History of the Jews in England (1066–1200)


History of the Jews in England (1066–1200)

Early history

There is no evidence of Jews residing in England before the Norman Conquest. The few references in the Anglo-Saxon Church laws either relate to Jewish practices about Easter or apply to passing visitors, Gallo-Jewish slave-traders, who imported English slaves to the Roman market and thus brought about the Christianizing of England.Fact|date=April 2007 William of Malmesbury states that William the Conqueror brought Jews from Rouen to England. William the Conqueror's object may be inferred: his policy was to get feudal dues paid to the royal treasury in coin rather than in kind, and for this purpose it was necessary to have a body of men scattered through the country that would supply quantities of coin.

tatus of Jews

At first the status of Jews was not strictly determined. An attempt was made to introduce the continental principle that Jews and all their possessions were the king's property, and a clause to that effect was inserted under Henry I in some manuscripts of the so-called "Laws of Edward the Confessor". Henry granted a charter to Rabbi Joseph, the chief Rabbi of London, and his followers. Under this charter, Jews were permitted to move about the country without paying tolls, to buy and sell, to sell their pledges after holding them a year and a day, to be tried by their peers, and to be sworn on the Torah rather than on a Christian Bible. Special weight was attributed to a Jew's oath, which was valid against that of twelve Christians. The sixth clause of the charter was specially important: it granted to Jews the right to move wherever they wanted, as if these were the king's own property ("sicut res propriæ nostræ").

Attitudes of the kings

Gentile-Jewish relations in England were disturbed under King Stephen, who burned down the house of a Jew in Oxford (some accounts say with a Jew in it) because he refused to pay a contribution to the king's expenses. It was during this time that the first recorded blood libel against Jews was brought in the case of William of Norwich (1144).

While the crusaders were killing Jews in Germany, outbursts against Jews in England were, according to Jewish chroniclers, prevented by King Stephen ["Hebräische Berichte," p. 64] .

With the restoration of order under Henry II, Jews renewed their activity. Within five years of his accession Jews are found at London, Oxford, Cambridge, Norwich, Thetford, Bungay, Canterbury, Winchester, Newport, Stafford, Windsor, and Reading. Yet they were not permitted to bury their dead elsewhere than in London, a restriction which was not removed till 1177. Their spread throughout the country enabled the king to draw upon them as occasion demanded. He repaid them by demand notes on the sheriffs of the counties, who accounted for payments thus made in the half-yearly accounts on the pipe rolls (see Aaron of Lincoln).

Strongbow's conquest of Ireland (1170) was financed by Josce, a Jew of Gloucester; and the king accordingly fined Josce for having lent money to those under his displeasure. As a rule, however, Henry II does not appear to have limited in any way the financial activity of Jews. The favorable position of English Jews was shown, among other things, by the visit of Abraham ibn Ezra in 1158, by that of Isaac of Chernigov in 1181, and by the resort to England of Jews who were exiled from France by Philip Augustus in 1182, among them probably being Judah Sir Leon of Paris.

In 1168, when concluding an alliance with Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II seized the chief representatives of Jews and sent them over into Normandy, while tallaging the rest 5,000. marks [Gervase of Canterbury, ed. Stubbs, i. 205] When, however, he asked the rest of the country to pay a tithe for the crusade against Saladin in 1188, he demanded a quarter of Jewish chattels. The so-called "Saladin tithe" was reckoned at £70,000, the quarter at £60,000. In other words, the value of the personal property of Jews was regarded as one-fourth that of the whole country. It is improbable, however, that the whole amount was paid at once, as for many years after the imposition of the tallage arrears were demanded from the recalcitrant Jews.

The king had probably been led to make this large demand on English Jewry by the surprising windfall which came to his treasury at the death of Aaron of Lincoln. All property obtained by usury, whether by Jew or by Christian, fell into the king's hands on the death of the usurer; Aaron of Lincoln's estate included £15,000 of debts owed to him. Besides this, a large treasure came into the king's hands, which, however, was lost on being sent over to Normandy. A special branch of the treasury, constituted in order to deal with this large account, was known as "Aaron's Exchequer".

In this era, Jews lived on good terms with their non-Jewish neighbors, including the clergy. They entered churches freely, and took refuge in the abbeys in times of commotion. Some Jews lived in opulent houses, and helped to build a large number of the abbeys and monasteries of the country. However, by the end of Henry's reign they had incurred the ill will of the upper classes. Anti-Jewish sentiment, fostered by the crusades, during the latter part of the reign of Henry, spread throughout the nation.

References

ee also

*History of the Jews in England
*Edict of Expulsion
*History of the Marranos in England
*Resettlement of the Jews in England
**Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-1657)
*Jewish Naturalization Act 1753
*Influences on the standing of the Jews in England
*Emancipation of the Jews in England
*Early English Jewish literature
*History of the Jews in Scotland

External links

* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/search_results.jsp?searchType=1&pageNum=1&search=england&searchOpt=0 England related articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia]


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