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The following wiki extract demonstrates the possibility that the Muhammad's expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa and execution of Banu Qurayza to be a myth. Do authoritative Jewish historical records track or record this incident, if yes where it is recorded ?
In Muhammad and the Jews: A Re-examination, he questions the validity of the accepted accounts of Muhammad's expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa and execution of Banu Qurayza. The earliest surviving biography of Muhammad are recension of Ibn Ishaq's (d. 768) "Life of the Apostle of God". Ahmad argues that Muslim historians and Orientalists have failed to take into account that Ibn Ishaq's book, written some 120 to 130 years after Muhammad's death during the Abbasid Caliphate, was strongly influenced by the environment in which it was written. Ahmad accepts Ibn Ishaq as a sincere historian, but states that "a historian is very much part of his time. He cannot isolate himself from the climate of opinion in which he breathes" and argues that "Ibn Ishaq's view regarding Muhammad's relation with the Jews were strongly influenced by his own reaction to Jewish life under the Abbasids". Ahmad further argues that the account given by Ibn Ishaq cannot possibly be accurate, as, for example, states that the beheading and burial of 600-900 men would have been physically too colossal an undertaking for a small city like Medina,. He also writes that the corpses would have constituted an obvious menace to public health. To support his thesis, Ahmad also points to Jewish sources' silence about the alleged atrocity. Harold Kasimow, in a 1982 review for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion wrote: Dr. Ahmad has carefully considered all the early Islamic sources and the Jewish writings dealing with the period… Although I was not totally convinced by the evidence presented, there were moments during my reading when Dr. Ahmad did create doubt in my mind about the accuracy of the traditional history of the time. And that, after all, was his intent.
Also the story of Banu Quraiza in Ibn Ishaq on expulsion of Jews is conflicting with the following constition of Madina:
Article 20 Non-Muslim minorities (Jews) have the same right of life protection (like Muslims) A Jew, who obeys us( the state) shall enjoys the same right of life protection( as the believers do), so long as they (the believers) are not wronged by him. (the Jews), and he does not help (others) against them.
So does this account of expulsion and massacre of Jews bear any historical authenticity?
The events were written down by Ibn Ishaq, who unusually for historians of this time actually would write down who his sources were.
From New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina by W. N. Arafat, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, (1976), pp. 100-107:
Ibn Ishaq sets out his direct sources as he opens the relevant chapter on the siege of Medina. These were: a client of the family of al-Zubayr and others whom he "did not suspect". They told parts of the story on the authority of 'Abdullah b. Ka'b b. Malik, al Zuhri, 'Asim b. 'Umar b. Qatada, 'Abdullab b. Abi Bakr, Muhammad b. Ka'b of Qurayza, and "others among our men of learning", as he put it. Each of these contributed to the story, so that Ibn Ishaq's version is the sum total of the collective reports, pieced together. At a later stage Ibn Ishaq quotes another descendant of Qurayza, 'Attiyya by name, who had been spared, and, directly, a certain descendant of al-Zabir b. Bata, a prominent member of the tribe of Qurayza who figures in the narrative.
At least some of these people are Jewish as Malik ibn Anas, a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, calls him a liar exactly because of that reason. So Ibn Ishaq's story includes the Jewish side of the event, and hence is the Jewish record.
The revisionist argument are based on several arguments. One argument is that Malik ibn Anas calls Ibn Ishaq a liar because he also listened to the Jews accounts, another argument is that the authority Ibn Hajar denounces Ibn Ishaq's account as an "odd tale". Neither of those arguments hold up at all. That something written seems "odd" to somebody over a thousand years ago is not a reliable historical method.
Other arguments are that it would somehow be impossible to kill 400-900 people, which is a pretty absurd claim as mass killings of many more people than that has happened later in history.
Obviously we can never know for sure exactly what happened, as all we have are witness statements in various states of second hand transmission, but there seems to be very little reason to doubt that the massacre did happen.
Do authoritative Jewish historical records record the expulsion - History
4000 YEARS OF JEWISH HISTORY
STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Despite the substantial documentation assembled by Peters, demonstrating massive Arab immigration into Palestine, anti-Israel propagandists continue to deny it. Based on what we know today, and the simple truths of basic math, the issue has become clear and unambiguous. All historic records indicate that only insignificant number of long-term settled Muslims were present in Palestine before 1882, when the large Jewish immigration began. Muslim Arab numbers increased dramatically as Jewish settlements developed infrastructure and provided work opportunities to Arabs from the neighboring countries.
Also worth noting is that the “indigenous” 4.3% comprised many non-Arab nationalities. All of them were swamped by the Arab immigrants and within a few generations largely lost their identity.
Given the complete absence of any historical record to the contrary, we can authoritatively say that the “Palestinian people” never existed until they were invented in the 1960s as a tool for continuing the Arab war against Israel.
Where people come from, where they flee to – and why they keep moving.
New Internationalist gives a worldwide context for refugee flows with this
zoomable infograph from our Jan/Feb magazine ( 1 Jan 2016).
show slightly different figures.
But they all show the same collapse of Jewish populations
in Arab countries.
Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish emigrants, approximately 680,000 emigrated to Israel and 235,000 to France the remainder went to other countries in Europe as well as to the Americas..
About two thirds of the exodus was from the North Africa region, of which Morocco's Jews went mostly to Israel, Algeria's Jews went mostly to France, and Tunisia's Jews departed for both countries .
Where people come from, where they flee to – and why they keep moving.
New Internationalist gives a worldwide context for refugee flows with this
zoomable infograph from our Jan/Feb magazine ( 1 Jan 2016).
Diagnosing Benny Morris: the mind of a European settler
Israeli historian Benny Morris crossed a new line of shame when he put his academic credentials and respectability in the service of outlining the “moral” justification for a future genocide against Palestinians.
Benny Morris is the Israeli historian most responsible for the vindication of the Palestinian narrative of 1948. The lives of about 700,000 people were shattered as they were driven from their homes by the Jewish militia (and, later, the Israeli army) between December 1947 and early 1950. Morris went through Israeli archives and wrote the day by day account of this expulsion, documenting every “ethnically cleansed” village and every recorded act of violence, and placing each in the context of the military goals and perceptions of the cleansers.
Israel’s apologists tried in vain to attack Morris’ professional credibility. From the opposite direction, since he maintained that the expulsion was not “by design,” he was also accused of drawing excessively narrow conclusions from the documents and of being too naive a reader of dissimulating statements. Despite these limitations, Morris’ “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugees Problem, 1947-1949” is an authoritative record of the expulsion.
In anticipation of the publication of the revised edition, Morris was interviewed in Ha’aretz. The major new findings in the revised book, based on fresh documents, further darken the picture.
The new archival material, Morris reveals, records routine execution of civilians, twenty-four massacres, including one in Jaffa, and at least twelve cases of rape by military units, which Morris acknowledges are probably “the tip of the iceberg.” Morris also says he found documents confirming the broader conclusions favored by his critics: the expulsion was pre-meditated concrete expulsion orders were given in writing, some traceable directly to Ben Gurion.
Morris also found documentations for Arab High Command calls for evacuating women and children from certain villages, evidence he oddly claims strengthen the Zionist propaganda claim that Palestinians left because they were told to leave by the invading Arab states. Morris had already documented two dozen such cases in the first edition. It is hard to see how attempts by Arab commanders to protect civilians from anticipated rape and murder strengthen the Zionist fairy tale. But that failed attempt at evenhandedness is the least of Morris’ problems. As the interview progresses, it emerges with growing clarity that, while Morris the historian is a professional and cautious presenter of facts, Morris the intellectual is a very sick person.
His sickness is of the mental-political kind. He lives in a world populated not by fellow human beings, but by racist abstractions and stereotypes. There is an over-abundance of quasi-poetic images in the interview, as if the mind is haunted by the task of grasping what ails it: “The Palestinian citizens of Israel are a time bomb,” not fellow citizens. Islam is “a world in which human lives don’t have the same value as in the West.” Arabs are “barbarians” at the gate of the Roman Empire. Palestinian society is “a serial killer” that ought to be executed, and “a wild animal” that must be caged.
Morris’ disease was diagnosed over forty years ago, by Frantz Fanon. Based on his experience in subjugated Africa, Fanon observed that “the colonial world is a Manichean world. It is not enough for the settler to delimit physically, that is to say, with the help of the army and the police, the place of the native. As if to show the totalitarian character of colonial exploitation, the settler paints the native as a sort of quintessence of evil … The native is declared insensitive to ethics … the enemy of values. … He is a corrosive element, destroying all that comes near it … the unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind forces” (from “The Wretched of the Earth”). And further down, “the terms the settler uses when he mentions the native are zoological terms” (let’s not forget to place Morris’ metaphors in the context of so many other Israeli appellations for Palestinians: Begin’s “two-legged beasts”, Eitan’s “drugged cockroaches” and Barak’s ultra-delicate “salmon”). Morris is a case history in the psychopathology of colonialism.
Bad Genocide, Good Genocide
When the settler encounters natives who refuse to cast down their eyes, his disease advances to the next stage — murderous sociopathy.
Morris, who knows the exact scale of the terror unleashed against Palestinians in 1948, considers it justified. First he suggests that the terror was justified because the alternative would have been a genocide of Jews by Palestinians. Raising the idea of genocide in this context is pure, and cheap, hysteria. Indeed, Morris moves immediately to a more plausible explanation: the expulsion was a precondition for creating a Jewish state, i.e. the establishment of a specific political preference, not self-defense.
This political explanation, namely that the expulsion was necessary to create the demographic conditions, a large Jewish majority, favored by the Zionist leadership, is the consensus of historians. But as affirmative defense, it is unsatisfactory. So the idea that Jews were in danger of genocide is repeated later, in a more honest way, as merely another racist, baseless generalization: “if it can, [Islamic society] will commit genocide.”
But Morris sees no evil. Accusing Ben Gurion of failing to achieve an “Arabenrein Palestine,” he recommends further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens. Not now, but soon, “within five or ten years,” under “apocalyptic conditions” such as a regional war with unconventional weapons, a potentially nuclear war, which “is likely to happen within twenty years.” For Morris, and it is difficult to overstate his madness at this point, the likelihood of a nuclear war within the foreseeable future is not the sorry end of a road better not taken, but merely a milestone, whose aftermath is still imaginable, and imaginable within the banal continuity of Zionist centennial policies: he foresees the exchange of unconventional missiles between Israel and unidentified regional states as a legitimate excuse for “finishing the job” of 1948.
Morris speaks explicitly of another expulsion, but, in groping for a moral apology for the past and the future expulsion of Palestinians, he presents a more general argument, one that justifies not only expulsion but also genocide. That statement ought to be repeated, for here is a crossing of a terrible and shameful line.
Morris, a respectable, Jewish, Israeli academic, is out in print in the respectable daily, Ha’aretz, justifying genocide as a legitimate tool of statecraft. It should be shocking. Yet anybody who interacts with American and Israeli Zionists knows that Morris is merely saying for the record what many think and even say unofficially. Morris, like most of Israel, lives in a temporality apart, an intellectual Galapagos Islands, a political Jurassic Park, where bizarre cousins of ideas elsewhere shamed into extinction still roam the mindscape proudly.
Nor should one think the slippage between expulsion, “transfer,” and genocide without practical consequences. It is not difficult to imagine a planned expulsion turn into genocide under the stress of circumstances: The genocides of both European Jews and Armenians began as an expulsion. The expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was the product of decades of thinking and imagining “transfer.” We ought to pay attention: with Morris’s statement, Zionist thinking crossed another threshold what is now discussed has the potential to be actualized, if “apocalyptic conditions” materialize.
The march of civilization and the corpses of the uncivilized
It is instructive to look closer at the manner in which Morris uses racist thinking to justify genocide. Morris’ interview, precisely because of its shamelessness, is a particularly good introductory text to Zionist thought.
Morris’ racism isn’t limited to Arabs. Genocide, according to Morris, is justified as long as it is done for “the final good.” But what kind of good is worth the “forced extinction” of a whole people? Certainly, not the good of the latter. (Morris uses the word “Haqkhada” in the published Hebrew version of the interview, a word usually associated with the extinction of animal species. Someone ought to inform Morris about the fact that Native Americans aren’t extinct.)
According to Morris, the establishment of a more advanced society justifies genocide: “Yes, even the great American democracy couldn’t come to be without the forced extinction of Native Americans. There are times the overall, final good justifies terrible, cruel deeds.” Such hopeful comparisons between the future awaiting Palestinians and the fate of Native Americans are common to Israeli apologists. One delegation of American students was shocked and disgusted when it heard this analogy made by a spokesperson at the Israeli embassy in Washington.
Morris’s supremacist view of “Western Civilization,” that civilization values human life more than Islam, has its basis in the moral acceptance of genocide for the sake of “progress.” Morris establishes the superiority of the West on both the universal respect for human life and the readiness to exterminate inferior races. The illogicalness of the cohabitation of a right to commit genocide together with a higher level of respect for human lives escapes him, and baffles us, at least until we grasp that the full weight of the concept of “human” is restricted, in the classic manner of Eurocentric racism, to dwellers of civilized (i.e. Western) nations.
This is the same logic that allowed early Zionists to describe Palestine as an empty land, despite the presence of a million inhabitants. In the end, it comes down to this: killing Arabs — one dozen Arabs or one million Arabs, the difference is merely technical — is acceptable if it is necessary in order to defend the political preferences of Jews because Jews belong to the superior West and Arabs are inferior. We must be thankful to Professor Morris for clarifying the core logic of Zionism so well.
Morris assures us that his values are those of the civilized West, the values of universal morality, progress, etc. But then he also claims to hold the primacy of particular loyalties, a position for which he draws on Albert Camus. But to reconcile Morris’ double loyalty to both Western universalism and to Jewish particularism, one must forget that these two identities were not always on the best of terms.
How can one explain Morris’ knowledge that the ethnic Darwinism that was used to justify the murder of millions of non-whites, including Black African slaves, Native Americans, Arabs, and others, was also used to justify the attempt to exterminate Jews? How can Morris endorse the “civilizational” justification of genocide, which includes the genocide of Jews, even as he claims the holocaust as another justification for Zionism? Perhaps Morris’ disjointed mind doesn’t see the connection. Perhaps he thinks that there are “right” assertions of racist supremacy and “wrong” assertions of racist supremacy. Or perhaps Morris displays another facet of the psychopathologies of oppression, the victim’s identification with the oppressor.
Perhaps in Morris’ mind, one half tribalist and one half universalist, the Jews were murdered to make way for a superior, more purely Aryan, European civilization, and the Jews who are today serving in the Israeli army, both belong and do not belong to the same group. They belong when Morris invokes the totems of the tribe to justify loyalty. But when his attention turns to the universal principle of “superior civilization,” these Jews are effaced, like poor relations one is ashamed to be associated with, sent back to the limbo they share with the great non-white mass of the dehumanized. In contrast, the Jews of Israel, self-identified as European, have turned white, dry-cleaned and bleached by Zionism, and with their whiteness they claim the privilege that Whites always had, the privilege to massacre members of “less advanced” races.
It would be marvelous if Morris the historian could preserve his objective detachment while Morris the Zionist dances with the demons of Eurocentric racism. But the wall of professionalism — and it is a very thick and impressive wall in Morris’ case — cannot hold against the torrent of hate.
For example, Morris lies about his understanding of the 2000 Camp David summit. In Ha’aretz, Morris says that, “when the Palestinians rejected Barak’s proposal of July 2000 and Clinton’s proposal of December 2000, I understood that they were not ready to accept a two state solution. They wanted everything. Lydda, and Akka and Jaffa.”
But in his book “Righteous Victims,” Morris explains the failure of the negotiations thus: “the PLO leadership had gradually accepted, or seemed to…Israel…keeping 78 percent of historical Palestine. But the PLO wanted the remaining 22 percent. … At Camp David, Barak had endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state…[on only] 84-90 percent of that 22 percent. … Israel was also to control the territory between a greatly enlarged Jerusalem and Jericho, effectively cutting the core of the future Palestinian state into two…” Morris’ chapter of “Righteous Victims” that deals with the s leaves a lot to be desired, but it still strives for some detached analysis. In contrast, in Ha’aretz Morris offers baseless claims he knows to be false.
If Morris lies about recent history, and even grossly misrepresents the danger Jews faced in Palestine in 1948, a period he is an expert on, his treatment of more general historical matters is all but ridiculous, an astounding mix of insinuations and cliches. For example, Morris reminds us that “the Arab nation won a big chunk of the Earth, not because of its intrinsic virtues and skills, but by conquering and murdering and forcing the conquered to convert.” (What is Morris’ point? Is the cleansing of Palestine attributable to Jewish virtues and skills, rather than to conquering and murdering?)
This is racist slander, not history. As an example, take Spain, which was conquered in essentially one battle in 711 A.D. by a band of North African Berbers who had just converted to Islam. Spain was completely Islamized and Arabized within two centuries with very little religious coercion, and certainly no ethnic cleansing. But after the last Islamic rulers were kicked out of Spain by the Christian army of Ferdinand and Isabel in 1492, a large section of the very same Spanish population that willingly adopted Islam centuries earlier refused to accept Christianity despite a century of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition. 600,000 Spanish Muslims were eventually expelled in 1608.
Obviously, Islamic civilization had its share of war and violence. But, as the above example hints, compared to the West, compared to the religious killing frenzy of sixteenth century Europe, compared to the serial genocides in Africa and America, and finally to the flesh-churning wars of the twentieth century, Islamic civilization looks positively benign. So why all this hatred? Where is all this fire and brimstone Islamophobia coming from?
From Europe, of course, but with a twist. Europe has always looked upon the East with condescension. In periods of tension, that condescension would escalate to fear and hate. But it was also mixed and tempered with a large dose of fascination and curiosity. The settler, however, does not have the luxury to be curious. The settler leaves the metropolis hoping to overcome his own marginal, often oppressed, status in metropolitan society. He goes to the colony motivated by the desire to recreate the metropolis with himself at the top.
For the settler, going to the colony is not a rejection of the metropolis, but a way to claim his due as a member. Therefore, the settler is always trying to be more metropolitan than the metropolis. When the people of the metropolis baulk at the bloodbath the settler wants to usher in the name of their values, the settler accuses them of “growing soft,” and declares himself “the true metropolis.” That is also why there is one crime of which the settler can never forgive the land he colonized — its alien climate and geography, its recalcitrant otherness, the oddness of its inhabitants, in sum, the harsh truth of its being elsewhere. In the consciousness of the settler, condescension thus turns into loathing.
