Jews in England 1066

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 3, Key stage 4

Time period: Medieval 974-1485

Curriculum topics: Diverse histories, Medieval Life

Suggested inquiry questions: What do these documents reveal about where Jewish communities settled in England? How and why did the English Crown support the settlement of Jews in England? What do these documents suggest about how Christian communities responded to the settlement of Jewish individuals in England?

Potential activities: Complete source activities and with reflection on the account of the attack on the Jews at York in c. 1190, students write a letter to the king that shows their concern for the wellbeing of Jewish communities in England. Why do violent attacks go against the Charter of Liberties? What needs to change to allow a harmonious interfaith kingdom to thrive?

Why did Jews settle in England after 1066?

The Norman Conquest prompted the arrival of Jews to England for the first time. William I needed to borrow large sums of money to consolidate his position as the King of England and he turned to Jewish merchants from Rouen, Normandy to provide him with this much-needed income. Lending money with interest or ‘usury’ was forbidden to Christians and considered a sin. As a result, the English king paved the way for Jewish individuals to migrate and settle across the Channel. Jews and Christians now lived alongside each other in settlements across the country.

This lesson explores the origins of England’s medieval interfaith community. Through examining several royal documents, you will consider when and why Jewish families settled in England, their relationship with the English crown and local Christian populations, and how moments of tension and persecution—such as the Clifford’s Tower Massacre, c. 1190—have come to define a period of Christian-Jewish relations that was, in reality, more complex.

Understanding why Jewish individuals settled in England during the eleventh century is important for unravelling the relationships within a growing interfaith community.

Use this lesson to question the role and intentions of the Christian king and to reflect upon the opportunities and challenges of Christian-Jewish relations from c. 1066-1216.


Tasks

Source 1

These are extracts from a royal charter issued by King John on 10th April 1201 that outline how Jews should be treated during his reign as king. Read through the translation and consider the following questions:

  1. What two areas does the charter concern? Why might the charter address Jews in both these places?
  2. Is King John the first English king to grant these freedoms to Jewish communities?
  3. Why might the king want to ‘guard’ and ‘protect’ Jews?
  4. Why do you think the king needed to restore these rules in his kingdom?
  5. Why might the king only want Jewish individuals to be seen in his own law courts?
  6. Is there evidence in the charter that suggests King John respected the religious practices of Jews? Explain your answer.

Source 2

These are extracts from the Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King Henry II, 1158-1159.

England’s Jewish community first settled in London, England’s main financial centre. However, by the end of King Stephen’s reign in c. 1154, Jewish communities were appearing in other locations such as Norwich and Cambridge.  The amounts contributed by each Jewish community to the tax (donum) levied in c. 1159 shows the location of these settlements. The Pipe rolls provide information about where Jews lived and the contributions they made to the tax.

Read Source 2 and complete the table:

  • Can you work out using the Latin transcript which entry on the Pipe roll matches with the location of the Jewish communities below?
  • Using the key to help, how much tax did each community below pay?
LOCATION Entry (A-G)? Contribution to the tax?
London and Middlesex
Norwich
Northamptonshire
Worcestershire
Gloucestershire
Oxfordshire
Lincolnshire
  • What might the amount of tax suggest about the size and importance of each community?
  • Why do you believe Jewish individuals left London to establish these satellite communities?
  • From these sources (and the charter above), how do you think English kings felt about Jews settling in England?
  • Do you think the wider Christian population would have felt the same? Explain your answer.

Sources 3-5

By the end of the twelfth century, it was clear that Christians in England did not always ‘guard’ and ‘protect’ Jewish individuals as the Charter of Liberties outlined. Growing tensions surrounding ‘blood libel’ accusations and the start of the Third Crusade soon opened Jewish communities to persecution and violence from their Christian neighbours. However, it was not only the wider population that came to harm Jews; the king himself also participated in the escalating exploitation and England’s Jewish community, Jews were forced to pay large sums of money as tallages (taxes) to the crown. Read the background information on the tallage of 1210 (if you have not already), then examine sources 3-5.

  1. Read King John’s letters (Sources 3 & 4) sent to the constable of Bristol on 26 July
  2. What are the king’s orders in Source 3?
  3. What does the king suggest about how Isaac should be treated? Does this surprise you? Explain your answer.
  4. What does Source 4 say should happen to any Jewish individual who has not paid their tallage?
  5. Read the extract from Rodger of Wendover below.

Wendover described the consequences of one Jewish man who failed to pay his tallage on time. Although some medieval chroniclers (writers) are known to have exaggerated to make their stories more exciting, do you believe that Jews were treated fairly by the king in the early 1200s?

Use Sources 3, 4 and 5 to help explain your answer.

