Jews In Great Britain

The re-emergence of the Jewish community in England under Oliver Cromwell in 1656 may be seen as a landmark in the development of multicultural Britain. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William the Conqueror encouraged the Jewish population of Normandy to come to England. Relations were initially peaceful, but in the 12th and 13th centuries Jews suffered increasing persecution, culminating in their expulsion in 1290. Clustering first in London, Jewish settlers soon spread to other towns across England and Wales. They were granted freedom of movement, but the king had the right to tax them as part of his personal income whenever he wished. The early years of settlement were fairly peaceful. Jews and Christians lived side-by-side and developed business and social contacts. Jewish people worked as traders, moneylenders, scribes, clerks and doctors. Religious life thrived, and learned rabbis contributed to Jewish scholarship. However, relations between the Jewish and Christian communities gradually worsened. In the 12th century the preaching of the Crusades against the ‘Infidel’ led to attacks on Jews in most Western countries. In 1189, King Richard I refused to receive Jewish delegates at his Coronation. This sign of hostility led to brutal attacks on Jewish quarters in London and other cities. Amongst the worst of these was the siege of Clifford’s Tower in York in 1190, where Jews committed mass suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the mob. During the 13th century, Christian guilds gained control over trades and crafts. Jews were increasingly forced into money lending, which the Church banned Christians from undertaking. After the Lateran Council of 1215, English Jews were forced to wear a white cloth badge called a ‘tabula’, shaped like the 10 commandments. A series of expulsions from different towns followed in 1233, and Jews were attacked even in places where relations had once been friendly. Persecution increased under Edward I. He arrested and…

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