Source 4

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

Latin transcript

Rex constab[ularius] Bristol’ etc. P[re]cipim[us] ti[bi] q[ua]tinus om[ne]s Judeos q[ui] no[n] acq[ui]etav[er]int se de tallag[ium] suo de Bristol’ q[u]os vic[ecomitis] et constab[ularius] n[ost]ri p[er] litt[er]as suas ti[bi] s[i]t missuri, recipias et eos i castro n[ost]ro ibid[em] custodiri facias prisona sic[ut] ante fecisti don[e]c aliud in[de] de illis ti[bi] sig[ni]ficav[er]im[us] […] Teste me ip[s]o ap[u]d Dorc’ ut p[ro]x[im]o s[upr]a.

Simplified translation

The king to the constable of Bristol etc. We order you that all Jews who have not acquitted themselves of (paid) their tallage in Bristol, whom our sheriff and constable will be sending to you by their letter, should receive and cause them to be kept in prison in our castle, as you did before, until we have given you additional information about them […] With myself as witness at Dorchester as above.


« Return to Jews in England 1066


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]