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Jews were banned from this country for three centuries, until Oliver Cromwell allowed their return. Today, a ceremony in London celebrates that decision 350 years ago, and the key role they have played ever
The Independent, Paul Vallely Tuesday 13 June 2006

When people ask writer Ashley Perry where his family is from, he replies "Britain". If they ask where his grandparents came from, he gives the same reply. When the more persistent ask where his great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from, the reply is still "Britain".

"This answer is usually met with incredulity as most assume that Anglo- Jewry is in the main no more than two or three generations long and has its origins in Eastern Europe," says Mr Perry. But those who assemble today at the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London know better. A varied group - including the Lord Mayor of London, several Government ministers, MPs, peers and representatives from a wide spectrum of Britain's religious communities - are gathering to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Resettlement of Jews in England.

The first record of Jews living in England dates from Norman times. Just after 1066, William the Conqueror invited a group from Rouen to bring their commercial skills and incoming capital to England. It was to become, to say the least, an ambiguous relationship.

In the Middle Ages, lending money with interest - usury - was considered a sin and forbidden to Christians. But medieval monarchs found it useful that Jews were allowed to engage in the practice. The outsiders financed royal consumption, adventures and wars - and made themselves rich in the process. By 1168, the value of the personal property of the Jews (around £60,000) was regarded as a quarter of the entire wealth of England. And when Aaron of Lincoln died not long after - all property obtained by usury passing to the king on the death of the usurer - Henry II inherited the then massive sum of £15,000.

During Henry II's reign, Jews lived on good terms with their Christian neighbours. They helped fund a large number of the abbeys and monasteries and were allowed to take refuge there in times of commotion which came from time to time for religious or commercial reasons.

They needed the refuge. Clerics and Popes routinely stirred up ill-feeling against the Jews as the "killers of Christ". Ill will was fed by the Crusades, in which the Jews were as much a target of the righteous sword-wielders as were the infidel Saracens. One of the most popular - and heinous - myths was that known by Jews as "the blood libel", which appears to have originated in England in an accusation against one William of Norwich in 1144.

It suggested that he and other Jews killed a young Christian boy to use his blood in the ritual preparation of unleavened bread for the Passover ritual - a claim which spread from England to France and Spain and throughout Europe in medieval times and which resurfaced in Nazi propaganda in the 20th century.

In 1218, in what became the precursor of anti-Jewish laws all over the world, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, made Jews wear a badge - an oblong white patch of two finger-lengths by four - to identify them. Barons, to whom Jews lent money, encouraged the mob responses to such claims, in which Jewish homes were ransacked and records of their debts were destroyed.

At the end of the 12th century, as part of an epidemic of religious fervour during preparations for Richard the Lionheart's Third Crusade against the Saracens, massacres of Jews were staged at Stamford fair, in Bury St Edmunds and, most notoriously, in York. In 1190 the city's Jews were given refuge in Clifford's Tower at York Castle only to be besieged by a mob demanding they convert to Christianity. Most of those inside committed suicide; those who surrendered were slaughtered. By 1290 the inevitable happened when Edward I - who had found an alternative source of finance in the Italian merchants known as the "pope's usurers" - banished the Jews from England.

For more than 300 years no Jew, officially, existed in the country. It was not until Charles I was beheaded that the Jews felt safe to return. Then, in 1656 a Dutch Jew named Menasseh ben Israel, petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow his people to return.

Cromwell, a devout Puritan and a man of common sense, could see the attraction of allowing them back. For a start, there was the popular belief that the Second Coming of Christ could not occur until Jews existed in all the lands of the earth. And there was also a shattered national economy to rebuild after a devastating Civil War.

But when he summoned a national conference of the most eminent judges, divines, and merchants in the kingdom at Whitehall, the debate was inconclusive. The lawyers were happy. But the clerics and moneymen were opposed. To stop them reaching the wrong decision, Cromwell dissolved the meeting and gave the rich Jews of Amsterdam permission to come to London and transfer their vital trade interests with the Spanish Main from Holland to England.