Israeli settler society, especially its European, Ashkenazi part, especially that Israel which calls itself “the peace camp,” “the Zionist Left,” etc., is predicated on the loathing of all things Eastern and Arab. (Now, of course, there is the religious, post-1967 settlers who relate to the Zionist Left the way the Zionist Left stands in relation to Europe, i.e. as settlers.) “Arab” is a term of abuse, one that can be applied to everything and everyone, including Jews. This loathing is a unifying theme. It connects Morris’ latest interview in Ha’aretz with Ben Gurion’s first impression of Jaffa in 1905 he found it filthy and depressing.
In another article, published in Tikkun Magazine, Morris blames the “ultra-nationalism, provincialism, fundamentalism and obscurantism” of Arab Jews in Israel for the sorry state of the country (although Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and most of Israel’s generals, leaders, and opinion makers of the last two decades are European Jews). For Morris, everything Eastern is corrupt and every corruption has an Eastern origin.
One shouldn’t, therefore, doubt Morris when he proclaims himself a traditional Left Zionist. Most of what he says hasn’t been said already by David Ben Gurion or Moshe Dayan. Loathing of the East and the decision to subdue it by unlimited force is the essence of Zionism.
Understanding the psycho-political sources of this loathing leads to some interesting observations about truisms that recur in Morris’ (and much of Israel’s) discourse. Morris blames Arafat for thinking that Israel is a “crusader state,” a foreign element that will eventually be sent back to its port of departure. This is a common refrain of Israeli propaganda. It is also probably true. But it isn’t Arafat’s fault that Morris is a foreigner in the Middle East. Why shouldn’t Arafat believe Israel is a crusader state when Morris himself says so? “We are the vulnerable extension of Europe in this place, exactly as the crusaders.”
It is Morris — like the greater part of Israel’s elite — who insists on being a foreigner, on loathing the Middle East and dreaming about mist-covered Europe, purified and deified by distance. If Israel is a crusader state, and therefore a state with shallow roots, likely to pack up and disappear, it is not the fault of those who make that observation. It is the fault of those Israelis, like Morris, who want to rule the Middle East from behind tall walls and barbed wire.
Morris is deeply pessimistic about Israel’s future this feeling is very attractive in Israel. The end of Israel is always felt to be one step away, hiding beneath every development, from the birthrate of Bedouins to the establishment of the International Court of Justice.
Naturally, every Palestinian demand is such a doomsday threat. This sense of existential precariousness can be traced back to 1948 it was encouraged by Israel’s successive governments because it justified the continuous violence of the state and the hegemony of the military complex. It may eventually become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
But this existential fear goes deeper. It is rooted in the repressed understanding (which Morris both articulates and tries to displace) of the inherent illegitimacy of the Israeli political system and identity. “Israel” is brute force. In Morris’ words: “The bottom line is that force is the only thing that will make them accept us.” But brute force is precarious. Time gnaws at it. Fatigue corrodes it. And the more it is used, the more it destroys the very acceptance and legitimacy it seeks.
For Israel, the fundamental question of the future is, therefore, whether Israelis can transcend colonialism. The prognosis is far from positive. In a related article in The Guardian, Morris explains that accepting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees would mean forcing Israeli Jews into exile. But why would Jews have to leave Israel if Israel becomes a bi-national, democratic state? One cannot understand this without attention to the colonial loathing of the Middle East which Morris so eloquently expresses.
But taking that into account, I’m afraid Morris is right. Many Israeli Jews, especially European Jews who tend to possess alternative passports, would rather emigrate than live on equal terms with Palestine’s natives in a bi-national state. It is to Frantz Fanon again that we turn for observing this first. “The settler, from the moment the colonial context disappears, has no longer an interest in remaining or in co-existing.”
P. A. Alsberg, R. Blumenthal, Ch. Fraenkel and J. Raba: "Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Europe Jewish Communities, in Palestine and in Israel", in: ARCHIVUM, Revue des Archives, vol. IX (1959), pp. 101-119.
This article describes the manner in which genealogical registration was carried out in Israel and various parts in Germany. It does not, however, list names of individuals.
Henryk Gmiterek, Materiały źrodłowe do dziejów Żydów w księgach grodzkich lubelskich z doby panowania Władysława IV i Jana Kazimierza Wazów 1633-1669, Part III. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem and the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University (UMC), Lublin 2006.
The book contains regesta (summaries) of documents relating to Jews, which were inscribed in the ksiegi grodzkie (court registers) of Lublin between 1633 and 1733. The documents record criminal and civil proceedings, as well as privileges (charters) issued to Jews, royal decrees, safe conduct passes, apportionments of taxes, agreements and contracts.
From Israel: contact us
From abroad: Ksiegarnia Uniwersytecka, 5 Palc M.C.-Sklodowskie, 20-231 Lublin
Henryk Gmiterek, Materiały źrodłowe do dziejów Żydów w księgach grodzkich lubelskich z doby panowania Michała Korybuta Wiśniowickiego i Jana III Sobbieskiego1669-1697, Part II. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem and the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University (UMC), Lublin 2003.
The book contains regesta (summaries) of documents relating to Jews, which were inscribed in the ksiegi grodzkie (court registers) of Lublin between 1633 and 1733. The documents record criminal and civil proceedings, as well as privileges (charters) issued to Jews, royal decrees, safe conduct passes, apportionments of taxes, agreements and contracts.
From Israel: contact us
From abroad: Ksiegarnia Uniwersytecka, 5 Palc M.C.-Sklodowskie, 20-231 Lublin
Henryk Gmiterek, Materiały źrodłowe do dziejów Żydów w księgach grodzkich lubelskich z doby panowania Augusta II SASA 1697-1733, Part I. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem and the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University (UMC), Lublin 2001.
The book contains regesta (summaries) of documents relating to Jews, which were inscribed in the ksiegi grodzkie (court registers) of Lublin between 1633 and 1733. The documents record criminal and civil proceedings, as well as privileges (charters) issued to Jews, royal decrees, safe conduct passes, apportionments of taxes, agreements and contracts.
From Israel: contact us
From abroad: Ksiegarnia Uniwersytecka, 5 Palc M.C.-Sklodowskie, 20-231 Lublin
Theodor Harburger, Die Inventarisation Jüdischer Kunst und Kulturdenkmäler in Bayern, 3 Bde., The Central Archives, Jerusalem and the Jewish Museum of Frankonia, Fürth, 1998.
Photographs taken before 1933 by Theodor Harburger, of synagogues and religious artifacts in Bavaria, Germany, together with a number of essays by Harburger and others on Bavarian Jewish ethnography.
From Israel: contact us
From abroad: The Jewish Museum of Franken, Königstraße 89, D-90762 Fürth
Volume 6: The Tortosa Disputation 1412 - 1416 Regesta of Documents from the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Fernando I, Jerusalem 1998.
The regesta of the sources from the registers of the Cancilleria Real of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, offer students and scholars the richest collection of sources on the Jews under Fernando I, whose reign coincided with one of the most tragic and turbulent periods in the history of the Iberian Jewry. The 791 sources included in this volume, covering a period of less than four years, from August 1412 to the end of March 1416, describe in detail the life of Jews and conversos in the realm of the Crown of Aragon during a period when anti-Jewish campaigns and feelings reached their peak.
Volume 5: The Jews in the Crown of Aragon, Part II: 1327 - 1492 Regesta of the Cartas Reales in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Jerusalem, 1995.
This volume contains the indices to volume 4 and 5, as well as close to 800 regesta from the Cartas Reales from 1327 up to and including the Expulsion.
Volume 4: The Jews in the Crown of Aragon, Part I: 1066 – 1327. Regesta of the Cartas Reales in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Jerusalem 1993.
This volume, the first of two parts, relates mostly to the reign of Jaime II. Its 565 regesta provide invaluable information on many aspects of Jewish life, such as the Jews' taxes and subsidies, royal privileges to individual Jews and communities, Jewish credit, Jews in the service of the count-king, Jewish autonomy and communal organization.
Volume 3: The Jews of Tortosa 1372 - 1492 Regesta of Documents from the Archivo Historico de Protocolos de Tarragona, Jerusalem 1991.
The 379 regesta of notarial records, published in this volume, all originate from the Protocolos of Tortosa, and are particularly valuable in describing economic activities of the Jews, such as financial transactions and moneylending. They also reveal hitherto unknown details on communal institutions and complement other information already at our disposal.
Volume 2: The Expulsion of the Jews from Calatayud 1492 – 1500. Documents and Regesta, Jerusalem 1990.
These sources from Aragonese archives, presented by Motis Dolader of the University of Saragossa, are an important contribution to scholarship, as they cover practically every aspect of the Expulsion which affected the fate of Jews and Conversos in the second largest Aragonese aljama.
Volume 1: The Jews in Barcelona 1213 – 1291. Regesta of documents from the Archivio Capitular, Barcelona, Jerusalem, 1998.
The 497 regesta, here published, shed new light on the history of the Jews in Barcelona during the period of territorial expansion, political consolidation, economic achievement and cultural progress of the Catalano-Aragonese realm.
Adam Kaźmirczyk, Materiały źrodłowe do dziejów Żydów w księgach grodzkich dawnego województwa Krakowskiego z lat 1674-1696 Part II, lata 1684-1696. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem and Center for Research on the History and Culture of Polish Jews, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ksiegarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2009.
The book contains regesta (summaries) of documents relating to Jews, which were inscribed in the ksiegi grodzkie (court registers) of Kraków between 1684 and 1696. The documents record criminal and civil proceedings, as well as privileges (charters) issued to Jews, royal decrees, safe conduct passes, apportionments of taxes, agreements and contracts.
Judah Leib Magnes Papers, 1890-1948. (Incl. archives of the New York 'Kehillah' 1908-1922), edited by Hadassah Assouline, The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem 1979.
Archivio Alfonso Pacifici (1899-1974). Inventario a cura di Renato Spiegel, The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem 2000.
Adam Penkalla, Akta dotyczace Zydow w radomskim Archiwum Panstwowym (1815-1950), The Central Archives, Jerusalem and the Jewish Historical Institute (ZIH), Warsaw 1998.
A guide to files and documents relating to Jews in the various record groups of the government archives at Radom, Poland.
From Israel: contact us
From abroad: The Jewish Historical Institute, 3/5 Tlomackie St., 00-090, Warszawa
Hanna Volovici, Witold Medykowski, Hadassah Assouline and Benyamin Lukin, Sources on Polish Jewry at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, USA 2004. (Guide includes material till 2000, for updates consult The Archives' catalogues)
From Israel and Europe: contact us
Else: Avotaynu Foundation, Inc., 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621
Publications about the CAHJP
Inka Arroyo Antezana, "Raison d´être der 'Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People' als virtuelles 'Staatsarchiv' der Diaspora", in: Bischoff, F./ Honigmann, P. (Hrsg.), Jüdisches Archivwesen, Marburg 2007, S. 75-96.
Daniel Cohen, "Sources for the History of the Jewish People in Archives in Europe and in Israel", in: Newsletter of the World Union of Jewish Studies, 17-18 (1981), p. 5-22.
Daniel Cohen, "Jewish Communal and Organizational Archives", in: International Journal of Archives, 2 (1980), p. 30-34.
Daniel Cohen, "Jewish Records from Germany in the Jewish Historical General Archives in Jerusalem”, LBYB 1 (1956), p. 331-341.
Judaísmo Latinoamericano. Guía de documentos de Comunidades e instituciones en el Archivo Central de la Historia del Pueblo Judío, Jerusalén / The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem. Equipo de Redacción Moshé Goler, Teodoro Bar Shalom, Haim Feinstein y Denise Rein. Jerusalén, Agosto 2012, 39 p.
3. Break down language barriers.
Jewish records can appear in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, German, Polish, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Hungarian, Romanian and more—whatever language was spoken wherever a Jewish community existed. Vital records kept by Jewish communities are likely to be in Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino as well as the secular language, which may have changed as borders changed. You’ll want to examine dual-language records carefully, because certain details might appear in only one language.
Sephardic records are especially challenging. Turkey is an excellent example of how convoluted the quest can be. Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities have existed side by side in what’s now Istanbul since the 1400s. Turkish was originally written with Arabic letters since 1928, it’s employed the Latin alphabet. Sephardic records were written in Turkish, Hebrew, Ladino and solitreo, an obsolete script, while Ashkenazi and civil records are found in Turkish, Hebrew, Yiddish and Eastern European languages. (The Ashkenazi community kept its communal records in the language it knew best.)
To learn more about Jewish languages worldwide, visit Jewish Language Research for maps, text, audio samples and additional links. As you trace your family into areas whose languages you don’t speak, FamilySearch’s Research Helps can give guidance for writing to foreign repositories.
You can also get translation help from Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman’s Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide (Avotaynu).
Key sources Edit
The writings of the 1st century Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus include references to Jesus and the origins of Christianity.   Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93–94 CE, includes two references to Jesus in Books 18 and 20.  
Of the two passages, the James passage in Book 20 is used by scholars to support the existence of Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum in Book 18 his crucifixion.  Josephus' James passage attests to the existence of Jesus as a historical person and that some of his contemporaries considered him the Messiah.   According to Bart Ehrman, Josephus' passage about Jesus was altered by a Christian scribe, including the reference to Jesus as the Messiah. 
A textual argument against the authenticity of the James passage is that the use of the term "Christos" there seems unusual for Josephus.  An argument based on the flow of the text in the document is that, given that the mention of Jesus appears in the Antiquities before that of the John the Baptist, a Christian interpolator may have inserted it to place Jesus in the text before John.  A further argument against the authenticity of the James passage is that it would have read well even without a reference to Jesus. 
The passage deals with the death of "James the brother of Jesus" in Jerusalem. Whereas the works of Josephus refer to at least twenty different people with the name Jesus, this passage specifies that this Jesus was the one "who was called Christ".   Louis Feldman states that this passage, above others, indicates that Josephus did say something about Jesus. 
Modern scholarship has almost universally acknowledged the authenticity of the reference in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1 of the Antiquities to "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James",  and considers it as having the highest level of authenticity among the references of Josephus to Christianity.      
The Testimonium Flavianum (meaning the testimony of Flavius [Josephus]) is the name given to the passage found in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3 of the Antiquities in which Josephus describes the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Roman authorities.   Scholars have differing opinions on the total or partial authenticity of the reference in the passage to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate.   The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to Christian interpolation.      Although the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear,  there is broad consensus as to what the original text of the Testimonium by Josephus would have looked like. 
The references found in Antiquities have no parallel texts in the other work by Josephus such as the Jewish War, written twenty years earlier, but some scholars have provided explanations for their absence, such as that the Antiquities covers a longer time period and that during the twenty-year gap between the writing of the Jewish Wars (c. 70 CE) and Antiquities (after 90 CE) Christians had become more important in Rome and were hence given attention in the Antiquities. 
A number of variations exist between the statements by Josephus regarding the deaths of James and the New Testament accounts.  Scholars generally view these variations as indications that the Josephus passages are not interpolations, because a Christian interpolator would more likely have made them correspond to the Christian traditions.   Robert Eisenman provides numerous early Christian sources that confirm the Josephus testament, that James was the brother of Jesus. 
The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (c. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44.    The relevant passage reads: "called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus."
Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source about early Christianity that is in unison with other historical records.      William L. Portier has stated that the consistency in the references by Tacitus, Josephus and the letters to Emperor Trajan by Pliny the Younger reaffirm the validity of all three accounts. 
Tacitus was a patriotic Roman senator and his writings show no sympathy towards Christians.     Andreas Köstenberger and separately Robert E. Van Voorst state that the tone of the passage towards Christians is far too negative to have been authored by a Christian scribe – a conclusion shared by John P. Meier    Robert E. Van Voorst states that "of all Roman writers, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ". 
John Dominic Crossan considers the passage important in establishing that Jesus existed and was crucified, and states: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus. agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."  Bart D. Ehrman states: "Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius's reign."  Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus. 
Although the majority of scholars consider it to be genuine, a few scholars question the authenticity of the passage given that Tacitus was born 25 years after Jesus' death. 
Some scholars have debated the historical value of the passage given that Tacitus does not reveal the source of his information.  Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz argue that Tacitus at times had drawn on earlier historical works now lost to us, and he may have used official sources from a Roman archive in this case however, if Tacitus had been copying from an official source, some scholars would expect him to have labeled Pilate correctly as a prefect rather than a procurator.  Theissen and Merz state that Tacitus gives us a description of widespread prejudices against Christianity and a few precise details about "Christus" and Christianity, the source of which remains unclear.  However, Paul R. Eddy has stated that given his position as a senator Tacitus was also likely to have had access to official Roman documents of the time and did not need other sources. 
Michael Martin notes that the authenticity of this passage of the Annals has also been disputed on the grounds that Tacitus would not have used the word “messiah” in an authentic Roman document. 
Weaver notes that Tacitus spoke of the persecution of Christians, but no other Christian author wrote of this persecution for a hundred years. 
Hotema notes that this passage was not quoted by any Church father up to the 15th century, although the passage would have been very useful to them in their work  and that the passage refers to the Christians in Rome being a multitude, while at that time the Christian congregation in Rome would actually have been very small. 
Richard Carrier has proposed the idea that the reference is a Christian interpolation, and that Tacitus intended to refer to "Chrestians" as a separate religious group unaffiliated with Christianity.   However, the majority view is that the terms are synonymous. 
Scholars have also debated the issue of hearsay in the reference by Tacitus. Charles Guignebert argued that "So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless".  R. T. France states that the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he had heard through Christians.  However, Paul R. Eddy has stated that as Rome's preeminent historian, Tacitus was generally known for checking his sources and was not in the habit of reporting gossip.  Tacitus was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a council of priests whose duty it was to supervise foreign religious cults in Rome, which as Van Voorst points out, makes it reasonable to suppose that he would have acquired knowledge of Christian origins through his work with that body. 
Mara bar Sarapion Edit
Mara (son of Sarapion) was a Stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria.   Sometime between 73 AD and the 3rd century, Mara wrote a letter to his son (also called Sarapion) which may contain an early non-Christian reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.   
The letter refers to the unjust treatment of "three wise men": the murder of Socrates, the burning of Pythagoras, and the execution of "the wise king" of the Jews.   The author explains that in all three cases the wrongdoing resulted in the future punishment of those responsible by God and that when the wise are oppressed, not only does their wisdom triumph in the end, but God punishes their oppressors. 
