Reader in Post-Biblical Jewish Studies
In the University of Oxford
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS AMEN HOUSE, E.C. 4 London Edinburgh Glasgow New York Toronto Melbourne Capetown Bombay Calcutta Madras
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FIRST EDITION, 1941 REPRINTED, 1942
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Cecil Roth Centre
IT is curious that none of the great Jewish communities of the western world found an historian so early as the numerically unimportant nucleus in England. The first formal history of the Jews in this country was, in fact, published more than two centuries ago—the Anglia Judaica of Dr. D'Blossiers Tovey, like myself a member o rerton College, Oxford ('by me never to be mentioned without terms of Affection and Respect', if I may be permitted to repeat his words). This comprehensive work, which can still be consulted with profit, was itself based on the researches of the Exchequer historian Madox and the anti-Semitic pamphleteer Prynne, the latter having published his findings eighty years earlier as a contribution to the debate under the Commonwealth on the readmission of Jews to England. The results of this early interest in the subject have not been altogether good; for the general histories of Anglo-Jewry, produced in a more scientific age and with access to vast new stores of information, have tended to be based upon their remote forerunners with a fidelity which is often noteworthy and sometimes regrettable. This is the reason for the present attempt to furnish a completely new work on the subject, summing up the results of the voluminous and exceptionally important researches of the last half-century.
So far as the medieval period is concerned, down to the reign of John, one illustrious scholar, Joseph Jacobs, laid the foundations in his remarkable work, the Jews of Angevin England, a pioneering attempt of astonishing maturity. While some o his incidental hypotheses were at once disputed with considerable vigour, his general conclusions have been accepted by subsequent writers without examination. But there are some serious flaws in the work. Jacobs claimed to bring together every scrap of information that could be assembled on the life of AngloJewry until 1206. He included, indeed, a great deal of dubious material. But his omissions, though less patent, are perhaps more striking. Thus, in the first Pipe Roll of Henry I, which embodies the oldest official record of Jews in England, he omitted one entry out of six, confused another, and introduced mistakes into two more. For that of the first year of Richard I, he gives only ten entries of Jewish interest, out of a possible thirty-four in the printed text even then available; for the first year of John (for which he had recourse, with typical zeal, to the original manuscript) he gives only four entries out of a possible sixty-six. His translations too, whether from the Latin or the Hebrew, are extremely unreliable, and sometimes ludicrously misleading. 1
What has been said here is not intended to be in disparagement of Jacobs' remarkable work. But it is enough to indicate that he is not to be relied upon implicitly, and that at every turn it is necessary to have recourse to the original authorities, the published mass of which has moreover increased enormously since his day. From the beginning of the thirteenth century, where Jacobs left off, the Calendar of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, three volumes of which have now appeared, constitute an inexhaustible but hitherto imperfectly utilized source. There is, too, a very great amount of material, out of all proportion to the slight numerical importance of those involved, in the long series of Patent and Close Rolls and similar record-sources, which have been drawn upon only sporadically in the past. If those of my chapters which deal with this period may appear sometimes to be imperfectly digested, it is because the volume of new material has necessitated public deglutination.
For the 'Middle Period' of three and a half centuries after the Expulsion of 1290 (during which, contrary to the general belief, there were few interludes when no Jew was to be found in the country) the sources of our information are quite different. Use has not been made hitherto in any general work of the remarkable recent discoveries bearing upon this, which have revolutionized our knowledge of the Jews in Shakespeare's England in particular. Moreover, there is still much to be revealed in this field. The present volume contains, for example, the first account of an illustrious group of crypto-Jewish physicians under Henry VIII, whose distinction exceeded that of Roderigo Lopez a generation later. In dealing with the Resettlement, have drawn lavishly and at times verbally on my Life of Menasseh ben Israel, which, though based to a large extent on original sources, has remained unknown in this country owing to the fatal accident of Transatlantic publication. I have, however, been able to take advantage of later and riper investigations here as well, at some points with important results. Attention may be drawn to the completely new account of the premature attempt by Gentile enthusiasts to secure the recall of the Jews to England in 1648, and the drastic restatement of the part played by Cromwell in the negotiations of the following decade.
For the subsequent period, an attempt has been made to compress into a hundred and fifty pages the numerous monographs and articles published during the last forty years. But I have endeavoured to eschew the parochial and personal aspect which has hitherto monopolized attention and to write the history of the Jews in England rather than the memorabilia of the community of London, which have engaged the attention of previous writers. Here and there, moreover, I have been able to make use of unexplored manuscript material and ephemeral publications, which correct or supplement the accepted account. I have concluded my work with the Parliamentary Emancipation of the Jews in 1858/9, with which English, Jewry entered definitely into English life; but an Epilogue gives an outline of the most important subsequent developments. Throughout, I have tried to stress the social side and to describe, not only what happened to the Jews in England, but also what manner of men they were and what part they played in the life of the country. Perhaps as much as one-half of the data given in this volume have not appeared in any previous work devoted to the subject: but it is rather this approach which, I venture to believe, makes the story I have told virtually a new one.
It is a pleasant duty for me to acknowledge the great debt I owe to Mr. J. M. Rich, who generously placed at my disposal his abstracts of medieval English records relating to the Jews, prepared for a work of his own which I trust will see the light in the future. His liberality enables me to parade a maximum of erudition with a minimum of effort, and to him is due a great part of the credit for any special quality in my first chapters. I am deeply grateful, too, to the Rev. Michael Adler, formerly President of the Jewish Historical Society of England; to Mr. Christopher Cheney, Reader in Diplomatic in the University of Oxford; and to Mr. Max Beloff, Lecturer in Modern History in the University of Manchester, who between them read the typescript, gave me the benefit of their criticisms and suggestions, and saved me from many egregious displays of ignorance. Finally, I am happy to have this opportunity of expressing my thanks to Mr. Harry Sacher and the associated founders of the Readership in Post-Biblical Jewish Studies in the University of Oxford, which provided me with the opportunity of carrying into effect a project that had long remained in the limbo of unfulfilled hopes.
This Preface is dated on the six hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Banishment of the Jews from England in 1290.
C. R. – Oxford – 1st November 1940
A COMPLETE Bibliography of Anglo-Jewish history, containing upwards of 2,000 entries, has recently been published under the editorship of the present author (Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, London, 1937; to be referred to in the following pages as Bibl., with the section and number of the entry in question). It is therefore superfluous to give here any detailed bibliographical indications, which by comparison must be inadequate and incomplete. The list that follows contains only the titles of some subsequent works and those cited most frequently in the succeeding pages.
*These and the similar series, whether Calendared or otherwise, are referred to for the sake of convenience and clarity by year and page, not by volume.