“The King, therefore, ordered his torturers to pull out one of his molar teeth each day until he should have paid the sum of 10,000 marks. For seven days, a tooth was extracted with almost intolerable suffering…” [Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum, ed. Coxe, iii, 231]


Background

After their invitation from William the Conqueror to settle in England, the Jewish community quickly became an essential part of the English economy: Jews were permitted to loan money at interest, something Christians were forbidden from doing. Initially settling in London, the twelfth century saw Jews move into other important centres such as Norwich and Lincoln. Many of England’s Jews were skilled individuals—who worked as doctors, goldsmiths and poets—but lending money was their primary source of income.

In return for their protection from English kings, England’s Jewish community had to recognise and respect the king as the person in charge of their non-religious affairs and contribute to royal revenue through their moneylending endeavours. This relationship can be traced in its earliest form in documents such as the Leges Edwardi Confessoris—the Laws of Edward Confessor—and the later Charter of Liberties issued under King Richard I and King John. Here it is outlined that Jews may live ‘freely and honourably’ in England and enjoy the same ‘liberties and customs’ as their predecessors for as long as they served the king in charge. This meant that Jewish people had a special relationship with English law. By the end of the twelfth century, they were even primarily administered by their own special court: The Exchequer of the Jews.

The special, protected status of Jewish people was not readily accepted by the Christian population in England. Resentment soon intensified alongside growing anti-Jewish feeling across Europe. This was partly fuelled by something called the ‘blood libel’: false allegations that Jews abducted and murdered Christian children for magical rituals. Such cases led to a shift from a tolerance of Jews in England to increasing hostility.

The Crusades, which began in 1096, were another source of escalating anti-Jewish feeling. Christians trying to reclaim the Holy Land increasingly saw Jews as ‘Christ-killers’ and saw it as God’s mission to fight the so-called enemy at home. This crusading zeal caused many Englishmen to believe that they could legitimately use violence against Jews in God’s name. This famously led to an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in 1189 at the same time as King Richard I’s coronation and the start of the Third Crusade. Mob violence led to attacks on the Jewish community in London, across East Anglia and Lincolnshire, and the attack on the Jewish community in York in March 1190. Following these attacks, King Richard I introduced a new system where records of Jewish loans had to be kept safely in an archae (chest) in each Jewish settlement (to prevent the records being destroyed as they were at York). Three keys were made for each chest; one for the Jewish clerks, one for the Christian clerks and one for the scribes. This meant that the chest could only be opened, and business transacted, when both Christians and Jews were present.

During the reign of King John (1199-1216), England’s Jewish community were forced to pay large sums of money as taxes (tallages). Famously in 1210, it was recorded that King John summoned the leaders of England’s Jewish community to Bristol where he imprisoned and tortured them, claiming that they had illegally concealed their assets (what they owned) earlier in 1207. Soon thereafter, all the Jews of England were seized and imprisoned, and their bonds (records of loans) confiscated.  To free their bonds and themselves from prison, the Jewish community was forced to promise the king 66,000 marks (£1,000,000 in modern money). If they did not pay, Jewish individuals would face continued imprisonment, torture, or expulsion. Roger of Wendover, a chronicler (writer) at the time, described the consequences of one Jewish man who failed to pay on time:

“The King, therefore, ordered his torturers to pull out one of his molar teeth each day until he should have paid the sum of 10,000 marks. For seven days, a tooth was extracted with almost intolerable suffering…” [Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum, ed. Coxe, iii, 231]

Although the Jews had a so-called special relationship with the king, this did not mean they were safe from royal persecution.


Teachers' notes

This is the first lesson of three on England’s medieval Jewish communities c. 1066-1290. It offers an initial path for teachers to integrate a deeper awareness of medieval religions, tolerance and diversity, and religious persecution into the classroom. Recommended reading is included with accessible sources to aid schools, and equip students, with the skills and awareness to challenge misconceptions, tackle adversity and recognise their responsibility as global citizens in the modern world.

Learning objective: To understand the origins of England’s medieval Jewish community.

Differentiated learning outcomes:

  • (All) Pupils will be able to identify why and where Jews settled in Medieval England
  • (Most) Pupils will be able to explain why moneylending was a point of tension between Christians and Jews
  • (Some) Pupils will be able to evaluate how far the King offered the Jews royal protection in return for personal gain.

This lesson opens the door to the sensitive topic of Christian-Jewish relations in medieval England. In doing so, it aims to educate students on the persecution faced by Jewish communities as well as exposing students to the vast array of medieval sources that showcase the turbulent relationship between two faiths.

The lesson is focused around three tasks that in turn provide context to the arrival of Jews in England, their settlement and contribution to royal taxation, and their vulnerability to religious persecution and exploitation. These tasks are focused on the governmental documents that survive in The National Archives, namely the Charter rolls, Pipe rolls and Patent rolls. The notes below discuss the nature of this material and offer advice on how to aid pupil discussion in each case.