The letter includes no Christian themes and the author is presumed to be a pagan.   Some scholars see the reference to the execution of the "wise king" of the Jews as an early non-Christian reference to Jesus.    Criteria that support the non-Christian origin of the letter include the observation that "king of the Jews" was not a Christian title, and that the letter's premise that Jesus lives on through the wisdom of his teachings is in contrast to the Christian concept that Jesus continues to live through his resurrection.  
Scholars such as Robert Van Voorst see little doubt that the reference to the execution of the "king of the Jews" is about the death of Jesus.  Others such as Craig A. Evans see less value in the letter, given its uncertain date, and the possible ambiguity in the reference. 
The Roman historian Suetonius (c. 69 – after 122 CE) made references to early Christians and their leader in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars (written 121 CE).     The references appear in Claudius 25 and Nero 16 which describe the lives of Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero.  The Nero 16 passage refers to the abuses by Nero and mentions how he inflicted punishment on Christians – which is generally dated to around AD 64.  This passage shows the clear contempt of Suetonius for Christians - the same contempt expressed by Tacitus and Pliny the younger in their writings, but does not refer to Jesus himself. 
The earlier passage in Claudius may include a reference to Jesus, but is subject to debate among scholars.  In Claudius 25 Suetonius refers to the expulsion of Jews by Claudius and states: 
"Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
The reference in Claudius 25 involves the agitations in the Jewish community which led to the expulsion of some Jews from Rome by Claudius, and is likely the same event mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (18:2).  Most historians date this expulsion to around AD 49–50.   Suetonius refers to the leader of the Christians as Chrestus, a term also used by Tacitus, referred in Latin dictionaries as a (amongst other things) version of 'Christus'.  However, the wording used by Suetonius implies that Chrestus was alive at the time of the disturbance and was agitating the Jews in Rome.   This weakens the historical value of his reference as a whole, and there is no overall scholarly agreement about its value as a reference to Jesus.   However, the confusion of Suetonius also points to the lack of Christian interpolation, for a Christian scribe would not have confused the Jews with Christians.  
Most scholars assume that in the reference Jesus is meant and that the disturbances mentioned were due to the spread of Christianity in Rome.    However, scholars are divided on the value of the Suetonius' reference. Some scholars such as Craig A. Evans, John Meier and Craig S. Keener see it as a likely reference to Jesus.   Others such as Stephen Benko and H. Dixon Slingerland see it as having little or no historical value. 
Menahem Stern states Suetonius definitely was referring to Jesus because he would have added "a certain" to Chrestus if he had meant some unknown agitator. 
The Talmud Edit
The Babylonian Talmud in a few cases includes possible references to Jesus using the terms "Yeshu", "Yeshu ha-Notzri", "ben Stada", and "ben Pandera". Some of these references probably date back to the Tannaitic period (70–200 CE).   In some cases, it is not clear if the references are to Jesus, or other people, and scholars continue to debate their historical value, and exactly which references, if any, may be to Jesus.   
Robert Van Voorst states that the scarcity of Jewish references to Jesus is not surprising, given that Jesus was not a prominent issue for the Jews during the first century, and after the devastation caused by the Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70, Jewish scholars were focusing on preserving Judaism itself, rather than paying much attention to Christianity. 
Robert Eisenman argues that the derivation of Jesus of Nazareth from "ha-Notzri" is impossible on etymological grounds, as it would suggest rather "the Nazirite" rather than "the Nazarene". 
Van Voorst states that although the question of who was referred to in various points in the Talmud remains subject to debate among scholars, in the case of Sanhedrin 43a (generally considered the most important reference to Jesus in rabbinic literature), Jesus can be confirmed as the subject of the passage, not only from the reference itself, but from the context that surrounds it, and there is little doubt that it refers to the death of Jesus of Nazareth.   Christopher M. Tuckett states that if it is accepted that death narrative of Sanhedrin 43a refers to Jesus of Nazareth then it provides evidence of Jesus' existence and execution. 
Andreas Kostenberger states that the passage is a Tannaitic reference to the trial and death of Jesus at Passover and is most likely earlier than other references to Jesus in the Talmud.  The passage reflects hostility toward Jesus among the rabbis and includes this text:  
It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that "[Yeshu] is going to be stoned for practicing witchcraft, for enticing and leading Israel astray. Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him." But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover. 
Peter Schäfer states that there can be no doubt that the narrative of the execution of Jesus in the Talmud refers to Jesus of Nazareth, but states that the rabbinic literature in question are not Tannaitic but from a later Amoraic period and may have drawn on the Christian gospels, and may have been written as responses to them.  Bart Ehrman and separately Mark Allan Powell state that given that the Talmud references are quite late, they can give no historically reliable information about the teachings or actions of Jesus during his life.  
Another reference in early second century Rabbinic literature (Tosefta Hullin II 22) refers to Rabbi Eleazar ben Dama who was bitten by a snake, but was denied healing in the name of Jesus by another Rabbi for it was against the law, and thus died.  This passage reflects the attitude of Jesus' early Jewish opponents, i.e. that his miracles were based on evil powers.  
Eddy and Boyd, who question the value of several of the Talmudic references state that the significance of the Talmud to historical Jesus research is that it never denies the existence of Jesus, but accuses him of sorcery, thus indirectly confirming his existence.  R. T. France and separately Edgar V. McKnight state that the divergence of the Talmud statements from the Christian accounts and their negative nature indicate that they are about a person who existed.   Craig Blomberg states that the denial of the existence of Jesus was never part of the Jewish tradition, which instead accused him of being a sorcerer and magician, as also reflected in other sources such as Celsus.  Andreas Kostenberger states that the overall conclusion that can be drawn from the references in the Talmud is that Jesus was a historical person whose existence was never denied by the Jewish tradition, which instead focused on discrediting him. 
Minor sources Edit
Pliny the Younger (c. 61 – c. 112), the provincial governor of Pontus and Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan c. 112 concerning how to deal with Christians, who refused to worship the emperor, and instead worshiped "Christus". Charles Guignebert, who does not doubt that Jesus of the Gospels lived in Gallilee in the 1st century, nevertheless dismisses this letter as acceptable evidence for a historical Jesus. 
Thallus, of whom very little is known, and none of whose writings survive, wrote a history allegedly around the middle to late first century CE, to which Eusebius referred. Julius Africanus, writing c 221, links a reference in the third book of the History to the period of darkness described in the crucifixion accounts in three of the Gospels .   It is not known whether Thallus made any mention to the crucifixion accounts if he did and the dating is accurate, it would be the earliest noncanonical reference to a gospel episode, but its usefulness in determining the historicity of Jesus is uncertain.  The dating of Thallus is dependent on him writing about an event during the 207th Olympiad (49–52 AD), which means he wrote after that date, not near that date. This depends on the text being corrupt, which would mean Thallus could have been writing after the 217th Olympiad (89–92 AD), or even the 167th Olympiad (112–109 BC). He is first referenced by Theophilus, writing around 180 AD, which means Thallus could have written any time between 109 BC and 180 AD. All we know is Thallus mentioned a solar eclipse, and as solar eclipses are not possible at Passover, that would mean Thallus was not talking about the crucifixion of Jesus at all. 
Phlegon of Tralles, AD 80–140: similar to Thallus, Julius Africanus mentions a historian named Phlegon who wrote a chronicle of history around AD 140, where he records: “Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth to the ninth hour.” (Africanus, Chronography, 18:1) Phlegon is also mentioned by Origen (an early church theologian and scholar, born in Alexandria): “Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events . . . but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions.” (Origen Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 14) “And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place … ” (Origen Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 33) “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” (Origen Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 59).  However, Eusebius in The Chronicon (written in the 4th century AD) records what Phlegon said verbatim. "Now, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [32 AD], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour [noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea." Phlegon never mentions Jesus or the 3 hour darkness. He also mentions a solar eclipse, which can not occur at Passover. Apart from the year (which may be a corruption), this description fits an earthquake and eclipse that occurred in North West Turkey on November, 29 AD. 
Philo, who dies after A.D. 40, is mainly important for the light he throws on certain modes of thought and phraseology found again in some of the Apostles. Eusebius  indeed preserves a legend that Philo had met Peter in Rome during his mission to the Emperor Caius moreover, that in his work on the contemplative life he describes the life of the Church of Alexandria , rather than that of the Essenes and Therapeutae. But it is hardly probable that Philo had heard enough of Jesus and His followers to give an historical foundation to the foregoing legends. 
Celsus writing late in the second century produced the first full-scale attack on Christianity.   Celsus' document has not survived but in the third century Origen replied to it, and what is known of Celsus' writing is through the responses of Origen.  According to Origen, Celsus accused Jesus of being a magician and a sorcerer. While the statements of Celsus may be seen as valuable, they have little historical value, given that the wording of the original writings can not be examined. 
The Dead Sea Scrolls are first century or older writings that show the language and customs of some Jews of Jesus' time.  Scholars such as Henry Chadwick see the similar uses of languages and viewpoints recorded in the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls as valuable in showing that the New Testament portrays the first century period that it reports and is not a product of a later period.   However, the relationship between the Dead Sea scrolls and the historicity of Jesus has been the subject of highly controversial theories, and although new theories continue to appear, there is no overall scholarly agreement about their impact on the historicity of Jesus, despite the usefulness of the scrolls in shedding light on first-century Jewish traditions.  
Disputed sources Edit
The following sources are disputed, and of limited historical value:
- (born 115 CE), a well-known Greek satirist and traveling lecturer wrote mockingly of the followers of Jesus for their ignorance and credulity.  Given that Lucian's understanding of Christian traditions has significant gaps and errors, his writing is unlikely to have been influenced by Christians themselves, and he may provide an independent statement about the crucifixion of Jesus.  However, given the nature of the text as satire, Lucian may have embellished the stories he heard and his account cannot have a high degree of historical reliability.  (c. 53–117), in reply to a letter sent by Pliny the Younger, wrote "You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it—that is, by worshiping our gods—even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age." (AD 55–135) provides another possible yet disputed reference to Christians as "Galileans" in his "Discourses" 4.7.6 and 2.9.19–21: "Therefore, if madness can produce this attitude [of detachment] toward these things [death, loss of family, property], and also habit, as with the Galileans, can no one learn from reason and demonstration that God has made all things in the universe, and the whole universe itself, to be unhindered and complete in itself, and the parts of it to serve the needs of the whole." , in the second century, wrote a possible allusion to Christians and Christ that is contained in fragments of his treatises on the points of divergence between the Academicians and Plato, on the Good (in which according to Origen, Contra Celsum, iv. 51, he makes an allusion to Jesus Christ).  (AD 129–200) may reference Christ and his followers From Galen, De differentiis pulsuum (On the pulse), iii, 3. The work is listed in De libris propriis 5, and seems to belong between 176 and 192 AD, or possibly even 176–180: "One might more easily teach novelties to the followers of Moses and Christ than to the physicians and philosophers who cling fast to their schools". 
James Ossuary Edit
There is a limestone burial box from the 1st century known as the James Ossuary with the Aramaic inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The authenticity of the inscription was challenged by the Israel Antiquities Authority, who filed a complaint with the Israeli police. In 2012, the owner of the ossuary was found not guilty, with the judge ruling that the authenticity of the ossuary inscription had not been proven either way.  It has been suggested it was a forgery. 
Various books, memoirs and stories were written about Jesus by the early Christians. The most famous are the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All but one of these are believed to have been written within 50–70 years of the death of Jesus, with the Gospel of Mark believed to be the earliest, and the last the Gospel of John.   Blainey writes that the oldest surviving record written by an early Christian is a short letter by St Paul: the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which appeared about 25 years after the death of Jesus.  This letter, while important in describing issues for the development of Gentilic Christianity, contains little of significance for understanding the life of the historic Jesus. 
Bart Ehrman, Robert Eisenman and others critical of traditional Christian views, in assessing the problems involved in conducting historical Jesus research, say the Gospels are full of discrepancies, were written decades after Jesus' death, by authors who had not witnessed any events in Jesus' life. They go on to say the Gospels were authored not by eyewitnesses who were contemporary with the events that they narrate but rather by people who did not know Jesus, see anything he did, or hear anything he taught, and that the authors did not even share a language with Jesus. The accounts they produced are not disinterested they are narratives produced by Christians who actually believed in Jesus, and were not immune from slanting the stories in light of their biases. Ehrman points out that the texts are widely inconsistent, full of discrepancies and contradictions in both details and larger portraits of who Jesus was.  
Pauline epistles Edit
In the context of Christian sources, even if all other texts are ignored, the Pauline epistles can provide some information regarding Jesus.   This information does not include a narrative of the life of Jesus, and refers to his existence as a person, but adds few specific items apart from his death by crucifixion.  This information comes from those letters of Paul whose authenticity is not disputed.  Paul was not a companion of Jesus and claims his information comes from the Holy Spirit acquired after Jesus' death. 
Of the thirteen letters that bear Paul's name, seven are considered authentic by almost all scholars, and the others are generally considered pseudepigraphic.     The 7 undisputed letters (and their approximate dates) are: 1 Thessalonians (c. 51 CE), Philippians (c. 52–54 CE), Philemon (c. 52–54 CE), 1 Corinthians (c. 53–54 CE), Galatians (c. 55 CE), 2 Corinthians (c. 55–56 CE) and Romans (c. 55–58 CE).    The authenticity of these letters is accepted by almost all scholars, and they have been referenced and interpreted by early authors such as Origen and Eusebius.  
Given that the Pauline epistles are generally dated AD 50–60, they are the earliest surviving Christian texts that include information about Jesus.  These letters were written approximately twenty to thirty years after the generally accepted time period for the death of Jesus, around AD 30–36.  The letters were written during a time when Paul recorded encounters with the disciples of Jesus, e.g. Galatians 1:18 states that three years after his conversion Paul went to Jerusalem and stayed with Apostle Peter for fifteen days.  According to Buetz, during this time Paul disputed the nature of Jesus' message with Jesus' brother James, concerning the importance of adhering to kosher food restrictions and circumcision, important features of determining Jewish identity.   The New Testament narratives, however, do not give any details about what they discussed at that time fourteen years after that meeting, Paul returned to Jerusalem to confirm that his teaching was orthodox, as part of the Council of Jerusalem.
The Pauline letters were not intended to provide a narrative of the life of Jesus, but were written as expositions of Christian teachings.   In Paul's view, the earthly life of Jesus was of lower importance than the theology of his death and resurrection, a theme that permeates Pauline writings.  However, the Pauline letters clearly indicate that for Paul, Jesus was a real person (born of a woman as in Gal 4.4), a Jew ("born under the law", Romans 1.3) who had disciples (1 Corinthians 15.5), who was crucified (as in 1 Corinthians 2.2 and Galatians 3.1) and later resurrected (1 Corinthians 15.20, Romans 1.4 and 6.5, Philippians 3:10–11).     The letters reflect the general concept within the early Gentillic Christian Church that Jesus existed, was crucified and later raised from the dead.  
The references by Paul to Jesus do not in themselves prove the existence of Jesus, but they do establish that the existence of Jesus was the accepted norm within the early Christians (including the Christian community in Jerusalem, given the references to collections there) twenty to thirty years after the death of Jesus, at a time when those who could have been acquainted with him could still be alive.  
Specific references Edit
The seven Pauline epistles that are widely regarded as authentic include the following information that along with other historical elements are used to study the historicity of Jesus:  
- Existence of Jesus: That in Paul's view Jesus existed and was a Jew is based on Galatians 4:4 which states that he was "born of a woman" and Romans 1:3 that he was "born under the law".  Some scholars such as Paul Barnett hold that this indicates that Paul had some familiarity with the circumstances of the birth of Jesus, but that is not shared among scholars in general.  However, the statement does indicate that Paul had some knowledge of and interest in Jesus' life before his crucifixion. 
- Disciples and brothers: 1 Corinthians 15:5 states that Paul knew that Jesus had 12 disciples, and considers Peter as one of them. 1 Corinthians 1:12 further indicates that Peter was known in Corinth before the writing of 1 Corinthians, for it assumes that they were familiar with Cephas/Peter.  The statement in 1 Corinthians 15:5 indicates that "the twelve" as a reference to the twelve apostles was a generally known notion within the early Christian Church in Corinth and required no further explanation from Paul. Galatians 1:18 further states that Paul personally knew Peter and stayed with him in Jerusalem for fifteen days, about three years after his conversion.  It also implies that Peter was already known to the Galatians and required no introduction. 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19 state that Jesus had brothers, one being called James, whom Paul met or "saw."  James was claimed by early Christian writers as Origen and Eusebius to have been the leader of the followers of Jesus, after his brother's death, and to have been the first bishop, or bishop of bishops in Jerusalem.
- Betrayal and rituals: That Jesus was betrayed and established some traditions such as the Eucharist are derived from 1 Corinthians 11:23–25 which states: "The Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.". 
- Crucifixion: The Pauline letters include several references to the crucifixion of Jesus e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:23, 1 Corinthians 2:2 and Galatians 3:1 among others.  The death of Jesus forms a central element of the Pauline letters. 1 Thessalonians 2:15 places the responsibility for the death of Jesus on some Jews.  Moreover, the statement in 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 about the Jews "who both killed the Lord Jesus" and "drove out us" indicates that the death of Jesus was within the same time frame as the persecution of Paul. 
- Burial: 1 Corinthians 15:4 and Romans 6:4 state that following his death Jesus was buried (but does not mention a tomb).  This reference is then used by Paul to build on the theology of resurrection, but reflects the common belief at the time that Jesus was buried after his death. 
The existence of only these references to Jesus in the Pauline epistles has given rise to criticism of them by G. A. Wells, who is generally accepted as a leader of the movement to deny the historicity of Jesus.   When Wells was still denying the existence of Jesus, he criticized the Pauline epistles for not mentioning items such as John the Baptist or Judas or the trial of Jesus and used that argument to conclude that Jesus was not a historical figure.   
James D. G. Dunn addressed Wells' statement and stated that he knew of no other scholar that shared that view, and most other scholars had other and more plausible explanations for the fact that Paul did not include a narrative of the life of Jesus in his letters, which were primarily written as religious documents rather than historical chronicles at a time when the life story of Jesus could have been well known within the early Church.  Dunn states that despite Wells' arguments, the theories of the non-existence of Jesus are a "thoroughly dead thesis". 
While Wells no longer denies the existence of Jesus, he has responded to Dunn, stating that his arguments from silence not only apply to Paul but all early Christian authors, and that he still has a low opinion of early Christian texts, maintaining that for Paul Jesus may have existed a good number of decades before. 