Thus it was that in the middle of the 17th century, around 300 Marano merchants - Spanish and Portuguese Jews - settled in London. In 1701 they erected the country's first purpose-built synagogue, Bevis Marks, the only building in Europe where Jewish worship has continued without interruption for more than 300 years.

Resettlement was not a smooth process. Just as the relationship between Jew and Gentile had blown hot and cold during the medieval settlement, so it was in the new dispensation. Various coalitions of aristocrats, Christian zealots and businessmen tried to re-expel the Jews. But the new Jewish merchants were too useful. They had brought in £1,500,000 in capital which had increased by the middle of the century to £5,000,000. Marlborough's wars against the Spanish were financed by them. During the Jacobite rising of 1745 they showed particular loyalty, offering finance and volunteering for the corps raised to defend London. Their investment provided one-twelfth of the nation's profits and one-twentieth of its foreign trade.

As a reward, what was known as "The Jew Bill" was introduced in 1753 to allow them to be naturalised as British citizens. It was passed by the House of Lords, though it fell in the Commons with the Tories making great outcry against this "abandonment of Christianity".

The response of the Sephardic community was as nuanced. Many prominent Jews - like the Disraelis - allowed their children to grow up as Christians. Slowly acceptance came. In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore. Four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid became the first Jewish hereditary peer. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, and the first Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild, took his seat three years later when the parliamentary oath was changed from an exclusively Christian one.

By 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister. He had been baptised a Christian but was open about his Judaic inheritance, once needling a Commons opponent with the jibe that "when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon". Finally, by 1890, all restrictions for every position in the British Empire, except that of monarch, were removed to Jews, some 46,000 of whom now lived in England.

It was at this point that the big influx of Jews into this country occurred. From the 1880s onwards, the pogroms in Germany, Poland and Russia caused many Jews to flee. These were not Sephardim but Ashkenazi Jews with a more distinct East European and Yiddish culture. They soon outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese.

By 1919, the Jewish population had increased to about 250,000 primarily in cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool. But though their culture was more distinct - and though they maintained it, building kosher businesses, welfare networks, Jewish schools and cultural bodies - unlike their fellows in places like Poland, the Jewish community in England (apart from a handful of ultra-Orthodox isolationists in places like Stamford Hill) generally embraced their integration into wider English culture. And unlike their American counterparts, British Jews anglicised their names and their customs, starting youth movements like the Jewish Lads Brigade in emulation of the British Scouts.

Families like the one which founded the jewellers, H Samuel, in Liverpool attempted to overturn prejudice and seek public office. In 1806 the city's Seel Street synagogue became the first in England to deliver sermons in English. In Manchester groups of Jewish intelligentsia were shaping new expressions of Judaism, including the Reform Movement, the political notion of Zionism and creating tools for activism which made the Jewish community strong in the traditions of British socialism and trade unionism. This in part explains why anti-semitism, which in most of Europe is most prevalent among the working classes, in Britain met stout opposition from many ordinary people, as events such as the Battle of Cable Street showed. Indeed anti-semitism has been more common among the British upper, rather than the lower, classes - a phenomenon which Ashley Perry puts down to aristocratic resentment.

"The British consider themselves the height of civilization, the founder of democracy and the force that brought culture to much of the world," he says. But the Jews remind them that "there is one people that has lived with the British for many years which reminds them that their 'civilisation' is relatively new".

And though the nation did not open its arms unreservedly to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in the 1930s, it did allow some 40,000 Jews from Austria and Germany to settle in Britain along with 50,000 Jews from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe - and the 10,000 Kindertransport children rescued on the eve of war.

Today, when many fear that anti-semitism is on the rise again, they acknowledge that, in the judgement of the Jewish peer Lord Janner, "in the UK it's not as serious as it is in France, Denmark, the Netherlands or Belgium." Instead Lord Janner perceives a different threat. Today there are about 350,000 Jews in the UK - around two-thirds in London, with around 40,000 in Manchester and significant communities in Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Gateshead and Southend. That spreads the community pretty thin.

