The Jews in England, 1272-1290

The Jews in England, 1272-1290

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The Jews in England, 1272-1290

By Robin R. Mundill

PhD Dissertation, University of St Andrews, 1988

Abstract: Edward I’s Jewish policy attempted to curb usury and transform the lives and financial practices of the Jews. Historians have claimed that the policy, which is embodied in the Statutum de Judeismo of 1275, was a failure and resulted in the Expulsion of 1290.

Although the Expulsion has received some attention from historians, very little work has been done on Edwardian Jewry as a whole and therefore it has not been possible to discern the exact effect of the Statutum within a general context. The best account and examination of the source material for the Expulsion still remains that of B.L.Abrahams. In the light of his work, the majority of historians have seen the Statute as an end to Jewish moneylending, a curtailing of Jewish livelihoods and an anti-semitic prelude to the Expulsion. It has not, however, always been clear how such historians have reached such conclusions.

This thesis re-examines the Statutum de Judeismo and analyses, from the records of over 2000 bonds, the shift in Jewish financial interests that it brought about. In doing so, it highlights the way in which, in Edward’s reign, certain Jews tempered their moneylending activities with commercial concerns. The method used to illustrate this change is tripartite. Firstly, Anglo-Jewish society and its relationship with the host community in the late thirteenth century is examined. Secondly, the specific histories of the three Jewish communities of Canterbury, Hereford and Lincoln are scrutinised. Finally, a discussion of Jewish financial practices after 1275 attempts to identify the changes brought about by the Edwardian Experiment.

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