Pre-Pauline creeds Edit
The Pauline letters sometimes refer to creeds, or confessions of faith, that predate their writings.    For instance 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 reads: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."  Romans 1:3–4 refers to Romans 1:2 just before it which mentions an existing gospel, and in effect may be treating it as an earlier creed.  
One of the keys to identifying a pre-Pauline tradition is given in 1 Corinthians 15:11 
Whether then [it be] I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Here Paul refers to others before him who preached the creed.  James Dunn states that 1 Corinthians 15:3 indicates that in the 30s Paul was taught about the death of Jesus a few years earlier. 
The Pauline letters thus contain Christian creed elements of pre-Pauline origin.  The antiquity of the creed has been located by many biblical scholars to less than a decade after Jesus' death, originating from the Jerusalem apostolic community.  Concerning this creed, Campenhausen wrote, "This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text,"  whilst A. M. Hunter said, "The passage therefore preserves uniquely early and verifiable testimony. It meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability." 
These creeds date to within a few years of Jesus' death, and developed within the Christian community in Jerusalem.  Although embedded within the texts of the New Testament, these creeds are a distinct source for Early Christianity.  This indicates that existence and death of Jesus was part of Christian belief a few years after his death and over a decade before the writing of the Pauline epistles. 
The four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are the main sources for the biography of Jesus' life, the teachings and actions attributed to him.    Three of these (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are known as the synoptic Gospels, from the Greek σύν (syn "together") and ὄψις (opsis "view"), given that they display a high degree of similarity in content, narrative arrangement, language and paragraph structure.   The presentation in the fourth canonical gospel, i.e. John, differs from these three in that it has more of a thematic nature rather than a narrative format.  Scholars generally agree that it is impossible to find any direct literary relationship between the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John. 
The authors of the New Testament generally showed little interest in an absolute chronology of Jesus or in synchronizing the episodes of his life with the secular history of the age.  The gospels were primarily written as theological documents in the context of early Christianity with the chronological timelines as a secondary consideration.  One manifestation of the gospels being theological documents rather than historical chronicles is that they devote about one third of their text to just seven days, namely the last week of the life of Jesus in Jerusalem.  Although the gospels do not provide enough details to satisfy the demands of modern historians regarding exact dates, scholars have used them to reconstruct a number of portraits of Jesus.    However, as stated in John 21:25 the gospels do not claim to provide an exhaustive list of the events in the life of Jesus. 
Scholars have varying degrees of certainty about the historical reliability of the accounts in the gospels, and the only two events whose historicity is the subject of almost universal agreement among scholars are the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus.  Scholars such as E.P. Sanders and separately Craig A. Evans go further and assume that two other events in the gospels are historically certain, namely that Jesus called disciples, and caused a controversy at the Temple. 
Ever since the Augustinian hypothesis, scholars continue to debate the order in which the gospels were written, and how they may have influenced each other, and several hypothesis exist in that regard, e.g. the Markan priority hypothesis holds that the Gospel of Mark was written first c. 70 CE.   In this approach, Matthew is placed at being sometime after this date and Luke is thought to have been written between 70 and 100 CE.  However, according to the competing, and more popular, Q source hypothesis, the gospels were not independently written, but were derived from a common source called Q.   The two-source hypothesis then proposes that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew on the Gospel of Mark as well as on Q. 
The gospels can be seen as having three separate lines: A literary line which looks at it from a textual perspective, secondly a historical line which observes how Christianity started as a renewal movement within Judaism and eventually separated from it, and finally a theological line which analyzes Christian teachings.  Within the historical perspective, the gospels are not simply used to establish the existence of Jesus as sources in their own right alone, but their content is compared and contrasted to non-Christian sources, and the historical context, to draw conclusions about the historicity of Jesus.   
Early Church fathers Edit
Two possible patristic sources that may refer to eyewitness encounters with Jesus are the early references of Papias and Quadratus, reported by Eusebius of Caesarea in the 4th century.  
The works of Papias have not survived, but Eusebius quotes him as saying: 
"…if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders – that is, what according to the elders Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying."
Richard Bauckham states that while Papias was collecting his information (c. 90), Aristion and the elder John (who were Jesus' disciples) were still alive and teaching in Asia minor, and Papias gathered information from people who had known them.  However, the exact identity of the "elder John" is wound up in the debate on the authorship of the Gospel of John, and scholars have differing opinions on that, e.g. Jack Finegan states that Eusebius may have misunderstood what Papias wrote, and the elder John may be a different person from the author of the fourth gospel, yet still a disciple of Jesus.  Gary Burge, on the other hand sees confusion on the part of Eusebius and holds the elder John to be different person from the apostle John. 
The letter of Quadratus (possibly the first Christian apologist) to emperor Hadrian (who reigned 117 – 138) is likely to have an early date and is reported by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History 4.3.2 to have stated: 
"The words of our Savior were always present, for they were true: those who were healed, those who rose from the dead, those who were not only seen in the act of being healed or raised, but were also always present, not merely when the Savior was living on earth, but also for a considerable time after his departure, so that some of them survived even to our own times." 
By "our Savior" Quadratus means Jesus and the letter is most likely written before AD 124.  Bauckham states that by "our times" he may refer to his early life, rather than when he wrote (117–124), which would be a reference contemporary with Papias.  Bauckham states that the importance of the statement attributed to Quadratus is that he emphasizes the "eye witness" nature of the testimonies to interaction with Jesus.  Such "eye witness statements" abound in early Christian writings, particularly the pseudonymous Christian Apocrypha, Gospels and Letters, in order to give them credibility.
Apocryphal texts Edit
A number of later Christian texts, usually dating to the second century or later, exist as New Testament apocrypha, among which the gnostic gospels have been of major recent interest among scholars.  The 1945 discovery of the Nag Hammadi library created a significant amount of scholarly interest and many modern scholars have since studied the gnostic gospels and written about them.  However, the trend among the 21st century scholars has been to accept that while the gnostic gospels may shed light on the progression of early Christian beliefs, they offer very little to contribute to the study of the historicity of Jesus, in that they are rather late writings, usually consisting of sayings (rather than narrative, similar to the hypothesised Q documents), their authenticity and authorship remain questionable, and various parts of them rely on components of the New Testament.   The focus of modern research into the historical Jesus has been away from gnostic writings and towards the comparison of Jewish, Greco-Roman and canonical Christian sources.  
As an example, Bart Ehrman states that gnostic writings of the Gospel of Thomas (part of the Nag Hammadi library) have very little value in historical Jesus research, because the author of that gospel placed no importance on the physical experiences of Jesus (e.g. his crucifixion) or the physical existence of believers, and was only interested in the secret teachings of Jesus rather than any physical events.  Similarly, the Apocryphon of John (also part of the Nag Hammadi library) has been useful in studying the prevailing attitudes in the second century, and questions of authorship regarding the Book of revelation, given that it refers to Revelation 1:19, but is mostly about the post ascension teachings of Jesus in a vision, not a narrative of his life.  Some scholars such as Edward Arnal contend that the Gospel of Thomas continues to remain useful for understanding how the teachings of Jesus were transmitted among early Christians, and sheds light on the development of early Christianity. 
There is overlap between the sayings of Jesus in the apocryphal texts and canonical Christian writings, and those not present in the canonical texts are called agrapha. There are at least 225 agrapha but most scholars who have studied them have drawn negative conclusions about the authenticity of most of them and see little value in using them for historical Jesus research.  Robert Van Voorst states that the vast majority of the agrapha are certainly inauthentic.  Scholars differ on the number of authentic agrapha, some estimating as low as seven as authentic, others as high as 18 among the more than 200, rendering them of little value altogether.  While research on apocryphal texts continues, the general scholarly opinion holds that they have little to offer to the study of the historicity of Jesus given that they are often of uncertain origin, and almost always later documents of lower value. 
Forced Exodus: Remembering the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab countries
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November 30 is the official day for commemorating the Jewish departure and expulsion from Arab and Muslim lands.
The commemorative day was designated by Israel’s legislative body back in 2014 and comes as a belated recognition of the collective traumas experienced by the between 850,000 to 1 million Jews who were expelled or who fled their homes in the Middle East and North Africa over a span of some three decades (from the 1940s until the 1980s) as a result of persecution and discrimination.
Over 850,000 Jews were expelled or forced to flee in the years following 1948. To this day, no reparations have been made. #Jewsof48 #JewishRefugees pic.twitter.com/hXBaD7kVPo
&mdash StandWithUs (@StandWithUs) November 29, 2018
The other Nakba: this was the newspaper on May 16, 1948, when the Arab states began a bloody campaign of persecution against their own Jewish communities out of antisemitic vengeance against Jews for the state of #Israel being declared. pic.twitter.com/slCx2gtyZB
In several prior posts we highlighted how thriving Jewish communities in Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa (and in non-Arab Iran) were wiped out during these years as Jews were subjected to arrest, properties and assets were seized or set on fire, and draconian anti-Jewish laws were instituted. These historic communities were centuries old and even predated Islam and the Arab conquest of the region in the seventh century:
As we discussed, violence against Jews was either instigated or tolerated by the authorities:
The hostility led to waves of Jews being uprooted from their homes, and sometimes fleeing for their lives—typically with nothing other than the clothes on their backs.
The loss was devastating. In fact, experts believe that the Jewish exodus from Arab/Muslim lands was larger than the Arab refugees of what is referred to as the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe), both in terms of the numbers of people displaced and the loss of property (approximately $350 billion of Jewish property was destroyed or seized during these years).
But the paramount loss was to Middle Eastern states and societies. Of the estimated 1 million Jews in Arab countries in 1948, the year Israel was established, today only some 5,000 remain.”
Not a lot of people know the stories of these “forgotten” Jewish refugees precisely because they didn’t stay refugees for very long. That’s because Israel re-settled the Jewish refugees and was able and willing to absorb them.
As Lyn Julius, who has written a book about how “3,000 years of Jewish civilization in the Arab world vanished overnight”, pointed out in a Jerusalem Post article published earlier this week:
Israel treated the refugees as Zionists returning to their homeland. Mizrahi Jews were encouraged not to look back to the past, but to build new lives for themselves in Israel and the West.”
By contrast, the Arab countries failed to absorb the approximately 700,000 Arab Palestinian refugees who were displaced during the 1947-1948 war for Israel’s independence.
As we’ve noted in several recent posts, the reason that these Palestinian Arabs became refugees wasn’t because of any master plan on the part of the Zionists to expel them, as no such policy existed.
On the contrary, the historical evidence, and even the personal stories and accounts of the refugees themselves, shows that many fled their homes and villages in the heat of war or because they were instructed to do so by Arab leaders and military officials. They also greatly feared being mistreated by the advancing Zionist armed forces, based on the lies that were told to them about a horrible massacre that had been perpetrated on some defenseless Arab villagers by Jewish paramilitary groups—a brutal incident which in fact never happened:
Still, there should be no doubt that the Arabs who fled their homes during the 1948-49 war endured many hardships, not least on account of the fact that the neighboring Arab countries were unwilling to absorb them.
Their plight was also compounded by the fact that the UN agency tasked to assist them never worked to facilitate their resettlement and instead allowed their numbers to balloon, resulting in a shameful mistreatment that continues to this day (for example, see our post about the ongoing discrimination and deprivations that the descendants of the Palestinian refugees face today in Lebanon).
Basically, the Arab Palestinian refugees were placed in camps and deliberately kept there for 70 years, with complicity of the United Nations, in order to exploit them as a propaganda weapon to sow hatred against Israel.
So, it’s important that there be a greater understanding of Israel’s remarkable and unprecedented absorption of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who desperately flooded into the young state precisely because it powerfully underscores the extent to which the Arab/Muslim world neglected their own.
[Credit: CAMERA.org via Twitter]
Acknowledging the Jewish refugees, the “suffocation and extinction” of historic Jewish communities, and the catastrophes that befell the Jews in Arab and Muslim lands is important not only for historical truth and for setting the record straight about Arab and Muslim antisemitism and the Jewish experience in the Middle East and in Arab countries. In fact, knowing more about this tragic and little-known chapter in Jewish history is also essential for securing justice for the Palestinian refugees too.
Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Recently, Elman was included on the Algemeiner newspaper’s 2018 list of the top 100 people worldwide who are “positively influencing Jewish life.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman
7. Jewish history and communities in former British colonies
The National Archives holds the records of now-disbanded central government departments once responsible for administering British colonies, notably the Colonial Office and Dominions Office. Connected material was also gathered by the State Paper Office. These records include documents relating to Jewish history, but they tend to be distributed throughout the collection, rather than collected in specific series. They are generally concerned with policy and administrative matters, so organisations and institutions are more likely to occur than individual persons. Individuals are only likely to be represented in the records if they were prominent in government or politics.
Please see our research guide to records of Colonies and dependencies from 1782 and American and West Indian colonies before 1782 for detailed advice on how to tackle these records.
Early Jewish presence in and connection to the English and British colonies is found in the CO 1, CO 5 and early Board of Trade records, digitised and made searchable in the related ProQuest and Adam Matthew Colonial State papers resources (subscription required).
During Charles II&rsquos reign, a Jewish presence in England&rsquos Caribbean colonies first appears. As foreigners, Jews were effectively prohibited by the terms of the Navigation Act of 1651 from trading with the American plantations. Nevertheless, Jewish merchants had been connected to islands such as Barbados for almost as long as English settlers had travelled there. In Jamaica, an Act in 1683 allowed the governors to grant naturalisation to foreigners willing to settle, and many Jews took up the invitation. A decade later, attempts to tax Jewish settlers at higher rates than others threatened their ruin.
A search for records of Jewish traders with interests in the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries could include targeting:
- Petitions from Jewish traders to demonstrate their value to English trade and influence in series such as CO 1
- Appeals against the requirement to pay higher rates of tax in SP 44
- Petitions from Jewish merchants to receive formal protection as denizens in SP 34
Among the more revealing and information-rich of record types is the correspondence received by the Colonial Office and Dominions Office from colonial governors, other government departments, external organisations and individuals. Sometimes a sensible way to start your research into these records is to target a particular former colony of interest and search the respective correspondence. The following examples serve as illustrations of this approach:
- Search the correspondence for the Transvaal in CO 291 and the Union of South Africa in CO 633 for documentation of the many Jewish people who migrated from Lithuania to southern Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the rise of gold mining around Johannesburg in the Transvaal.
- Search Palestine correspondence in CO 733 for a wealth of material on the British administration of Palestine under the League of Nations mandate and the establishment of Israel. The correspondence covers such topics as Jewish immigration into Palestine, the activities of the Zionist Organisation, Arab-Jewish relations and campaigns for independence (associated government records include the Palestine government gazette, held in CO 742, and sessional papers held in CO 814).
A map held in our Foreign Office collection showing the area proposed at the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, in 1903, for a Jewish settlement in British-controlled East Africa (catalogue reference FO 2/785).
Emigration registers and emigration registers of correspondence may also prove useful sources of information on the movement of Jewish people to British colonies. Search for &ldquoemigration registers&rdquo in our catalogue.
It is also possible to find correspondence relating to the settlement of German Jews and refugees in British colonies in the 1930s and 1940s in CO 323.
An Unsolved Mystery and a Family in Decline
Despite her success, Licoricia’s end was tragic. In 1277, 13 years before the Jews’ final expulsion from England under Edward I, she was found dead in her home, stabbed in the chest beside the body of her devoted female Christian servant, Alice. Locks had been broken off of coffers and strongboxes, and goods were missing, making the crime appear to be motivated by greed. Three men were eventually indicted, but none of them was convicted, and the murder was never solved.
A couple of years after her death, Licoricia’s eldest son, Benedict, who had accumulated a sizable fortune in his own right before inheriting the bulk of his mother’s estate, was accused and convicted of coin clipping (illegally shaving metal from gold and silver coins) and summarily hanged. Lumbard, the youngest of her sons by Abraham of Kent, was, by comparison, somewhat of a ne’er-do-well. We know little about him, but he seems to have drifted from bad debts to petty crime before disappearing in the record. Asher, Licoricia’s son with David, became a financier like his illustrious parents and did very well, but he was driven from England in the expulsion of 1290.
Book Calls Jewish People an ‘Invention’
Despite the fragmented and incomplete historical record, experts pretty much agree that some popular beliefs about Jewish history simply don’t hold up: there was no sudden expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for instance. What’s more, modern Jews owe their ancestry as much to converts from the first millennium and early Middle Ages as to the Jews of antiquity.
Other theories, like the notion that many of today’s Palestinians can legitimately claim to be descended from the ancient Jews, are familiar and serious subjects of study, even if no definitive answer yet exists.
But while these ideas are commonplace among historians, they still manage to provoke controversy each time they surface in public, beyond the scholarly world. The latest example is the book “The Invention of the Jewish People,” which spent months on the best-seller list in Israel and is now available in English. Mixing respected scholarship with dubious theories, the author, Shlomo Sand, a professor at Tel Aviv University, frames the narrative as a startling exposure of suppressed historical facts. The translated version of his polemic has sparked a new wave of coverage in Britain and has provoked spirited debates online and in seminar rooms.
Professor Sand, a scholar of modern France, not Jewish history, candidly states his aim is to undercut the Jews’ claims to the land of Israel by demonstrating that they do not constitute “a people,” with a shared racial or biological past. The book has been extravagantly denounced and praised, often on the basis of whether or not the reader agrees with his politics.
The vehement response to these familiar arguments both the reasonable and the outrageous highlights the challenge of disentangling historical fact from the sticky web of religious and political myth and memory.
Consider, for instance, Professor Sand’s assertion that Palestinian Arab villagers are descended from the original Jewish farmers. Nearly a century ago, early Zionists and Arab nationalists touted the blood relationship as the basis of a potential alliance in their respective struggles for independence. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Israel’s longest-serving president, made this very argument in a book they wrote together in 1918. The next year, Emir Feisal, who organized the Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire and tried to create a united Arab nation, signed a cooperation agreement with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann that declared the two were “mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people.”
Both sides later dropped the subject when they realized it was not furthering their political goals.
(Though no final consensus has emerged on the ancestral link between Palestinians and Jews, Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Program at New York University Langone Medical Center, who has been studying the genetic organization of Jews, said, “The assumption of lineal descent seems reasonable.”)
