Gavin I. Langmuir

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Gavin I. Langmuir (1924–2005) was a veteran of World War II, an historian of anti-Semitism, and a medievalist at Stanford University.


Langmuir was born into a prominent Canadian family in Toronto on April 2, 1924. In 1948, he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto and went on to study modern diplomatic history at Harvard. Langmuir became increasingly interested in medieval studies, however, and in 1955 completed his doctoral dissertation on English constitutional history. After teaching at Harvard for a few years, he joined Stanford's faculty. According to Given, Langmuir's lifelong interest in the Jews of medieval England was sparked by a book he reviewed. He went on to write many articles that documented the nature of criminal charges against Jews and how those accusations evolved during the 12th and 13th centuries. He died at age 81 in 2005.[1]


Langmuir published many academic articles but was best known for two books: Toward a Definition of Antisemitism and History, Religion and Antisemitism, both published in 1990.

In Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, Langmuir outlined a conceptual framework that differentiated between medieval anti-Judaism, in which the Jew was hated by Christians because he was a Jew (an adherent to a rival religion with competing truth-claims), and medieval anti-Semitism, in which the Jew became an unreal, demonic, invented creature, the product of Christian mythmakers (a child-killer, a poisoner of wells and, consequently, responsible for the Black Death).[1]

Awards and appraisals[edit]

Langmuir's research received critical praise from many scholars:

  • The New York Times Book Review noted, "The learning, passion and unflinching integrity Mr. Langmuir has devoted to unraveling the history of anti-Semitism show why he is a teacher of legendary reputation, as well as a scholar of high distinction."


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