"Not less than 30 per cent [marry outside the faith] and that's really serious," Lord Janner says. They have, perhaps, for some of their number, integrated and assimilated just a little too well.


2006 marked the 350th anniversary of one of the most remarkable turning points in English history: the readmission of Jewish people to England in 1656, after they had been banned from the country some 366 years earlier. Their surprising ally in this was Oliver Cromwell.
BBC, Tara HolmesLast updated 2011-06-24


Jews have been living in England since Roman and Anglo-Saxon times, but they did not become an organised community until William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. He encouraged Jewish merchants and artisans to move from northern France to England.

Over the next few centuries Jews faced increasing persecution until, in 1290, they were banished altogether.


In 1144, Jews in Norwich were accused of a ritual murder. A rumour sprung up that a Christian child had been kidnapped by Jews, tied to a cross and stabbed in the head to simulate Jesus' crown of thorns.

While the Norwich account did not contain the accusation that the child's blood was drained and was then ritually drunk at Passover, and so does not constitute the full blood libel, it is a story of the same type and is generally seen as the entry point into England of such accusations.

The rumour was false - for one thing, the Torah forbids the eating and drinking of any form of blood - but it became the first recorded case in Europe of 'blood libel'. The accusation was enough to get Jewish leaders in the town executed.

The other main charge that early 11th-century Christians levelled at Jews was that of host desecration. The host is the wafer used during Christian communion; England was Catholic at this time and to Catholics the host is literally Jesus's flesh, so mistreating it was an incredibly serious thing to do.

Jews were variously accused of stabbing the host wafer with pins, stepping on it, stabbing it with a knife until Jesus' blood flowed out and nailing it in a symbolic re-enactment of the crucifixion.

Jews were also accused by their Christian neighbours of poisoning wells and spreading the plague. Each fresh claim gave rise to new massacres.

Accusations of blood sacrifice continued in the 12th and 13th centuries:

1181 - accusations were made in Bury, St Edmunds, Suffolk

1183 - accusations were made in Bristol

1192 - accusations were made in Winchester

1244 - London Jews were accused of ritual murder

In 1247, Pope Innocent IV ordered a study into the charges brought against the Jews. The investigation found no evidence to justify their persecution.

The Jewish community was vindicated by four more Popes but accusations, trials and executions continued to rise.


The Jews were banished from England by Edward I. His motivation was partly financial: once they were banished, their possessions became property of the crown.

England was short of money and illegal coin-clipping was on the rise. The Jews became Edward's scapegoat. He banned them from usury (money-lending at interest) in 1275. 1278 brought widespread arrests of Jewish men; many were hanged and 600 imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In 1290 Edward banished the Jews outright. He issued writs to the sheriffs of all English counties ordering them to enforce his Edict of Expulsion, a decree which required all Jews to be expelled from the country by All Saints' Day (1st November) that year.

They were only allowed to carry with them their portable property. Apart from a few exceptions, houses and properties were passed to the king.

This made England the first European country to expel Jews, and they remained banned for 366 years. Some Jews stayed in England by hiding their identity and religion but the majority settled in France and Germany.

It wasn't until the 17th century that Jews were allowed back to Britain.


It was Oliver Cromwell who orchestrated the Jews' return after he came to power. He was influenced in this by Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel of Amsterdam, the Jewish ambassador to the Gentiles. On 31 October 1655, Cromwell submitted a seven-point petition to the Council of State calling for Jews to return to Britain.

Cromwell met with resistance at the Whitehall Conference in December that year but resolved to authorise an unofficial readmission.

At that time, the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community had been expelled from Spain. Many exiled Jews headed to Amsterdam, helping to turn it into one of the world's busiest ports. Cromwell saw that the return of the Jews would bring great financial benefits to England.