Books challenging biblical and conventional history continually pop up, but what distinguishes the dispute over origins from debates about, say, the reality of the exodus from Egypt or the historical Jesus, is that it is so enmeshed in geopolitics. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states: “After being forcibly exiled from their Land, the People kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it.” The idea of unjust exile and rightful return undergirds both the Jews’ and the Palestinians’ conviction that each is entitled to the land.
Since Professor Sand’s mission is to discredit Jews’ historical claims to the territory, he is keen to show that their ancestry lines do not lead back to ancient Palestine. He resurrects a theory first raised by 19th-century historians, that the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to whom 90 percent of American Jews trace their roots, are descended from the Khazars, a Turkic people who apparently converted to Judaism and created an empire in the Caucasus in the eighth century. This idea has long intrigued writers and historians. In 1976, Arthur Koestler wrote “The Thirteenth Tribe” in the hopes it would combat anti-Semitism if contemporary Jews were descended from the Khazars, he argued, they could not be held responsible for Jesus’ Crucifixion.
By now, experts who specialize in the subject have repeatedly rejected the theory, concluding that the shards of evidence are inconclusive or misleading, said Michael Terry, the chief librarian of the Jewish division of the New York Public Library. Dr. Ostrer said the genetics also did not support the Khazar theory.
That does not negate that conversion played a critical role in Jewish history a proposition that many find surprising given that today’s Jews tend to discourage conversion and make it a difficult process. Lawrence H. Schiffman, chairman of the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, said most historians agree that over a period of centuries, Middle Eastern Jews merchants, slaves and captives, religious and economic refugees spread around the world. Many intermarried with people from local populations, who then converted.
There is also evidence that in antiquity and the first millennium Judaism was a proselytizing religion that even used force on occasion. From the genetic research so far, Dr. Ostrer said, “It’s pretty clear that most Jewish groups have Semitic ancestry, that they originated in the Middle East, and that they’re more closely related to each other than to non-Jewish groups.” But he added that it was also clear that many Jews are of mixed descent.
“The ancient admixed ancestry explains the blond hair and blue eyes of Ashkenazi Jews whose grandparents and great-grandparents all lived in shtetls two and three generations ago,” Dr. Ostrer said. They brought the genes for coloration with them to Eastern Europe. These genes were probably not contributed by their Cossack neighbors.”
What accounts for the grasp that some misconceptions maintain on popular consciousness, or the inability of historical truths to gain acceptance? Sometimes myths persist despite clear contradictory evidence because people feel the story embodies a deeper truth than the facts. Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake,” but the fictional statement captured the sense of a regime that showed disdain for the public’s welfare.
A mingling of myth, memory, truth and aspiration similarly envelopes Jewish history, which is, to begin with, based on scarce and confusing archaeological and archival records.
Experts dismiss the popular notion that the Jews were expelled from Palestine in one fell swoop in A.D. 70. Yet while the destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple by the Romans did not create the Diaspora, it caused a momentous change in the Jews’ sense of themselves and their position in the world. For later generations it encapsulates the essential truth about the Jews being an exiled and persecuted people for much of their history.
Professor Sand accuses Zionist historians from the 19th century onward the very same scholars on whose work he bases his case of hiding the truth and creating a myth of shared roots to strengthen their nationalist agenda. He explains that he has uncovered no new information, but has “organized the knowledge differently.” In other words, he is doing precisely what he accuses the Zionists of shaping the material to fit a narrative.
In that sense, Professor Sand is operating within a long established tradition. As “The Illustrated History of the Jewish People,” edited by Nicholas Lange (Harcourt, 1997), notes, “Every generation of Jewish historians has faced the same task: to retell and adapt the story to meet the needs of its own situation.” The same could be said of all nations and religions.
Perhaps that is why on both sides of the argument some myths stubbornly persist no matter how often they are debunked while other indubitable facts continually fail to gain traction.
Do authoritative Jewish historical records record the expulsion - History
The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
The early settlement of Jews in Devon and Cornwall
Ancient traces of the Jews in Devon and Cornwall
No decisive evidence has been adduced to show the presence of organized Jewish communities in England before 1070 A.D., but there is some varied evidence worthy of consideration indicative of the presence of Jews in Britain before this date, and especially in Devon and Cornwall. Writers on Anglo-Jewish history from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries have suggested that Jews first visited England in company with the Phoenicians about the time of King Solomon. This suggestion was based on the links between the Kingdoms of Judah and Tyre. [I Kings, vii, 14 and I Kings, xvi, 31.] Ancient historians referred to Phoenician voyages to the Cassiterides, later identified as Britain, in search of tin and lead, and it was thought likely that Jews had accompanied them. [M. Margoliouth, History of the Jews in Great Britain (1851), I, 9-15 (afterwards quoted as Margoliouth, Jews in Great Britain).] That there may have been some connection between the inhabitants of Devon and Cornwall and the dwellers on the Palestinian coast line is shown by food habits which they still hold in common. Both areas use saffron in cooking, particularly in the baking of cakes. [J. Bannister, 'Jews in Cornwall', Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, II (1867), 324 (afterwards quoted as Bannister, 'Jews in Cornwall'), usefully summarizes all the arguments.] In these two regions as well as in Brittany, which was also under Celtic influence, clotted cream is manufactured. [S. Applebaum, 'Were there Jews in Roman Britain?' Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (afterwards quoted as TJHSE), XVII (1950), (afterwards quoted as Applebaum, Roman Britain), p. 189.] A further indication of some degree of intercourse between the ancient Israelites and Celts is the similarity in sound and meaning of words and phrases in the Hebrew and Celtic languages. [Margoliouth, Jews in Britain, I,23. For 300 Ancient British expressions which are also Hebrew homonyms and synonyms, see H. Rowlands, Mona Antiqua Restaurata quoted in T. S. Duncombe, The Jews of England (1866), p. 25, where he mentions some 30 examples, and M. Margoliouth, Vestiges of the Historic Anglo-Hebrews in East Anglia (1870), p. 14, and p. 65 where he quotes eight phrases.] So much so, that in 1827 the British and Foreign Bible Society distributed Hebrew Bibles among the Cornish as being nearest the vernacular. [E. N. Adler, History of the Jews of London (Philadelphia, 1930), p. 1.]
The presence of smelting ovens in Cornwall and Devon which are called "Jews' Houses" or "Jew's Houses" [White's Devonshire Directory (1850) (afterwards quoted as White, Devon Direct.) p. 41. The houses near Chudleigh (Ordinance Survey (1960) SX 87/839, 765) called Jews Houses should not be confused with these smelting ovens. They take their name from their proximity to Jew's Bridge, for which see infra, p. 40.] may point to early Jewish participation in the mining industry. The earliest method of smelting was a simple pit in which the ore was burnt and the metal subsequently collected from the ashes. This method was in use until the third or second century B.C. An improvement on this primitive method involved the building of a furnace made of hard clay in the shape of an inverted cone about 3 feet across and about the same height. A blast of air from a bellows to the lower part of the furnace served to produce an intense heat, and the molten tin was discharged from a small opening at the bottom. This type of oven was in use from the second century B.C. until about 1350 A.D. and was called by eighteenth century tinners "a Jew's House". [A. K. Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner (1962), p. 68f. The term may have originally come into use during the medieval period, (see infra, p. 37).]
The tin from a Jew's House was known as "Jew's House tin", [W C. Borlase, Antiquities of Cornwall (1769), p. 163. See also T. Hogg, Manual of Mineralogy (1828), p. 74, and Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, IV (1871), 227.] and it is somewhat suggestive that a farm on which such a Jew's House was discovered in 1826 was locally known as "Landjew". [Gent. Mag. XCVI (1826), 125.]
Jews may have had at least one well established trading centre in Cornwall in the pre-Roman period, as the town Marazion [This name is itself suggestive of Hebraic origin, meaning either "sight of Zion" or "bitterness of Zion".] was anciently known as Market-Jew, and the main street of Penzance which leads to it is even today called Market-Jew Street. Nor is this the only town in Cornwall whose name is said to be Hebraic in its origin. There is also the village of Menheniot, which name, a correspondent to the Jewish Chronicle suggested, is derived from the two Hebrew words, min oniyot, which mean "from ships". [JC, 1 June 1860.] The current pronunciation of the name of the Cornish town of Mousehole as "Muzzle" might also be influenced by Hebrew, as "Muzzle" is the homonym of the Hebrew word meaning "luck". It might be objected that the apparent Hebrew origins of the names of these towns is due to mere coincidence. It is known, however, that in the nineteenth century the cryptic Hebrew expression Makom Lamed (= 'L(ondon) place') coined by local Jews when referring to London, passed into general Cornish usage. [Roth, Provincial Jewry, p. 91, but cf. C. Roth, 'Jews' houses', Antiquity, XXV (1951), 98, 66-68 where he discusses place names associated with "Jew", such as Jews' Tower at Winchester, Jews' Mount at Oxford, Villejuif near Paris or Judenberg in Germany. He points out that often there is no proven Jewish community at that place. He suggests that when the origin of a large structure was unknown, it would be ascribed to the Jews, 'loosely corresponding to the term 'Cyclopaean' in vogue today - or yesterday - to describe massive structures of great or even mysterious antiquity.' But a Jew's House is only 3 feet high and could hardly be called even a large, let alone gigantic, structure.]
It is worth noting that much of the evidence which points to Jewish settlement or influence in Britain during the pre-Roman period, relates in the main to Devon and Cornwall.
Were there Jews in Roman Britain? This question has been considered by Dr Applebaum and, largely on the basis of archaeological and literary evidence, he suggests a positive answer. [Applebaum, Roman Britain, p. 205.] It is highly likely, he says, that there were at least a few Jewish soldiers in oriental units of the Roman army which served in Britain. It is also possible that there were some Jewish traders who were connected with the import of pottery, glass and oriental wares. They may even have formed small communities at Colchester, York, Corbridge and London. Moreover, there is a distinct likelihood that some Jewish slaves were brought to England after the Bar Kochba uprising in 135 A.D. Indeed, Carew supposed that Jews were sent as slaves by one of the Flavian Emperors to work the mines of Cornwall, but the only evidence for his view appears to be a coin of Domition found in an old mine gallery. [Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. XI, p. 456.]
The archaeological evidence relates to finds of coins and pottery. According to Dr Applebaum, Near Eastern coins of the Roman period found in Dorset and Devon show an early connection between those areas. A close analysis of these coins indicates that Exeter was one of the first ports of call for sea-traffic coming from the Mediterranean up the Channel. Analysis of the coins also shows that they mainly originate from Antioch, Chalcis, Cyrrhus, Hierapolis, Edessa, Samosata, Zengma and Singara, all of them towns with a high percentage of Jews in their population. [Applebaum, Roman Britain, p. 190.]
The particularly strong link between Exeter and the Near East makes it likely that there were some early Jewish associations with that city. Dr Applebaum suggests that archaeological finds in Exeter should be closely examined as some of them might indicate that Jews passed through or settled in Exeter in Roman times. [Ibid.] Following this suggestion the discovery in Exeter of a sherd of carinated bowl with an incised graffito of the second or third century A.D. was noted. [Lady Aileen Fox, Roman Exeter (Exeter, 1952), Plate X b.] Lady Fox considers the inscription 'to represent an amalgamation of a trident with a conventional palm leaf, bordered by incised lines there seems to be the loop of a cursive letter above the "trident"'. There is a possibility, and it cannot be put any higher than that, that the "loop of a cursive letter" is the figure of a citron. If so, this would indicate Jewish associations with the bowl, as the palm and citron were used extensively on Jewish coins and burial caves. [Cf. P. Romanoff, 'Jewish symbols on Ancient Coins', Jewish Quarterly Review, XXXIII (1943), pp. 14, 15.] The "trident" could be the Hebrew letter Shin [Shin is used as an abbreviation for Shadai (= Almighty) and is used on the phylactery of the head.] and if this identification is correct it heightens the likelihood of the figures on the bowl being palm and citron and strengthens the assumption that there were Jewish connections with Exeter at this early period.
On the other hand it must be allowed that the references to Britain in Midrashic literature of the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods do not appear to relate to the South-West. [Applebaum, Roman Britain, pp. 197-199 quotes all the literary references.]
A persistent legend also refers to the presence of at least one Jew in England at the beginning of the Christian era. He was Joseph of Arimathaea, a wealthy Essene Jew who, it is said, out of sympathy with Jesus gave him burial in a rock tomb near Jerusalem. [See Mark, xv, 42f.] According to legend he came to England as one of the Seventy Apostles to erect the first oratory and out of the staff which stuck in the ground at Glastonbury as he stopped to rest himself there grew a miraculous thorn, said still to blossom every Christmas-Day. [Jewish Encyclopaedia (New York, 1901) (afterwards quoted as Jew. Encycl.) s.v. JOSEPH OF ARIMATHAEA.] A variant of the legend makes Joseph travel through Cornwall accompanied by Jesus. [For the persistence of the legend see C. C. Dobson, Did our Lord visit Britain? (Glastonbury, 1936), the seventh edition of this work was reprinted for the third time in 1959. And also Brendan Lehane, 'Did Christ come to Britain?', Weekend Telegraph, 116, 16 December 1966.] This legend may be the folk memory of some ancient time when one or more notable Jews visited England.
In the Saxon period individual Jews may have visited England but the evidence formerly used to support the hypothesis that there were organized Jewish communities has been largely rebutted. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 2.] It has also been suggested that the prevalence of Biblical names in Cornwall such as Benjamin, David, Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, and Solomon, during the Saxon period indicates some intercourse between Jews and Cornwall, [M. Margoliouth, Vestiges of the Historic Anglo-Hebrews in East Anglia (1870), p. 14.] the more so as these names were not used in other parts of the country, not even at Exeter, which is barely 40 miles from the Cornish border. [Bannister, 'Jews in Cornwall', p. 335.] But there is always the possibility that these names came to Cornwall with the spread of Christianity to that county, or that they were a legacy from Jews who were there in the Roman or pre-Roman periods. The latter suggestion would account for a mid-fourth century Duke of Cornwall who became a Christian when already an adult, and yet was called Solomon even before his baptism. [M. Margoliouth, loc. cit. V. Newall, 'The Jews of Cornwall in Local Tradition', MJHSE, XI (1979), pp. 119-121, collects most of the evidence relating to Jews in ancient Cornwall. All her material is to be found in B. Susser, 'The Jews of Devon and Cornwall from the middle ages until the twentieth century', unpbd. PhD diss. University of Exeter, 1977. She doubts if there was any major connection.]
Jews in Medieval Devon and Cornwall
There are no known authentic references to Jews in England during the reign of William the Conqueror, other than an incidental remark by William of Malmesbury, the medieval chronicler, that the Conqueror had brought Jews with him from Rouen. Of William Rufus it is related that he favoured the Jews of London when they were involved in a religious discussion with bishops and churchmen. It is not likely that there was any settled and relatively numerous Anglo-Jewish community until after the massacre of the Jews of Rouen by Crusading knights in 1096. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 5, 6.]
Little more is known of the Jews in England until Henry I issued a charter of uncertain date giving protection to some individuals. [Ibid. p. 6.] Among other privileges they were guaranteed freedom of movement throughout the country, relief from ordinary tolls, free recourse to royal justice, and permission to retain land taken in pledge as security. Aided by these privileges, English Jewry slowly gathered strength and, under Stephen's continuation of Henry's protective policy, Jewish communities developed at Norwich, Lincoln, Winchester, Cambridge, Thetford, Northampton, Bungay, Oxford, Gloucester, Bristol, and York. There were also isolated Jewish families at Worcester and Leicester. [Ibid. p. 11.] But beyond the bare knowledge that these communities existed and made greater or lesser contributions to various tallages, little else is known. [Starrs, charters and records of court cases are the main sources for the history of the medieval Anglo-Jewry, and therefore accounts of Jewish life in England are heavily coloured by financial transactions. Evidence is now coming to light of medieval intellectual activity in England, similar to that of the Jews of Northern France. See Ephraim Auerbach, 'Mitoratam shel Hachmei Anglia milifnei Hagirush', Sefer Hayovel Tiferet Yisrael (1966), pp. 1-56, and C. Roth, 'The Intellectual Activities of Medieval English Jewry', The British Academy Supplemental Papers, VIII, (Oxford, 1949).] Jews may have journeyed into Devon and Cornwall but there is no evidence demonstrating the settled presence of Jews in these counties until the closing years of Henry II's reign.
Henry II not only confirmed but even extended the privileges which his father had granted to the Jews, and they flourished under his protection amid the general peace which prevailed in the realm. These favourable conditions led to an influx of Jews from Europe, an immigration which was reinforced by Jewish refugees expelled from the Ile de France in 1182. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 12.] Its increased numbers enabled the Anglo-Jewish community to consolidate itself, and it now attained the zenith of its prosperity in medieval times.
Another factor made it easier for Jews to create new communities outside London. Hitherto, the only consecrated burial ground available to the Jews of England had been in London, and great inconvenience and even distress was experienced by relatives who had the unpleasant task of escorting a corpse along the roads of twelfth-century England. In 1177, each community was allowed to buy land outside its city walls for use as a cemetery. This new concession encouraged Jews to settle in towns remote from the capital. Thus by 1189, the end of Henry II's reign, besides the communities in the towns which have already been enumerated, there were further groups of Jews established at Stamford, Lynn, Bury, Bedford, Ipswich, Canterbury, Hereford, Dunstable, Chichester, Devizes and, in Devon, at Exeter (Map 1). [Roth, Jews in England, p. 13, but there is no evidence that the medieval Exeter Jewry ever had its own cemetery (M. Adler, 'The Medieval Jews of Exeter', Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, LXIII (1931), (afterwards quoted as Adler, 'Medieval Jews'), p. 222). See, however, the suggestion on 'Jews Bridge', infra, p. 40.]
So far as Devon was concerned, it was not only that it was easier for a Jewish community to maintain itself but there was also a positive attraction for Jews to settle there from the middle of the twelfth century. For tin mining was in operation in Devon in 1156 [Hoskins, Devon, p. 131.] and it is possible that rich Jews from already established centres provided some of the capital for one of Britain's first capitalist industries, [Ibid. p. 135.] at the same time sending their agents to safeguard their interests. If so, these agents probably formed the nucleus of the subsequent medieval Jewish community in Exeter. One may gauge the extent of the involvement of medieval English Jews with tin mining in Devon by the steep decline in the Devon output of tin from 87 thousand weight in 1291 to 38 thousand weight in 1296, a decline which has been attributed to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290. [Victoria History of Cornwall (1906), p. 525 British Mining (2nd ed.1887) 92, 918 (quoted in TJHSE, XXIX (1982), 23).] Furthermore, the name of at least one mine owner, Abraham the Tinner, who owned a number of stream works in 1342 and employed several hundred men, suggests that he was of Jewish origin. [Ibid. p. 540.]
