Announcing “A Nação Hebrea: A Relational Prosopographic Database of the Portuguese Jewish Nation 1500-1800



Execuções no Terreiro do Paço, em Lisboa, de condenados “relaxados ao braço secular” pela Inquisição portuguesa

In today’s world, interest in Sephardic Jewry is greater than ever before, particularly with the recent laws in Portugal and Spain enacting the right for descendants of Iberian Jews to reclaim nationality that had been revoked by the Expulsion. The Portuguese Jewish Nation, the “reluctant cosmopolitans” of the Age of Colonialism and Imperialism, transcended empires, and linguistic, religious, national, and ethnic boundaries. Born in the enforced baptisms by King Manuel of Portugal in 1497, they considered themselves (both practicing Jews and enforced Catholics) to be “Homens da Naçao“, Men of the Portuguese Hebrew Nation, (Portuguese A Nação Hebrea). This notion of a separate nation is the starting point of our project.

A Nação Hebrea lived between worlds and identities, while establishing trade and kinship networks around the world. Centered historically in Iberia, Amsterdam, London, Livorno, and France, the Nation expanded throughout the world, leaving their imprint stretching from the New World to Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and India. Alongside these developments, the Nation has left an extensive material culture and archival legacy to study. With the continuing development of digital technologies, and the move towards the democratization of information through digitization, it has become much easier to study this community as a whole. One of the tools that has been used to great effect before on targeted mass population studies has been the creation of Relational Prosopographic Databases, allowing scholars from different fields to access a whole host of information about the people studied.

What is a Relational Prosopographic Database? As defined in the School of Advanced Study at the University of London in their Postgraduate Online Research Training website, “Prosopography is the study of groups through collective study of their members. This requires biographical data for large numbers of individuals, but the information available for many individuals may be quite limited, and consist of scattered references in different documents that need to be connected together and recorded in databases that can facilitate investigation of larger patterns.[1]” Several successful examples of Relational Prosopographic Databases include “Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England”[2] ,”The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database”[3], and the “China Biographical Database Project”[4]

This project intends to build a holistic, interdisciplinary prosopographic database of the Portuguese Jewish Nation, allowing academics, ‘citizen scholars’, and genealogists, to research the community and help increase the depth of understanding of this multifaceted people. The proposed database will be an innovative and open research tool giving access to those interested in the history of the Portuguese Jewish Nation to a wealth of biographical and relational information on the members of the Nation, and allowing all researchers, lay and academic to access, to engage with, and to enrich the wealth of information available. Researchers in the fields of Anthropology, Archaeology, Economics, Genealogy, Genetics, Geography, Heritage Studies, History, Political Science, Sociology,

The team behind A Nação Hebrea, led by Drs. Aron Sterk (University of Lincoln, UK) and Florbela Veiga Frade (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal), Ton Tielen (Archivist, Dutch Red Cross, Netherlands), and Michael Waas (MA candidate, University of Haifa, Israel), is proud to announce the formal opening of our project with the receipt of the Malcolm J. Stern Grant from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Our team is advised by a diverse and renowned multinational scholastic team and is building partnerships with several undergraduate and graduate institutions across the world. In addition, the team is a partner to theWestern Sephardi yDNA project, providing historical and genealogical analysis for the candidates and providing the first, interdisciplinary work under the framework of the project.

[1], last accessed August 6, 2016.