Charter rolls:

Charter rolls present enrolments of royal charters, which were used by the Crown to grant benefits; such as liberties, privileges, immunities, and exemptions, as well as grants of land. The enrolments are usually one of two things; either of the original granting charter, or of confirmation charters of previous grants. The main difference between charters and letters patent is that charters were always created in the presence of witnesses to ensure the charter’s validity. The most famous charter issued in relation to England’s Jewish community was the Charter of Liberties (Source 1) that offered Jews protection in return for their continued services to the crown. Here King John’s charter is a confirmation of the privileges granted to Jews by his royal predecessors.

Pipe rolls:

Pipe rolls present the annual financial records of the Crown. They record the audit process of the monarchy’s accounts for each financial year. Payments made to the Crown recorded in the Pipe rolls include debts owed, offerings for the king’s favour, tax payments, and financial penalties imposed in the king’s courts (to name but a few examples). The Pipe roll entries selected for this lesson present the tax payments made by Jewish communities to the crown in 1159. The format of the accounts is highly formulaic and you may wish to help the students consider the Latin record to try and detect key vocabulary/numbers.

Patent rolls:

Letters patent were letters issued open, or ‘patent’, expressing the king’s will on a variety of matters of public interest. Entries on the rolls are very diverse. They concern treaties, truces, correspondence and negotiations with foreign princes and states, letters of protection and of safe-conduct (to name but a few). England’s Jewish community are regularly mentioned or referred to in the Patent rolls for a variety of reasons. There are records of grants, confirmations of liberties, offices and privileges to private individuals in addition to records, such as in this lesson that outline orders affecting Jews or Jewish communities.

The documents offer a great way to introduce your students to the nature of original medieval sources and what they actually look like. They will help them to develop their powers of evaluation and analysis. Encourage the class to look at the originals, if possible, although some are more difficult than others, in an attempt to understand the nature of the material and to see if they can pick out any key Latin vocabulary.

Nevertheless, all documents have Latin transcripts and simplified translations to allow pupils to delve into the subject matter. For teachers alone, however there is a translation for Source 2 in these notes.

Ensure too that students are familiar with terms like ‘interfaith’, ‘persecution’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘moneylending’, before they start. They can study the document extracts and questions in pairs and report back to the whole class. Alternatively, they can work through the tasks independently. Care should be taken, however, when discussing ‘blood libel’ allegations to ensure it is some sensitively in the classroom.

Source 2: Translation – Teacher use only

Extracts from the Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King Henry Second, A.D 1158-1159, Catalogue Ref: E 372/5.

Entry A: Northamptonshire

And the same sheriff renders an account of 15 pounds of the Jews of Northamptonshire.

Entry B: London and Middlesex

And the same sheriff renders an account of 200 marks by the Jews.

Entry C: Worcestershire

And the same sheriff renders an account of 2 marks by the Jew.

Entry D: Oxfordshire

And the same sheriff renders an account of 20 marks by the Jews.

Entry E: Gloucestershire

And the same sheriff renders an account of 5 marks of the Jews.

Entry F: Lincolnshire

And the same sheriff renders an account of 60 marks by the Jews.

Entry G: Norwich

And the same sheriff renders an account of 44 pounds and 6 shillings and 8 pence by the Jews of Norwich.

Sources

Source 1: Extract from the Charter of Liberties – King John confirms King Henry I’s liberties to the Jews, c. 1201, Catalogue Ref: C 53/4, m. 4

Source 2: Extracts from the Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King Henry Second, A.D 1158-1159, Catalogue Ref: E 372/5

Entry A – Extract presenting the contribution from the Northamptonshire Jewry Catalogue Ref: E 372/5, rot. 3, m. 1

Entry B – Extract presenting the contribution from the London and Middlesex Jewry, Catalogue Ref: E 372/5, rot .1, m. 1

Entry C – Extract presenting the contribution from the Worcestershire Jewry E Catalogue Ref:  372/5, rot. 4, m. 1

Entry D – Extract presenting the contribution from the Oxfordshire Jewry E Catalogue Ref:  372/5, rot. 5, m. 1d

Entry E – Extract presenting the contribution from the Gloucestershire Jewry Catalogue Ref: E 372/5, rot. 4, m. 1d

Entry F – Extract presenting the contribution from the Lincolnshire Jewry Catalogue Ref: E 372/5, rot. 9, m. 2

Entry G – Extract presenting the contribution from the Norwich Jewry, Catalogue Ref: E 372/5, rot. 2, m. 2

Source 3: Letter to the Constable of Bristol ordering that Isaac son of Jurnet is delivered to the Tower of London, Catalogue Ref: C66/10, m. 10.