The first mention of a resident Jew in Exeter was in 1181 when Piers Deulesalt [I.e. Dieu-le-saut, May God save him - the French translation of the Hebrew name Isaiah.] paid 10 marks Ώ mark = 13s. 4d.] that the king might take care of his bonds, [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', 223. A misprint in J. Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England (1893) (afterwards quoted as Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England), p. 73, makes Deulesalt pay the fine for his 'boys' instead of 'bonds'.] and by 1188 there were enough Jews to form a distinct community. The earliest recorded act of the new community was to pay a fine of one gold mark [A gold mark was eight ounces of gold.] that its members might be allowed to set up a Beth Din to try 'pleas which were between them in common'. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 222.]
How did the members of this community earn their daily bread? Without doubt, their main means of livelihood was the interest they received from money which they advanced on the security of lands, rents and chattels. Hundreds of documents survive relating to such transactions and innumerable references in the published volumes of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews. Only a double standard of ethics on the part of both Jews and Christians made this possible. The Church regarded usury as reprehensible and forbade its adherents to take interest. In principle, Jews were similarly inhibited, but the Church generally turned a blind eye to their activities - their spiritual welfare being of no concern to the Church. So far as Jews were concerned they could not take interest from one another, but it was not generally regarded as blameworthy to take interest from a non-Jew. [J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (Oxford, 1961), p. 57 (afterwards quoted as Katz, Exclusiveness).]
It has been strongly urged that Jews in medieval England, particularly those in the small towns and villages, must have engaged in other occupations and trades. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 282.] The proposition is logically acceptable though the evidence put forward to demonstrate it is sometimes a little forced. There is no reference in the Plea Rolls or any of the other published sources to suggest that the Jews of Exeter did anything other than advance money. Even in this, their most certain occupation, a degree of doubt remains. Did they act on their own behalf or were they acting as agents for the rich Jews of other towns? It is tantalizing to read of the rural activities of the Exeter financier, Jacob Copin, [Calendar of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, ed. J. M. Rigg (1905) (afterwards quoted as Rigg, Plea Rolls), I, 242. See also infra, p. 25.] who was assaulted whilst transacting business in Newton, and not to know what took him there, or on whose behalf he went.
A spontaneous popular outbreak against the Jews of England occurred in London in 1189 at the coronation of Richard I. This was followed by attacks on the Jews in almost all the towns in which they resided. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 22, says that only Winchester Jewry escaped molestation Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 223, asserts that none of the West Country Jewish communities was involved.] The riots caused a heavy loss to the Exchequer both by the impoverishment of the Jews who survived and the despoliation of those who were killed, part at least of whose property should have escheated to the Crown on their death. Provision was made in 1194 to safeguard the royal rights in the future. Six or seven cities [They were London, Lincoln, Norwich, Winchester, Canterbury, Oxford, and perhaps Bristol (Roth, Jews in England, p. 29).] were designated as centres through which all business transactions had to be channelled, and in those cities records were kept of all Jewish possessions and credits. In each of the designated towns two Jews and two Christian clerks, called chirographers, were appointed to safeguard the royal interest under the supervision of a representative from the newly established central authority. Orders were given that all deeds and contracts (chirographs) were to be drawn up in duplicate and the counterparts deposited in a chest (archa) secured by three locks. Ultimately, chirograph-chests were set up in each of the principal Jewish centres in the country, some twenty-seven in all. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 29, 30.] In the thirteenth century, they were established in the West Country at Bristol, Devizes, Exeter and Winchester. [Ibid. p. 91.] As an archa was sometimes established for the sake of a single Jewish financier, [Ibid. p. 29.] the presence of an archa in a town does not necessarily indicate a sizeable Jewish community. This may be illustrated by reference to the situation at Exeter where in 1276 there seem to have been only two Jews actively engaged in money-lending: Auntéra widow of Samuel son of Moses, and Isaac son of Moses, apparently her brother-in-law. In 1290, there was hardly a shadow of the formerly prosperous community of Exeter, the sole representative being a Jewess named Comitissa. Besides her house in the High Street, no other house was either owned or leased by Jews in Exeter, nor was there a synagogue. Yet, though the Jews were so few in number, at the Expulsion there were actually two archae, an old one for bonds executed up to 1275 and a new archa which had been opened in 1283. [H. G. Richardson, The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960) (afterwards quoted as Richardson, English Jewry), pp. 18, 19.]
The chirographers, both Christian and Jewish, were paid for their responsibilities, receiving one penny between them each time a chirograph or other instrument was removed from the archa. [V. D. Lipman, The Jews of Medieval Norwich (1967), p. 73. Cf. Rigg, Plea Rolls , I, 148, for an exceptional case where a depositor had free access to the chest, and also op. cit. p. 271.] They had to deposit a pledge against the proper performance of their duties. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 82.] Their office left them open to charges of incompetence, [Rigg, Plea Rolls loc. cit.] malpractice, for which they were collectively fined, [V. D. Lipman, 'The Roth "Hake" Manuscript', Remember the Days, ed. J. M. Shaftesley (1966), p. 55.] and fraud. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, II, 193, 200, 218, 258.] The chirographers, Christian and Jewish, were put to the trouble of travelling to London to give evidence in a case where the amount involved was forty shillings. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 132.] There is no evidence, however, to suggest that the office was either courted or shunned. Occasionally it passed from father to son. [TJHSE, VII, (1911), 44.] The chirographers of the Exeter archa, so far as they have been identified, are listed in Table 1.
Table 1: The chirographers of Exeter, 1224-90
First and last known dates of
Jewish chirographers office
First and last known dates of
Christian chirographers office
Ursell, son-in-law and of Amiot 1224 (ii)
Hak (Isaac) Richard Bollock 1266-77 (iv)
son of Deudoné before 1244 (v)
Thomas de Langedon 1266 (vi)
Josce Crespin 1224-66 and Bonenfant son of Leo 1244 (viii)
Lumbard Episcopus 1260-66 (ix)
Leo of Burg' before 1266 (x)
(i) Adler, 'Medieval Jews', pp. 227, 239.
(ii) Ibid. p. 239.
(iii) Ibid. p. 239. They acted together.
(iv) Ibid. p. 233.
(v) Ibid. p. 229.
(vi) Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 132.
(vii) Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 233.
(viii) Ibid. p. 228. Josce Crespin and Bonenfant acted together. Josce of Exeter, chirographer in 1266, was probably Josce Crespin (Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 132).
(ix) Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 229 and Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 135.
(x) Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 135. Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 231, identifies him with Lumbard Episcopus.
(xi) Adler, 'Medieval Jews', pp. 231, 232.
(xii) Ibid. p. 232. Another Exeter Jew, Deulegard, became chirographer of Winchester in 1253 (Ibid. p. 229).
Eventually the administrative system of the archae and chirographers became an effective instrument to raise money for the crown, but before then England had to pay a ransom of 𧴜,000 to the Emperor Henry VI for Richard the Lionheart. The contribution of English Jewry to this sum was assessed at 5,000 marks, a disproportionate amount, being three times as much as was demanded from the burghers of London, by far the richest city in the kingdom. Representatives of every Anglo-Jewish community were summoned to a 'Parliament' at Northampton on 30 March 1194, to decide the amount each community should pay towards the required sum. Payments to the Northampton Donum, as the tallage is called, reveal the presence of some twenty major Jewish communities as well as a number of minor ones scattered throughout the country. The most important centres were London, Lincoln, Canterbury, Northampton, and Gloucester, each with from twenty to forty contributors. [ Roth, Jews in England, p. 27.] The Jews of Exeter at this time were neither numerous nor affluent as only one man, Amiot, [Amiot was active in Exeter for some years. In 1204 he lent ٣ to Sir Henry de la Pomeroy (for whom see J. Prince, Worthies of Devon (1810), p. 645), for which the king exacted a tax of a bezant (2/-d.) for each ٟ. In 1211, he tenanted a house in the High Street belonging to one Godeknight (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 224).] contributed to the Donum, and his mite, ٟ. 3. 3d, was less than 2 out of the 5,000 marks demanded. [Jewish Historical Society of England, Miscellanies (afterwards quoted as MJHSE), I, lxvii: however, Richardson, English Jewry, p. 164 suggests that the financial records of the period are incomplete.]
The seventeen years during which John was King of England, 1199-1216, marked a turning point in the history of England as well as in the affairs of its Jewry. Hitherto, England had been closely connected with northern France and from thence had come the main body of the Jewish settlers in England. From its inception the Anglo-Jewish community had been French in character, and it maintained its links with France until the expulsion from England in 1290. The Jews of England spoke French, ['This is clear from the glosses of the English Tosafists and from the fact that Richard of Devizes makes a French Jew recommend a lad not to go northward in England, because he will find none speaking Romance' (Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, p. 338). See also The Sefer Ha-Shoham, ed. B. Kar (1947), p. 11.] bore French names, and regarded France as their haven of refuge in time of trouble. The Jews of England looked to the French rabbis for religious guidance. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 93.] English Jews shared with English nobles and the higher and more learned of the English clergy a common language and secular culture. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 93, but cf. A. E. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (Oxford, 1955), p. 2, who writes that 'by the latter part of the twelfth century it was well nigh impossible to tell whether a man was Norman or English'.] Their 'Frenchness' was characteristic not only of the Jews of London but also of those living in the provinces. Exeter Jews, even as late as the Expulsion, bore French names, such as Amiot, Bonenfant, Bonefey, Deudoné, Deulecresse, and Deulegard whilst the women were graced with names such as Amité, Nona, Chère, Ivoté, and Juetta. [TJHSE, II (1895), 91, and Adler, 'Medieval Jews', passim.]
A further indication of the close political ties and the similarity of administrative functions in the two countries are the Charters of Privilege granted by successive sovereigns from Henry I onward which were issued to the Jews of Normandy as well as of England. Once Normandy was lost, England again became, politically as well as geographically, an island. The Jews of England, too, were cut off from the great Continental centres of Jewry. The influx from abroad which had formerly provided the numbers necessary for the expansion and consolidation of provincial communities was checked. Had John decided to leave Normandy to the Normans the process of isolation may have done no harm and might even have strengthened the Jewish community by making it culturally and intellectually self-supporting. Unfortunately for England in general and its Jewry in particular, John's endeavors to recover Normandy led him to impose crippling taxation. It was this heavy burden of taxation which fell principally upon the Jews that hastened the decline of medieval Anglo-Jewry. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 34.]
The first attempt to satisfy the king's rapacity was made in Bristol in 1210. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 227 erroneously gives the date as 1216, see Roth, Jews in England, p. 35.] John arrived there after a campaign in Ireland, and he ordered all the wealthier Jews of England to appear before him for a scrutiny of their resources. Great cruelties were perpetrated on the assembled Jews to force them to reveal their wealth - the story of the Jew of Bristol whose teeth were extracted one by one became proverbial. As a result of the investigation, they were tallaged for 66,000 marks and kept in prison until the sum was paid or satisfactory guarantees given. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 227 gives the figure of 60,000 marks.] Eleven years later there were still debts outstanding from this tallage. The Exeter Jews who had not satisfied their obligation were Samuel of Wilton who had died, his widow, Iveta, Deodatus son of Amiot, Jacob of Gloucester, Samuel Episcopus, [See supra, p. 14, n. 7.] and Sampson cum ore (with the mouth). [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 227. Personal descriptions were not uncommon, e.g. Moses cum naso (with a nose), Manasseh grassus (big), Benedict longus (tall), Deudon<130] cum pedibus tortis (with lame feet) (H. P. Stokes, Studies in Anglo-Jewish History, (Edinburgh, 1913), p. 65).] Clearly the Exeter community had grown numerically and in financial importance since the Northampton Donum of 1194 to which only one individual contributed. The growth of Exeter Jewry at this period is indicated not only by its contribution to the Bristol Tallage but also by a number of references in the Fine and Oblate Rolls, 1204-5, to a further six members of the community. They were Samuel of Exeter and his wife Juetta, [Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, p. 239. In 1204, they lent 6 marks to Robert fil Ascelin.] Deulecresse le Evesque, [In 1205, he lent ٣ to John Sep (Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, p. 240). This Deulecresse was perhaps the progenitor of an Exeter family of Cohenim whose titular name became their surname. In 1266, there was a Deulecresse le Chapelyn of Exeter (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 231), probably identical with Deulecresse le Prestre of Exeter who is mentioned in 1277 (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 233). It is not unlikely that the 1205 Deulecresse was the grandfather of his 1270-6 namesake.] and Jacob son of Yveliny together with his brother Deulecres and his sister Sarra. [Together they lent Eustace son of Albert ٦ in 1205 (Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, p. 240). Yveliny also occurs in Exeter records as a Christian name (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 224).] Possibly, the provincial communities had been reinforced by Jews from London who were anxious to escape the close scrutiny of King John's officials, for his exactions pressed close one upon the other until the once wealthy Jews of London were so reduced that 'they prowled about the city like dogs'. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 36, quoting Chronicle of Lanercost, p. 7.]
The outbreak of civil war rendered the position of Jews throughout England insecure. The barons saw the Jews not only as creditors but also as royal agents, for the Jews were used by the king 'like a sponge, sucking up the floating capital of the country, to be squeezed from time to time into the Treasury'. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 52.] To mitigate the dispossessing effect of this method of raising money for the king, the barons caused the tenth and eleventh clauses to be written into Magna Carta. These stipulated that debts due to Jews or other usurers should bear no interest during the minority of the heirs of a deceased debtor, and that if the debts fell into the hands of the king then only the capital need be paid. Similarly, a widow's dowry and the support of her minor children were to be the first charge on the estate and all debts to be paid out of the residue. These clauses bear witness to the animosity of the Jew's everyday clients, and it has been said that only John's death in 1216 saved the Jews from further despoliation by him and from attacks by the populace. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 37.]
When the infant Henry III came to the throne, England was torn by the strife engendered by the conflict of John and the barons. But the Jews suffered not only from the troubled political scene but also from the deteriorating religious climate. In 1218, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave effect to the discriminatory decrees of the fourth Lateran Council. [Ibid. p. 40.] Popular feeling was aroused against the Jews, and in Exeter, at least, this must have run high against them, and they needed special protection. This may be deduced from a writ addressed to the Sheriff of Devon in 1218 couched in the following terms: [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 18.]
We command you that you have our Jews of Exeter in ward and countenance, neither doing, nor suffering to be done, to them, any mischief or molestation, and that, if any offend against them in any wise, you cause reparation to be made them without delay. We command you, likewise, that you neither lay, nor suffer be laid, hand . on their chattels, and that if any Jew offend in aught for which he deserve to be put by gage and pledge, you attach him by view of Deulecresse Episcopus, our bailiff in those parts, to be before our Justices assigned to the custody of the Jews at Westminster at a convenient term to answer thereof, and in the attachments do the said Justices to wit of the offence of the said Jew and the term which you have appointed him, and that you also have a care that, if any Jew or Jewess fall into our mercy, you may not by the Assize of our realm exact from such Jew or Jewess more than 20d. only. We therefore command you that on account of any amercement that concerns the Sheriff or Constable you exact not more than 20d. only. You are also, as you receive mandate from Us, to distrain their debtors within your bailiwick to pay their debts, that the debts which they owe Us may not remain unpaid by your default.
The measures taken by the Sheriff in pursuance of the writ presumably took effect, for there is no record of any violence or outbreaks against the Jews at this period.
During the royal minority, successive regents set about the task of rebuilding the shattered Jewish community. Apart from protection of the person secured by writs similar to that just quoted, financial relief was also granted. Tallages, at least until 1227, were light. The first of these was in 1221, when seventeen Jewish centers contributed 𧻬 towards a dowry for Princess Joan, sister of Henry III. [She married Alexander II, king of Scotland, at the age of eleven.] To this dowry Exeter Jewry contributed ٦. 5. 8d. The Exeter Jews who paid most towards this sum were Jacob of Gloucester, [He would be called 'of Gloucester' after he had left that town to reside in another. If he moved from Exeter, he would most likely then be known as Jacob of Exeter. Moses of Exeter, infra, known by that name whilst still in Exeter, was probably so called to distinguish him from another Moses in a different town.] ١. 11. 8d., and Deulecresse le Eveske, ٠. 10. 0d., followed by Ursell who gave 18s., Ursell, son-in-law of Amiot, 15s., Moses le Turk, 6s., and Moses of Exeter, 5s. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 227.] The Jewish community of Exeter throve under the rule of the regents, for only two years later in 1223 fifteen Exonian Jews and Jewesses were able to pay 㿺. 10. 6d. to a royal tax which brought in about ٟ,680 from the Jews of the whole country. Three of the Exeter contributors to this tallage were women. [Jewish women frequently acted as financiers in the medieval period and later periods (Roth, Jews in England, p. 115.] Bona daughter of Abraham gave ٟ. 10. 0d., and Chère together with Hanot between them paid ٟ. 11. 8d. The men mostly gave larger amounts. Jacob of Gloucester headed the list with a payment of 㾽 and 14 marks, Deulecresse comes next with 㾹. 18. 10d., Moses le Turk gave ٧. 6. 8d., Bonefey son of Isaac ٢, Ursell ٢, Ursell, son-in-law of Amiot, ١. 19. 8d., Sampson ٟ. 7. 4d., and Moses son of Solomon 13s. 4d. New Exeter residents mentioned for the first time are Solomon of Dorchester who together with his son-in-law Deulecresse subscribed ٠. 10. 0d., Jacob of Norwich who gave 5 marks and Lumbard son of Deulecresse Episcopus who gave 13s. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 228.] The last tallage imposed on English Jewry during Henry's minority was one of 4,000 marks, but, unless the records are incomplete, Exeter Jewry did not contribute towards it. [Ibid. p. 223.]
