Email Email   


Island Kingdom off the northwestern coast of Europe. In 2006, it was the home of 297,000 Jews, less than one percent of the total population of more than 60 million. The first Jews in England were financiers who followed William the Conqueror from France at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. By the middle of the following century, their number had grown to 5,000, with thriving communities in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Norwich, Winchester, Lincoln, and other towns. Within another century, there were 70 “Jew Streets” in England. With the expulsion from England in 1290, 16,000 Jews had to seek homes elsewhere.

During this period, England lived under the feudal system. As in all feudal societies, Jews had no official rights. Officially, they were the property, or “chattel,” of the king. Because they paid heavy taxes to his treasury, it was in his interest to protect them. But the king was not a kind protector. When he needed money, he had no scruples about confiscating the property of “his Jews,” or taxing them to the point of bankruptcy. Despite these handicaps, English Jewry prospered for about 80 years after the conquest and suffered no serious persecution. The majority were not rich, but some of them were great bankers and merchants who founded Talmudic academies and wielded much influence with the king. Before 100 years had passed, however, anti-Jewish feeling began to emerge. In 1144, a charge of ritual murder

Print Friendly, PDF & Email