In 1656 Cromwell made a verbal promise, backed by the Council of State, to allow Jews to return to Britain and practise their faith freely.

As a result, Jews from Holland, Spain and Portugal came to Britain. They became more and more integrated into British society.

For a time, England was one of the most religiously tolerant countries in Europe. But it wasn't until 1858 that English Jews received formal emancipation.


Jewish resettlement in Britain marked the beginning of a new era in Jewish/Christian relations, putting an end to centuries of estrangement.

It also paved the way for the setting up of the Council of Christians and Jews during the Second World War in 1942, bringing new hope to Jews suffering terrible persecution at the hands of Nazi Germany.

During 2006, 350 years after their return to the UK, Jewish communities throughout the country celebrated "Three and a Half Centuries of British Jewish Life".


Jews and crypto-Jews in sixteenth and seventeenth century England

Ariel Hessayon, Goldsmiths, University of London

JCR-UK,   15 December 2011
(Go to link for second part of this article on  Jewish Expulsion)

In June 1655 a newspaper reported that some Jews had been seen meeting in Hackney on a Saturday. Because it was their Sabbath they were said to be at prayer, ‘all very clean and neat, in the corner of a garden by a house, all of them with their faces towards the East’.  This account, however, was probably false because there were as yet no openly practising Jews in England.  In fact, it was not until September 1655 that Oliver Cromwell revived discussions about the readmission of Jews to England.  This coincided with the arrival in London of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604–1657), who had come from Amsterdam ‘to solicit a freedom for his nation to live in England’.  During his stay Menasseh lodged in the Strand close to a new commercial exchange, perhaps at the house of Antonio de Oliveyra who may have been a Portuguese crypto-Jew.  Menasseh was to recall that he was ‘very courteously received, and treated with much respect’.  Even so, letters written by a Royalist exile – they had been on the losing side during the two Civil Wars of the 1640s that had ended with the execution of Charles I and the establishment of a republic in England – claimed that because the Jews ‘were a very crafty and worldly-wise generation’ they were unlikely to settle in England at a time of such political uncertainty.  He was to be proved wrong.

Menasseh ben Israel did not come to England as a stranger for among his numerous correspondents and acquaintances were eminent academics, scientists, politicians, soldiers and churchmen.  Menasseh, moreover, was a renowned scholar and soon began receiving a number of learned visitors including the professor of Hebrew at Cambridge University, a future secretary of the Royal Society, and the principal editor of a multi-lingual edition of the Bible.  Another person familiar with Menasseh was the chemist Robert Boyle, who had visited Menasseh at his house in Amsterdam in the spring of 1648.  Boyle regarded Menasseh as ‘the greatest rabbi of this age’ and on hearing of his arrival at London he went and spoke to him about Biblical Hebrew and the rites and customs of modern Jews.

At the end of October Menasseh waited outside the door as the Council of State – a group elected by Parliament to advise Cromwell – sat in session.  Menasseh hoped to present copies of his books to members of the Council and eventually a Baptist minister with whom he had corresponded went out to receive them.  Among these books was probably a recently written work arguing the case for Jewish readmission addressed to His Highness the Lord Protector of the Common-Wealth – that was Cromwell’s official title – and entitled The Humble Addresses of Menasseh Ben Israel … on behalf of the Jewish Nation (1655).  Two weeks later, on 13 November Menasseh presented a petition written in French to the Council on behalf of the ‘Hebrew nation’ requesting:

1. To take us as citizens under your protection; and to defend us on all occasions

2. To allow us public synagogues in England and its dominions

3. To give us a cemetery to bury our dead

4. To allow us to trade freely in all sorts of merchandise

5. To elect a respectable person to receive our passports upon arrival and hear us swear an oath of loyalty to the Lord Protector

6. To allow our rabbis to settle internal disputes according to Mosaic law, with right of appeal to the civil law

7. To revoke all laws against the Jewish nation, thereby enabling us to remain securely in England under the protection of the Lord Protector.