The first quarter of the thirteenth century marks the zenith of Anglo-Jewry's as well as Exeter Jewry's prosperity in the medieval period. Under the personal rule of Henry III, however, the Anglo-Jewish community was taxed so heavily and in such arbitrary fashion that it began to diminish in numbers and financial importance. In the first decade of Henry's personal rule onerous tallages were imposed in 1229, 1230, 1231, 1233, 1234, 1236, and 1237 of 6,000, 9,000, 15,000, 35,000, 750, 10,000 and 3,000 marks respectively. [The following table, after Roth, Jews in England, p. 271, summarizes the royal exactions and illustrates the rapid rise in the rate of taxation and the resultant impoverishment of the community in the second half of the century:
Year Amount in marks 1221 - 1230 33,000 1231 - 1240 63,000 1241 - 1250 117,000 1251 - 1260 72,000 1261 - 1270 6,000. Richardson says that various writers have greatly exaggerated the tallages exacted by Henry III (Richardson, English Jewry, p. 214.)] The 3,000 marks in 1237 were a gift to Richard of Cornwall, for his intended crusade.] Detailed accounts of the collection of these imposts have not survived and it is therefore not possible to assess the relative importance of Exeter Jewry's contribution to the national total, but presumably they had to pay their share. [Although the city and castle of Exeter were given by the king to his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in 1231, the Jews of Exeter remained the sole property of the Crown, and continued to pay their taxes to the royal treasury (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 228).] Nor was there any relief from the high level of taxation in the succeeding years of the reign. In February 1241, 109 Jews from the twenty-one communities of the realm then recognized were summoned to Worcester to a so-called 'Parliament of Jews'. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 45.] They were the delegates appointed to consider ways and means of raising a new tallage of 20,000 marks, and they themselves were to act as assessors and collectors to aid the Sheriffs in collecting the tax from their fellow Jews. The larger Jewries such as London, York, Cambridge and others sent six delegates, whilst Exeter Jewry, never very numerous, sent only four. They were Jacob of Gloucester, Deulecresse Episcopus, Bonenfant son of Judah, and Josce Crespin son of Abraham. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 228.] When the Exeter Jews did not pay their share of this Worcester tallage it was Joseph Crespin, by then one of the Jewish Chirographers of Exeter, who became responsible for the outstanding balance of 㿋. 1. 4d. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 75.]
The royal exactions continued unabated until the Jews of England had been stripped of all their immediately realizable possessions. But even when the Jews themselves were no longer able to provide the money which Henry always needed they still represented a marketable asset. Accordingly, in 1251, the king mortgaged them for two years as security for a loan of 5,000 marks to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who 'was thus permitted to disembowel those whom the King had flayed'. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 47. Richard protected 'his' Jews and taxed their resources with discretion.] At the end of this period Exeter Jewry paid ١. 15. 0d. towards a total collection of 𧷸 and the following year, in 1254, the communal fund of the Jewry in Exeter gave ٠ towards a tallage of 1,000 marks. Besides the small communal donation two individuals were also assessed for this tallage, one an unnamed local debtor of Aaron son of Abraham of London for 㾶, and Bonenfant the chirographer for 12 marks. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 229. In 1255, Bonenfant was the pledge for another royal tallage, as well as for ٣. 5s. 0d. tax due from another Exeter Jew, Isaac son of Abraham.]
Between 1254 and 1260 the Jews of England were tallaged for 32,000 marks. Most of this large sum was paid by rich individuals who were often eventually reduced to penury. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 172 and Roth, Jews in England, p. 49.] Such a one was the formerly wealthy Exeter Jew, Jacob of Gloucester. In 1221, and again in 1223, he had been the largest Exeter contributor to tallages imposed on Jews in those years. And yet, in the closing years of his life [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 151, where Belia is his widow in 1267. He was still alive in 1263 when he had business dealings with Bonenfant (Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 182).] he was only able to give 13s. to the tallage demanded in 1260. Nor were his fellow Jews in Exeter by then in much better case. Lumbard Episcopus [At his decease the value of his chattels, within and without the archa, was 40s. Tercia, his widow, paid one mark fine to take up her inheritance.] paid 6s. 8d., Bonenfant four marks, his brother Samuel two and a half marks and Joseph son of Moses gave 4s., the total amounting to ٦. 6. 4d. This modest sum seems to represent the total realizable wealth of Exeter's Jews as they were unable to pay anything at all to a further tax in that same year. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 230. A rigorous search of Exeter's archa by the Sheriff revealed no assets (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 230).]
When the Jews were squeezed by the king, they in turn had to press their Gentile debtors for prompt repayment. In the circumstances there were many disputes which were brought to court. In the Exeter courts, at least, the Jew was fairly treated. An interesting record of the procedure adopted in Exeter has survived. It is contained in a description of local customs and business regulations current in Exeter just after the middle of the thirteenth century. The description was published under the title of An Anglo-Norman Custumal of Exeter by Professor J. W. Schopp and Miss R.C. Easterling. [Published in London, 1925, for the History of Exeter Research Group of the University College of the South-West.] The reference to the Jews reads as follows:
A plea of a Christian against a Jew could not be heard without Jew and Christian nor the plea of a Jew against a Christian without Christian and Jew, and the Jew must give wage and pledge that he will pursue his plea and the Christian likewise that he will stand to the law, and if he cannot find a pledge, he, the Christian, must be plevied by affiance [i.e. he must be bailed on his solemn promise]. [Paragraph 65, p. 37.]
The procedure outlined in the custumal was used in actual practice. [But cf. Rigg, Plea Rolls, II, 194 where 12 Christians and 8 Jews make inquest on a disputed charter. For the permissibility of Jews making Christians take a Christological oath in spite of a prohibition against doing so (Sanhedrin, 63b), see Katz, Exclusiveness p. 35. Some Jews relinquished their claims rather than take any oath, see I. Elfenbein, Teshuvot Rashi (New York, 1943), p. 327.]
The Jews formed one of the objects of dispute in the constitutional struggle between Henry III and his barons. The lesser baronage, in particular, was affected by financial dealings with the Jews. One of the complaints specifically aired at the Parliament of Oxford in 1258 was that the Jews sold lands taken in pledge by them to the great magnates, who then refused to accept repayment of the outstanding debt so that they could retain possession of the lands. In the revolt of the barons led by Simon de Montfort from 1262 to 1267, much havoc was wrought to the Jewries of London, Canterbury, Bristol and other cities and in each place the archa was either burned or carried off. [ Roth, Jews in England, pp. 59-62.] The revolt did not spread to Devonshire and the small Jewry of Exeter was left unharmed by the general disorders. Indeed, it was regarded as a place of safety as six deeds were sent from London for safe deposit in the Exeter archa when the seal of the Exchequer of the Jews was stolen during the uprising in London. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 231.] It is therefore not surprising to read that the Exeter chirographers, both Christian and Jewish, were reluctant to leave the security of Devon and go to London in 1266. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 132. They would not go of their own accord, the Sheriff had to send them. In addition, the Jews probably had to pay a tax for leaving Exeter, even temporarily, to go to London (Cf. Calendar of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, ed. H. G. Richardson (1972), IV, 147, item 81).] Their fears were justified as a Jew, Jacob Baszyn, formerly resident in Exeter, was murdered in Oxford in 1286, probably in the disturbances of the 'Disinherited Knights' following de Montfort's fall. [C. Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford (Oxford, 1951), p. 28.]
The last years of Henry's long reign marked an effort to strengthen the position of the Jews. Those who had emigrated were encouraged to return. Jews were permitted to claim their debts, notwithstanding the destruction of the archae, if reasonable proof of them could be produced. Citizens were nominated to protect the Jews in towns where they had been particularly hard used. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 63-4.] It was, perhaps, these improved conditions which encouraged Jacob Copin, Jewish chirographer in Exeter, to seek redress when he was assaulted. The incident occurred in 1270 whilst he was transacting business in the vill of Newton. [Probably the present Newton Abbbot. Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 231, n. 9, says that one of his clients was a Paulinus of Newton. See supra, p. 12.] He was assaulted by one Robert of Buleshill, Christiana his wife and William le Layte. When Copin brought an action against them they absconded, and the Sheriff was ordered to arrest them and bring them to justice. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 242. William de La Leye, probably the same as this William le Layte, was the guardian of Hugh Fychet who in 1274 claimed that Copin and Jacob Crespin had fraudulently placed an 㿼 bond in the archa (Rigg, Plea Rolls, II, 140). The assault may mark the beginning of the dispute.] The provisions to strengthen the Jewries of the realm, successfully enabled the Jews to recuperate. Whereas in 1267 the Jews of Exeter had been totally denuded of their ready cash, by 1272 Jacob Copin was able to pay 㿀 to Henry's last tallage. This comparatively large amount does not necessarily indicate that Copin himself had become a wealthy man, but rather that he had collected it from his fellow Jews in Exeter and paid it on their behalf. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 231.]
When Edward I came to the throne of England, 1272-1307, he showed himself to be no less extravagant than his predecessors and he sought every opportunity to raise revenue. A memoranda roll of Edward I's reign records that a fortnight after Easter, 1272, the sheriff of Devon was to render an account of his tallage. Apparently, he promptly did as he was ordered as there is no record of any failure to do so. [Rigg, Plea Rolls, IV, 49.] In 1277, on the other hand, John Wygger, the sheriff of Devon, was fined for the late return of writs concerning Jews, though he was later pardoned because he was dead! [Ibid. 103, 107.] Late in 1273, a tallage was levied on the Jews assessed at one-third of all their movable goods, that is, their bonds and valuables. Once again the effect was to throw the burden upon Christian debtors who were pressed to repay so that the Jews might be quit of their own obligations. Again Christian debtors protested against the effects of Jewish usury but this time their protest was reinforced with the authority of the Church. In 1274, the Council of Lyons, acting under the spur of Pope Gregory X, urged the Christian world to greater efforts against the sin of usury. Encouraged by Church and Laity the Statutum de Judeismo was issued at Worcester in 1275. By it Jews were absolutely forbidden to lend money at interest. Outstanding transactions had to be wound up as soon as possible. The right of distraint on land was severely curtailed and the alienation of real estate by Jews was forbidden without special permission. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 70.]
The crippling provisions of the Statutum, if carried out to the letter, would have left the Jews with hardly any means of livelihood. It is true that some Jews, particularly in the provincial centres, traded in corn and wool, as appears from a summary of the bonds for money, corn and wool held by Jews throughout England at the Expulsion. The round figures in which the amounts of corn are expressed and the absence of any qualitative differentiation suggests that dealings in corn 'conceal clandestine moneylending operations' [Roth, Jews in England, p. 272.] But the specification of quality [Cf. H. Jenkinson, Calendar of the Plea Rolls, (1929), III, 200, 'good, dry pure clean and better wheat and without evil moisture'] and details of time and place of delivery [R. R. Mundill, 'Anglo-Jewry under Edward I', TJHSE, XXXI (1990), pp. 1-21 strongly supports the view that the transactions were genuine, and that the Jews had become credit-agents trading in futures.] as well as external evidence [Richard of Devizes (ed. Howlett, p. 437) writing in 1192, 'Exeter feeds men and beasts with the same corn'.] seems to indicate that the transactions were genuine. Exeter's main import at this time was wine [W. G. Hoskins, Devon (1954), p. 107.] which the Jews also imported [Roth, Jews in England, p. 115.] so the Exeter Jews may have participated in the wine trade. But the Jews of Wiltshire, Exeter and Bristol left bonds which related, in the main, to monetary transactions, [TJHSE, II (1894), pp. 85-105.] and must have found themselves hard pressed financially. Although the Jews of England were able to eke out only a bare existence after the passing of the Statutum in 1275, they were nevertheless still expected to make large contributions to the royal purse. A tallage was imposed in 1275 which most were unable to pay. Those who were still in this unfortunate position by the following year were imprisoned, their chattels confiscated, and their wives and children deported. Debts owing to Jews became part and parcel of the commercial life of the wider community. Thus a Plea Roll of 1277 records [Rigg, Plea Rolls, IV, 98.] that a further tallage of 3,000 marks was imposed in 1277-8 notwithstanding the difficulty experienced in collecting the earlier tallage. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 73.]
With their old sources of livelihood cut off, the poorer Jews sought other means, often illegal, to keep themselves from starvation. Some sought refuge in apostasy, the numbers in the Domus Conversorum [See TJHSE, I (1893), pp. 15-24. A Jew's property escheated to the king when he or she was converted to Christianity. The ensuing poverty proved a bar to conversion of Jews. Neophytes were therefore given '. a home and a safe refuge for their whole lives with sufficient sustenance without servile work . ' (C. Trice Martin, 'The Domus Conversorum', TJHSE, I (1893), p. 15, quoting Mathew Paris).] rising to nearly one hundred. Others are said to have taken to highway robbery. Most carried on their old profession, making use of the devices invented by Christian usurers to evade canon law. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 74. For Christian moneylenders and their methods of evading Canon Law on usury, see Abrahams, Starrs and Charters, ii, civ - cviii.] Yet another way of augmenting their income, coin-clipping, was practised by some Jews. They filed the edges of the coins in which they dealt and melted the 'clippings' into bullion. The evil was no new one, early in John's reign an Assize of Money had taken place to enquire into the debasement of the coinage. Not only the Jews but also the Cahorsins, the Flemish wool traders and indeed everyone who handled coins in large numbers was suspected, and with some reason, of making illicit profits from coin-clipping. [See Richardson, English Jewry, pp. 217-223 for a discussion of the subject.] In December 1276, it was found that the coinage was in a bad shape, so justices were appointed to try accusations of coin-clipping made against both Jews and Christians.
At this stage Christians were suspected as the principal offenders it was only later, almost perhaps by accident, it was realized that in these trials lay a golden opportunity to extract further revenue from the Jews. In November 1278, all the Jews of the kingdom were arrested and a house to house search made. 680 men and women against whom evidence was found or could be manufactured were sent for trial to London, and 293 of them were hanged. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 75. A perusal of the receipts of perquisites at the Tower from the Jews of London, 1277-8, indicates some dozens of different excuses for 'fleecing' the Jews (Rigg, Plea Rolls, IV, pp. 173-194).] The king profited considerably from the Jews' troubles. So much property fell into his hands as the result of the forfeitures and escheats consequent upon the executions that a special department was set up to deal with it. The Exeter Jewry did not pass unscathed through these perilous times. Eleven Exonians including one non-Jew were arrested. They were Blakeman son of Jacob Copin, Aaron of Caerleon, Deulecresse le Chapleyn, Leo and Copin sons of Lumbard, Solomon the son of Solomon, Benedict of Wilton, Ursell, Isaac Ericun, Aaron of Dorchester, Jorin son of Isaac, and a non-Jew, James de Fenys. The defendants were allowed bail, but there is no record of what finally happened. [Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 234.] Jacob Copin, father of the accused Blakeman, was hanged about this time, [Close Rolls, 1284, p. 278. See also infra, p. 33, n. 4 and supra, p. 12.] probably on a charge of tampering with the coinage. [It is surprising that though his house was confiscated at his death his property was not forfeited, 35 of his bonds valued at 𧸝 were in the archa when it was opened in 1290. His clients included Sir Robert le Denys, Richard Bullock, the goldsmith, who was one of the Christian chirographers, two priests, Roger de Moleyns and Arnulf of Hunecroft, and numerous other residents of Devon and Somerset (Adler, 'Medieval Jews', p. 237).] Ursell may have followed his or a namesake's earlier example and fled the country. [In 1238, Ursell of Exeter fled after a Jewish enquiry into coin-clipping (Richardson, English Jewry, p. 221, n. 1).]
The Statutum de Judeismo was unworkable in the context of medieval English society. The severity of its provisions was soon ameliorated and a modified form of money-lending was authorized. But the local Jewry never really recovered from the setback it received after the Act was passed and from the troubles that followed the charges of coin-clipping. The Jews who were left in Exeter resumed their former occupation but they lent only small sums. [When the archa was opened in 1290, 24 tallies were found recording loans ranging from 2s. to ١. 13s. 3d. the few that were dated were from 1286-1289.]
The hostility of the clergy towards the Jews was not peculiar to England. In 1096, there were popular outbreaks stimulated by centuries of clerical animosity against the Jews in all the cities of northern and central Europe. [J. Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue (Philadelphia, 1961), p. vii, and Katz, Exclusiveness, p. xi.] The legislation covering Jews which was passed by various synods in England reflected, and was sometimes prompted by, the pronouncements of successive popes and European Church Councils. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 76-7.] The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, for example, was concerned at the rapid spread of heresy in Europe, and decided that too free intercourse with Jews was largely responsible for it. [H. Graetz, History of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1956) (afterwards quoted as Graetz, History of the Jews), iii, 509. Graetz asserts that 'the great misery of the Jews during the Middle Ages began with Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran Council'.] The Council passed certain measures, designed to check Jewish influence among Christians, which were introduced into England in 1218, [The ground had been prepared by a series of tracts against the Jews: Dialogus inter Christianum et Judaeum de fide catholica (anonymous, between 1123-48). Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter's Dialogus contra Judaeos ad corrigendum et perficiendum destinatus (1180-4) Peter of Blois, Invectiva contra perfidiam Judaeorum (c. 1204) (TJHSE, XVII (1951), 230). Bartholomew's Dialogus may have been prompted by the settlement of Jews in Exeter at that period (supra, p. 10).] and were renewed and reinforced at synods at Worcester in 1240, at Chichester some six years later, at Salisbury in about 1256, and at Exeter in 1287. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 54, 77-8.] The anti-Jewish code thus promulgated contained a number of humiliating and degrading conditions. All Jews had to wear a distinguishing badge - 'ostensibly to prevent the scandal of unwitting sexual intimacy between unbelievers and the faithful'. [Ibid. p. 40.] Jews were forbidden to employ Christian servants, to enter churches or keep their property in them. Jews were not allowed to build new synagogues. They had to acknowledge the local priest as their overlord by paying church tithes based not only on their real estate but even on the usurious profits which they were supposed not to make. [Graetz, History of the Jews, iii, p. 516.] Life was only made bearable by royal influence and also by Time - the great healer. The renewal of the regulations at successive synods was necessary because their full force became blunted, for with the passage of time many of the regulations lapsed into desuetude. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 119-121. Katz, Exclusiveness, p. 9, however, asserts that occasional infringements did provoke public admonitions.]
One result of religious fanaticism on the one hand and ignorant credulity on the other was the invention in England of the infamous Ritual Murder accusation. This was first made on Easter Eve 1144, when the dead body of William, a young apprentice, was found in a wood near Norwich. Rumours spread that he was a victim of the Jews who had crucified him on their Passover, but no Jew was tried or punished for the alleged crime. [Jew. Encycl. s.v. BLOOD ACCUSATION. Hardly a decade had passed since 1144 without the 'Blood Libel' being raised somewhere. Riots following publication of Ritual Murder charges occurred in Russia, in Tashkent in 1961, and Margelan in 1962 (, 25 January 1963).] Further accusations of similar crimes followed at Gloucester in 1168, Bury St. Edmunds in 1181, and Bristol in 1183. No trials were held after these latter charges either, but popular rumour was sufficient to establish the martyrdom of the children involved. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 13, 18, 21.] These child martyrs attracted considerable numbers of pilgrims, no doubt with economic benefit, to the cathedrals and abbeys where their relics were housed.
