Studies in the history of the jews of Morocco

A great part of the collection has unfortunately been lost. At the request of Mr. Masoud Corcos, an uncle of David Corcos and head of the firm M. Corcos and Co. in London, these documents were sent to him and he deposited a good part of them in the Mocatta Library. After the death of Masoud Corcos in 1936 and the tragic end of his eldest son and his wife (the son perishing in an accident in the Swiss mountains and the mother, wife of Masud Corcos perishing in the search for him), David Corcos made great efforts to locate and recover the documents. But all his endeavours were in vain. Apparently they were destroyed during the Second World War

There remained with David Corcos about 250 documents, dating mainly from the reigns of Moulay cAbdarrahman b. Hisham (1822-59), his son Moulay Muhammad (1859-73) and his grandson Moulay Hasan (1873-94). Most of them are letters addressed to Solomon Corcos (d. 1854) and his sons Jacob (d. 1878) and Abraham (d. 1883). All these ancestors of David Corcos were "merchants of the sultan" and leaders of South Moroccan Jewry. It goes without saying that this collection of letters and documents, which is surely unique, throws much light on the status and achievements of a certain group of rich Jewish bourgeois in a 19th-century Moslem country

David Corcos was not a professional scholar, university-trained. Neither was he a specialist in rabbinical lore, nor an Arabist. Nevertheless he had recourse to the responsa of North African rabbis and quotes in some of his papers data found there. He also made use of the Hebrew manuscripts in his own collection. On the other hand, a great part of the Arabic sources for North African history has been translated into French and David Corcos used them diligently. Another category of sources which he used for his historical studies with great success are the travelogues and memoirs written by Europeans who travelled in Morocco or spent some years there. David Corcos searched their books systematically. He had inherited from his father a rich library and himself purchased many other old and precious books. They were not simply stored, but served him as an important source of information. Many of these writings are permeated with rude anti-Semitism. David Corcos accordingly adopted a very critical attitude towards them, wary of being misled by their statements. Generally speaking, the reader of his papers will be im­pressed time and again by the thorough and logical analysis of the data. David Corcos was a critically-minded historian

In addition to literary sources, David Corcos had recourse to his com­prehensive personal knowledge of conditions in Morocco. He had travelled in various provinces of the country and everywhere made inquiries into the remnants of two thousand years of Jewish history. He asked old people who remembered historical events and visited old, abandoned Jewish cemeteries. But, above all, he was deeply rooted in the traditions of Moroccan Jewry, he knew old customs and had heard much in the bosom of his family. As his interest comprised all periods of the history of the Jews in Morocco and he was convinced of its basic continuity, he often compared phenomena in different periods and regions, drawing conclusions from what happened much later as to earlier phases. His eagerness to collect data about the history of Moroccan Jewry was so great that he made efforts to find them in the most disparate sources. His knowledge of the modern scientific literature was truly astonishing

David Corcos had not only his own method of historical research, but also a conception of his own. In his view, the attitude of the Moslems towards the Jews was basically tolerant, although this tolerance was different from the tolerance of West Europeans. Outbreaks of fanaticism were on the whole exceptional phenomena, not characteristic of Moslem-Jewish relations. The Jews were considered in Morocco as aulad al-bilad, as true Moroccans. Hence David Corcos often contested generally held views, above all the conception of the Jews in Morocco being through many centuries a direly oppressed minority, living in narrow and dirty ghettos, the so-called mellahs

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אוקטובר 2015
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