Source 4: Letter to the Constable of Bristol ordering the imprisonment of Jews Catalogue Ref: C66/10, m. 10.

Source 5: Extract from the Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirteenth year of the reign of King John, A.D 1210-1211, Catalogue Ref: E 372/57, m. 22.

Select bibliography

Abulafia, A. Sapir. Christian-Jewish Relations 1000–1300: Jews in the Service of Christendom (Harlow, 2011).

Bale, A.P. Feeling Persecuted: Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages (London, 2010).

Brand, P. ‘The Jews and the Law in England, 1275-90’, Economic History Review 115 (2000): 1138–1158.

Carpenter, D.A. ‘Crucifixion and Conversion: King Henry III and the Jews in 1255’, in Law, Lawyers and Texts: Studies in Medieval Legal History in Honour of Paul Brand, ed. S. Jenks, J. Rose and C. Whittick (Leiden, 2012): 129–148.

Dobson, R.B.  ‘The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March 1190’, in The Jewish Communities of Medieval England: the collected essays of R.B. Dobson, ed. H. Birkett (York, 2010): 1–52.

Hyams, P. ‘The Jews in Medieval England, 1066–1290’, in England and Germany in the High Middle Ages, ed. A. Haverkamp and H. Vollrath (Oxford, 1996): 173–192.

Moore, R.I. Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250 (Oxford, 2007).

Mundill, R.R. The King’s Jews: Money, Massacre and Exodus in Medieval England (London, 2010).

Richardson, H.G. The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (London, 1960).

Roth, C. A History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 3rd ed., 1964).

Rubin, M. Gentile Tales: the Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New Haven, 1999).

Stacey, R.C. ‘‘Adam of Bristol’ and the Tales of Ritual Crucifixion in Medieval England’, in Thirteenth Century England XI: Proceedings of the Gregynog Conference, 2005, ed. J. Burton, B. Weiler, P. Schofield and K. Stöber (Woodbridge, 2012): 1–15.

Stacey, R.C. ‘The English Jews under Henry III’, in Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. P. Skinner (Woodbridge, 2003): 41–54.

Stacey, R.C. ‘The Massacres of 1189-90 and the Origins of the Jewish Exchequer, 1186–1226’, in Christians and Jews in Angevin England: The York Massacre of 1190, Narratives and Contexts, ed. S. Rees Jones and S. Watson (York, 2013): 106–24.

Tartakoff, P. ‘From Conversion to Ritual Murder: Re-Contextualizing the Circumcision Charge’, Medieval Encounters 24 (2018): 361–362.

Vincent, N.C. ‘Jews, Poitevins, and the Bishop of Winchester, 1231–1234’, Christianity and Judaism, Studies in Church History 29, ed. D. Wood (Oxford, 1992): 119–132;


External links

This extract presents an example of ‘blood libel’, from Thomas of Monmouth’s Life of William of Norwich, 1173. Thomas of Monmouth, a Benedictine monk, accused the Jews of Norwich of the graphic murder of a young Christian boy, William. It reveals how anti-Jewish lies and rumours were spread and supported by members of the Church.

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1173williamnorwich.asp

Roger of Hoveden, The Persecution of Jews, 1189. From the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, a brief translated account from a medieval chronicle, describing the attacks on Jews at King Richard I’s coronation.

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/hoveden1189b.asp

William of Newburgh, A History of English Affairs, 1190. This article offers historical context to the attack on the Jewish community in York in March 1190. Professor Anna Sapir Abulafia offers a discussion of one of the main chronicler’s accounts, a Latin transcription, and an English translation

https://jnjr.div.ed.ac.uk/primary-sources/medieval/william-of-newburgh-on-the-attack-on-the-jews-of-york-in-1190/

Connections to Curriculum

This lesson fits within the KS3 curriculum for the thematic strand ‘The development of Church, State and Society’. In particular, ‘Christendom, the importance of religion and the Crusades’ and ‘Society, economy and culture: religion in daily life’.

Key stage 4

GCSE Edexcel Migrants in Britain, c800–present

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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 3, Key stage 4

Time period: Medieval 974-1485

Curriculum topics: Diverse histories, Medieval Life

Suggested inquiry questions: What do these documents reveal about where Jewish communities settled in England? How and why did the English Crown support the settlement of Jews in England? What do these documents suggest about how Christian communities responded to the settlement of Jewish individuals in England?

Potential activities: Complete source activities and with reflection on the account of the attack on the Jews at York in c. 1190, students write a letter to the king that shows their concern for the wellbeing of Jewish communities in England. Why do violent attacks go against the Charter of Liberties? What needs to change to allow a harmonious interfaith kingdom to thrive?

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