The Church was not the sole beneficiary of the new hagiolatry the king, too, required compensation for the supposed loss of one of his subjects. In 1239, an alleged murder in London was punished by the confiscation of one-third of the ten richest Jews' property. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 45.] Further charges accompanied by heavy fines for the Jewish community at large and fatal consequences for the individuals concerned were made in London in 1244, Lincoln ['Little St. Hugh of Lincoln.'] in 1255, and Northampton in 1277. [Roth, Jews in England, pp. 55, 56, 78.]
Converts both to and from the dominant faith frequently caused trouble. At Lynn in Norfolk in 1190, for example, some Jews followed a former coreligionist into a church where he had taken refuge to escape their insults. An uproar followed which soon turned into a riot. [Ibid. p. 21. Other instances were: in 1234, at Norwich (p. 53) in 1274, London Jews coerced a woman convert to go overseas so that she might return to her ancestral faith in 1290, at Oxford (p. 83).] Exeter Jews were probably involved when many of the leading members of the Oxford Jewry were imprisoned on a charge of rescuing a boy who had become a Christian, the lost infant being traced to Exeter in 1236. [Ibid. p. 271. It was deemed specially meritorious to assist converts, especially those who had apostatized under duress, to escape from Christianity (Sefer Hasidim (Berlin edn. 1891), pp. 200, 201, 209).] But the greatest damage was caused by conversions to Judaism. In 1222, a deacon was burnt at Oxford for becoming a Jewish proselyte. After his conversion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, zealously supported by the Bishops of Norwich and Lincoln, threatened with excommunication even those who sold to the Jews the basic necessities of life. Fortunately for the Jews this last enactment was countermanded by the king, else they would have starved. [Ibid. p. 41.] Another proselyte is said to have been one of the direct causes of the decision to expel the Jews from England. He was Robert of Reading, a Dominican friar who some years before the Expulsion embraced Judaism, adopted the name of Haggai and married a Jewess. [In TJHSE, VI (1908), p. 255 ff., various dates are given for the incident from 1260-75.] But even converts from Judaism to Christianity proved to be a source of vexation to the Church. For whereas Christians apostatized at the risk of their lives and demonstrated depth of character and courage in so doing, most of the Jews who left their community had much to gain. The wealthy Jew was deterred from accepting Christianity as, at his baptism he had to sacrifice the greater part of his wealth to the king, who was deprived henceforth from deriving a profit from 'his' Jew. So it was those who had little or nothing to lose materially who joined the Church, and these converts often proved to be little loss to the faith they left and little gain to the one they joined. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 32, and Roth, Jews in England, p. 83. For a discussion of the motives leading to apostasy see Katz, Exclusiveness, pp. 74-6.] But the Christian clergy was not only irritated by the qualitative but also by the quantitative gain, [M. Adler minimized the total (Jews of Medieval England (London, 1939) (afterwards quoted as Adler, Medieval England), p. 32).] which remained comparatively small. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 29, corrects Adler's view that the number was insignificant. On the other hand, Katz, Exclusiveness, p. 68, strongly suggests that throughout Europe there were only isolated instances of voluntary conversion.] Six known converts came from Exeter, four men and two women, though there may have been more. [Nicholas le Jew at St. Winnow, Cornwall, in 1321, must surely have been a convert (Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, p. 914).] The men were the brothers Samuel and Solomon, sons of Leo, [Perhaps Leo of Bourg, chirographer about 1266.] who were converted before 1266 and 1270 respectively, [Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, pp. 132, 265.] Henry of Exeter, a clerk, and Richard the elder of the same city, a tailor. [Adler, Medieval England, p. 309. It is not impossible that Henry and Richard are the baptismal names of Samuel and Solomon.] One of the women was called Alice of Exeter [Adler, Medieval England, p. 351. She was one of the 28 women who resided in the Domus from 1280. Alice and Claricia were still there in 1308 (TJHSE, IV (1899), p. 54).] and the other was Claricia, [TJHSE, IV (1899), p. 26.] daughter of Jacob Copin who was hanged about 1280. [Supra, p. 29, n. 1.] Claricia entered the Domus in 1280, probably at a tender age because she died there seventy six years later, by which time she had become the sole resident. [She left the Domus in 1309, went back to Exeter, married and had two children, Richard and Katherine. In 1327, she left the children in Exeter and returned to the Domus where they joined her in 1333. Richard was granted a pension of one and a half pence a day even when he left the Domus (TJHSE, IV (1899), p. 26).] These six Exeter Jews who converted to Christianity represent about 6.7 per cent of Jews who are known to have resided in Exeter from 1180 until 1290. [If Henry and Richard are the same as Solomon and Samuel then the percentage is reduced to about 4.5 per cent.] If this proportion was typical of Anglo-Jewry as a whole, then the frustration of Christian clerics 'to whom the unconverted Jew was a standing reproach' is, perhaps, understandable. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 28.]
In 1286, Pope Honorius addressed a letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in which he called upon them to reaffirm the decisions of the Lateran Councils. This letter had a baleful influence on the Synod of Exeter a year later in 1287 under Peter Quivil, [He was Bishop of Exeter from 1280-91 (G. Oliver, Lives of the Bishops of Exeter (Exeter, 1861), p. 48.] when 'all the ancient canonical strictures against the Jews were reinforced with a severity seldom paralleled'. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 77.] Special stress was laid on the following enactments:
No Christian should take medicine from a Jewish doctor
Jews had to pay taxes to parish clergy and wear a distinguishing badge when out on the streets
They were forbidden to appear on the streets or even to have their windows open at Easter
Jews and Christians were not to visit each other or join in any festivities [In 1286 a wealthy Jewish financier of Hereford had invited his Christian friends to his daughter's wedding which was celebrated with 'displays of silk and cloth of gold, horsemanship and playing sports and minstrelsy' (W. W. Capes, Registrum R. de Swinfield, pp. 120-1).]
They were not to enter churches, or to build new synagogues. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 78.]
These enactments must have been strictly enforced in the city of their promulgation, and for a time, at least, a certain degree of unpleasantness must have ensued for the Jews of the city. This Synod was probably the cause of the rapid dwindling in the number of Exeter Jews shortly before the Expulsion. For whereas there seem to have been at least forty Jews actively engaged in money-lending in the years immediately before 1290, [TJHSE, II (1894), 91.] only one, a Jewess called Comitissa, had a house there when the final blow fell. [TJHSE, II (1894), 91, no. 39. V. D. Lipman estimates the Jewish population of Norwich at the time of the expulsion to have been about fifty or sixty (V. D. Lipman, The Jews of Medieval Norwich (1967), p. 38). If the number of bondholders and the value of their bonds are any criteria then the medieval Jewish population of Exeter was about 100 at the time of the expulsion in 1290.]
A combination of crippling taxation and repressive legislation had brought the fortunes of Anglo-Jewry low. As providers of capital they had been superseded by Christian moneylenders. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 84.] They did not fit into feudal society nor were the leaders of that society sufficiently advanced in their political thinking to accept on equal terms people of different religious faith. [Ibid. p. 72.] On this count alone, Edward could justify his decision to expel an group which refused to be assimilated. But there was an even more attractive advantage to be gained by a general expulsion of the Jews - a financial one. This had already been demonstrated when Edward expelled the Jews from his Gascon dominions in 1289 and confiscated their property. [Richardson, English Jewry, p. 225.] The confiscated property proved a welcome addition to his depleted funds, but it did not amount to a very great deal, and Edward's needs were both great and pressing, as he had entered into heavy commitments to ransom his cousin, Charles of Salerno. [Ibid.] When he turned to his English Jewry, he discovered that it produced very little in terms of day-to-day revenue. [In 1190, the Jews had provided one-seventh of the royal income, by 1290 the proportion had dropped to one one-hundredth (Roth, Jews in England, p. 84).] Its assets in bonds and immovable property, however, were substantial. Lists of all the bonds and obligations on account of money and produce owing at the time of the Expulsion to the Jews in eleven of the seventeen towns in which they resided are extant. The total value on record is about ٧,100, the Exeter Jewry accounting for some ٟ,238 of this amount. There were 39 bondholders in the Exeter archa and five of them had bonds for more than two-thirds of Exeter's total, see Table 2.
Table 2: Bonds in the Exeter archa, 1290
2 Lumbard, son of Deulecress
14. 0. 0d
All these assets were Edward's for the taking if he repeated his Gascony expedient. This he determined to do, and on 18 July 1290, writs were issued to the sheriffs of various English counties, informing them that all Jews were ordered, on pain of death, to leave the realm before 1 November 1290. [Roth, Jews in England, p. 85.] The edict was carried out with humanity, and the few who ill-treated the Jews as they left the country were punished. Provincial Jews made their way to London and from thence they sought refuge with their brethren overseas. The medieval Anglo-Jewry was no more. [For the main routes of the Expulsion see Map 2.]
Was there an organized community of Jews in Cornwall in the medieval period? There is no evidence to suggest that there was. Individual Jews certainly settled there [Aaron of Cornwall together with Moses Rod were arrested at Uxbridge in 1244 on a charge of stealing a horse (Rigg, Plea Rolls, I, 98). He may be identical with Aaron of Caerleon (? Carlyon Bay, 3 miles from St Austell).] and may have participated in the tin trade as may be inferred from the Liber Rubeus of the Treasury from the Capitula de Stannatoribus, 9 Ric. I:
Also neither man nor woman, Christian nor Jew, shall presume to buy or sell any tin of the first smelting, nor to give or remove any of the first smelting from the Stannary or out of the place appointed for weighing and stamping, until it shall be weighed and stamped in the presence of the keepers and clerks of the weight and stamp of the farm.
Also neither man nor woman, Christian nor Jew, shall presume, in the Stannaries nor out of the Stannaries, to have in his or her possession any tin of the first smelting beyond a fortnight unless it be weighed and stamped.
Also neither man nor woman, Christian nor Jew, in market towns and borough on sea or on land, shall presume to keep beyond thirteen weeks tin of the first smelting weighed and stamped, unless it be into the second smelting and the mark discharged.
Also neither man nor woman, Christian nor Jew, shall presume in any manner to remove tin either by sea or by land, out of the counties of Devon and Cornwall unless he or she have the licence of the Chief of the Stanneries. [Quoted by Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England, p. 186.]
It is possible, however, that the phrases 'neither man nor woman, Christian nor Jew' were a stereotyped legal term which meant 'everybody'. If this was so then no inference can be drawn from the Liber Rubeus about medieval Jewish tin trading. There is, however, a very explicit reference to such trading in Camden's Brittania (1586) where he says that in the time of King John the mines were farmed by the Jews for 100 marks. [Ibid. p. 188.]
Some support for the assumption that medieval Jews actually worked underground is to be found in the folklore of Cornish legend. According to the tradition of Cornish miners, unidentifiable noises were thought to be caused by spirits called 'knockers'. These were supposed to be the spirits of Jews who were at work in the mines. So as not to offend them, nobody was allowed to make the sign of the cross underground. [Quoted by Arthur Bluett, Cornish Magazine, ed. A. T. Quiller-Couch (Truro, 1899), ii, 274.] Some miners thought that the knockers were the spirits of the Jews who were alleged to have crucified Jesus, and it was said that the knockers never worked on Christmas Day, the Jews' Sabbath, Easter day and All Saints Day. [Ibid. p. 269.]
A medieval relic which perhaps demonstrates the close connection between Jews and the mining industry has survived in the form of an alloy casting of a figure inscribed with four Hebrew letters. The figure was dug up on Bodmin Moor near Helmen Tor in the parish of Lanlivery, significantly, perhaps, near the site of a Jew's House. [Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, XVII (1907), 320.] It is at present housed in the collection of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro. The figure is 5.5 inches high, 4.3 inches wide at its base, 3.6 inches deep and weighs 9 pounds 9 ounces. It clearly portrays a bearded man sitting on a high backed chair or throne. Until it was lost in a late nineteenth century fire, there was a crown on the man's head. The man has tentatively been identified with Richard, Earl of Cornwall and the four Hebrew letters, Nun, Resh, Shin, Mem, have been said to be the initial letters of four Hebrew words referring to Richard as 'Rapacious Eagle - The Almighty is our King'. [See the descriptive card relating to this object at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro.] As the letters are scattered over the figure this identification is most uncertain and it is difficult to do more than hazard a guess at the meaning of the letters and the purpose of the figures. One possibility which suggests itself is that the object was made by a Cornish miner who gave it as a pledge to a Jew. If this presumption is correct then the letters might represent its value and the time of its redemption. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the pledgee would mar a pledge with such large and deeply incised letters. Perhaps the object was used in pseudo-Cabbalistic or Black Magic rites and hence the Hebrew lettering, [I am indebted to Mr H. Douch, Curator of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, for this suggestion. He also weighed and measured the figure.] or it may even have been used as a medieval chess piece.
There is also a suggestion of a connection between medieval Jewry and Cornwall which relies on the literal meaning of the Hebrew phrase used to designate England. [, 13 March 1845.] Some medieval Jewish scholars referred to England as Ketzei HaAretz, [Though the more usual name for England was Iyyei HaYam (see TJHSE, XVII (1952), 74, n. 2).] a phrase which can be literally rendered as Land's End. According to one suggestion the Jews' first contact with England was at Land's End and they afterwards used the Hebrew name for Land's End to designate England as a whole.
Finally, it is difficult to imagine why a writ issued in 1283 to some twenty Sheriffs, all known to have Jews under their jurisdiction, to go in person to all the chests of the chirographers of the Jews in their bailiwicks, should also be sent to the Sheriff of Cornwall, unless there were Jews actually in his county [TJHSE, IV (1899), 215.] however, no reference to an archa in Cornwall, and at least one archa was established elsewhere for a single Jew, [See supra, p. 13, n. 3.] has come to light.
After their expulsion from England, the medieval Jews left behind only a slight impression of their two century sojourn. In Devon, one relic of their stay has not been noted in any of the standard works of Anglo-Jewish history. It is Jews' Bridge, the lowest bridge over the River Bovey, some two and a half miles south-west of Chudleigh, [Ordnance Survey, (1960), SX 87/839,765.] which was built before 1399. [Episcopal Registers of Exeter: Edmund Stafford (1886), p. 223.] In 1406, the vicar of Buckfastleigh willed 12 pence each to the Totnes Bridge, the Dart Bridge and the 'ponti Judeorum'. [H. R. Watkins, Totnes Priory and Medieval Town (Torquay, 1914), p. 348.] In 1421, an indulgence of 40 days was granted to those who contributed to the upkeep of 'Jewysbrugge'. [The Place names of Devon, ed. J. E. B. Gover, A. Marver, O. F. M. Stenton (Cambridge, 1932), p. 469.] It was repaired in 1643, [C. Henderson, Old Devon Bridges (Exeter, 1938), p. 47.] and widened in 1753, at which time it was called Judar's Bridge, [Exeter City Council Act Book, XIV (1753), 198.]. It was replaced in the early nineteenth century [C. Henderson, Old Devon Bridges (Exeter, 1938), p. 47.] and again in 1966, still keeping its name Jews' Bridge. The origin of the name is not now known, though the suggestion by William White [White, Devon Direct. p. 470.] that it was so called because it was built by one of the Jewe family is untenable in view of the early reference to ponti Judeorum. Possibly, it was so called because the medieval Jews paid special tolls when they used it [See Roth, Jews in England, p. 103, n. 1.] that they acquired the toll rights that it was built with monies raised from a special tax levied on Jews [Cf. the cross at Oxford built with Jews' money, 1275, (Richardson, Plea Rolls, IV, 76).] that the burial ground for medieval Jewry was situated close by, [The medieval Jewish cemetery at York is in a place called Jewbury. Perhaps Jewysbrugge in Devon was adapted from a name similar to Jewbury.] and sadly and most likely, that the bridge was the site of a tragedy involving Jews. [Compare, for example, the origin of the name Jew's Lane, infra, p. 47. There is an old house in Polperro, Cornwall, which is called 'The Jew's House' but it got its name as late as 1922 (letter to author from Mr F. Nettleinghame, 14 June 1963).]
Edward I's edict of 1290 expelled all Jews from the Kingdom on pain of death. During the course of the next three and a half centuries, before their presence was officially accepted, individual Jews entered England in spite of the severe penalty which they faced. [See Roth, Jews in England, pp. 132-48, 158-66.] One such case occurred in 1409, when a Jewish woman, Johanna, and her daughter, Alice, were discovered at Dartmouth. [TJHSE, IV (1899), 35. For medieval Jews in isolated places see C. Roth, 'The ordinary Jew in the Middle Ages', Gleanings (New York, 1967), p. 25.] It is not known how they arrived, nor how long they had been in residence but upon discovery, perhaps to avoid fatal consequences to themselves, they intimated that they were prepared to become Christians. Henry IV ordered the Keeper of the Domus Conversorum 'to admit them for the term of their lives and grant them the usual wages of the converts, 1d. per day'.
A stronger personality and much more important visitor was Joachim Ganz or Gaunze who was largely responsible for the revival of copper mining in Keswick and Cornwall. He was a German Jewish mining engineer who was invited by the Company for the Mines Royal to advise on methods of copper extraction. He visited the company's mines at Keswick and produced a report on the treatment of copper ores which is still of value. He spent three years from 1586 to 1589 in Cornwall ensuring a supply of copper ore for the rising metallurgical industries of Wales. He was expelled from England after a too forthright declaration of his Judaism which may well have influenced Francis Bacon in his literary and scientific work. [TJHSE, IV (1899), 87, 100 XXIX (1982), 9-21. See also M. B. Donald, Elizabethan Copper (1955), pp. 90, 299, 300, 343.]
A chance Jewish visitor to Devon was a privateer who was arrested in Plymouth in 1614. He was Samuel Palache who had received a commission from the King of Morocco to act against the Spaniards. Having taken two prizes he set sail for Holland but was forced by bad weather to take refuge in Plymouth, where he was arrested on a charge of piracy but was released the following year by an Act of the Privy Council. [Item 54 in the Catalogue of Exhibition of Anglo-Jewish Art and History (1956), p. 17. Mr M. H. Gans of Amsterdam kindly sent me photo-copies of his material on Palache.]
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