to have killed as much as a third of Europe's population. The death toll left people demoralized and frightened. Seeking an explanation for this disaster, many blamed it on the Jews.

As the Black Death spread, it was accompanied by anti-Jewish riots. Sometimes, as indicated in this letter written by King Peter IV of Aragon, local governments took steps to protect the Jews.



Through the information supplied to us by the Jews of the aljama of the aforementioned city [Barcelona], we have learned that recently, when the populace of the aforesaid city had been aroused, certain men of that city, indifferent to the sting of our punishment, invaded the Jewish quarter and there killed several of the Jews of the aforesaid aljama. We have learned that you [the municipal authorities], zealous for justice and our honor, lest further damage be done to the aforesaid Jews, caused the aforesaid quarter to be carefully protected through personal intervention and through proper guards.