The Geniza and Family History

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The Geniza preserves some of the densest and most detailed evidence for family life that we possess from the medieval Middle East. This essay examines how scholars have used this evidence to date and how they have not yet done so, in three parts. It first assesses Goitein’s foundational work on women and the family—its strengths, its limitations, and its relationship to the study of the family in other historical fields. It then surveys the work that has been done since Goitein, which for many years focused primarily on the legal construction of marriage but has recently returned to asking more broadly based questions about kinship, households, and men’s and women’s lived experiences within marriage. The essay concludes by discussing some of the inherent constraints that the field faces moving forward and identifying some especially promising areas of future inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-197
Number of pages23
JournalJewish History
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


  • Family
  • Gender
  • Geniza
  • Kinship
  • Women


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