Objections, however, were raised immediately.  For example, it was feared that some Christians might convert to Judaism, while having synagogues was considered scandalous to Christian churches.  Some Londoners even suggested that their trade would suffer because of Jewish competition.  In the end a number of conditions were attached which included barring Jews from public office and prohibiting them from having Christian servants.  In addition, Jews were not permitted to mock the Christian religion, to profane the Christian Sabbath, to prevent efforts to convert them or to print anything in English against Christianity.  The last restriction was cleverly worded since it enabled Jews to continue printing Hebrew books including the Talmud, which many continental Christians – especially Catholics – found offensive.  After further discussion a conference was begun at Whitehall on 4 December to discuss Menasseh’s proposals.  Cromwell himself opened proceedings, which were attended by politicians, soldiers, clergymen, lawyers and merchants.

During several meetings, ‘some more private, and some more public’ an important legal point was established: although Jews had been banished from England in 1290 there was no law – either of the land or ordained by God – forbidding their return.  Consequently, Jewish immigration could be connived at so long as it was expedient.  Indeed, it was argued that Jewish trading networks would lower the price of imports and provide new markets for exports.  Furthermore, a theologian insisted that kindness to strangers – particularly Jews – was a religious duty.  But the majority of the clergy, fearful of proselytism, were against readmission.  Similarly, the anti-Semitic lawyer William Prynne insisted that now was ‘a very ill time to bring in the Jews, when the people were so dangerously and generally bent to apostasy, and all sorts of novelties and errors in religion’.  Nonetheless, it was observed that throughout the duration of the conference, which met until 18 December, Cromwell showed himself favourably inclined towards readmitting the Jews.  Perhaps, like some delegates, the Protector desired the conversion of the Jews to Protestantism.  A few Englishmen went further, believing that the following year would see ‘the fall of Antichrist, and the Jews conversion’ – two key apocalyptic events which according to certain Protestant interpreters of the Bible preceded the destruction of the world by fire and the beginning of the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth with his Saints.

But the world did not end in 1656; not even after one sect caused thousands of pounds of damage when they deliberately burned a number of buildings in London.  Instead, Jews were tacitly readmitted to England after a supposed absence of 366 years.  Yet that is not to say that things were straightforward.  The Whitehall Conference had ended without a definite conclusion.  Moreover, according to the reports of two Italian envoys from Venice and Tuscany, the majority of English people opposed readmission.  Clergymen preached against it as boldly as they dared, while in private one complained that Menasseh’s demands were great and it was best to be wary of the Jews since they had ‘ways beyond all other men, to undermine a state’.  Similarly, a Royalist rebel declared that he was opposed to religious toleration if it meant living among those who blasphemed Christ.  There were even stories that Jewish gold was being used to buy the support of wavering ministers.  Cromwell therefore proceeded with deliberation – ‘warily & by degrees’, giving his implicit permission rather than openly declaring his position.  At the same time Menasseh met with the Dutch ambassador to reassure him that he was not scheming to get extra privileges for the Jews in Holland, only that he sought to turn Protestant England into a safe haven for those Jews fleeing from Catholic Spain and Portugal where the Inquisition operated.  And then other events brought matters to a head.

On 13 March 1656 legal proceedings were begun against Antonio Rodrigues Robles, a wealthy merchant of Duke’s Place, London who was accused of being a Spanish national.  As England was at war with Spain at this time the goods and property of enemy Spaniards were liable for confiscation.  In his defence Robles claimed that he was actually a Portuguese Jew who had fled to Spain with his family, where the Inquisition had murdered his father and tortured his mother.  A number of witnesses were examined in the case, a few of whom were Iberian Jews like Domingo de la Cerda.  Their depositions together with the questioning of Robles himself revealed that Robles, who had been living in England for four years, was uncircumcised and had attended mass at the Spanish Ambassador’s house.  Even so, the affair forced other members of London’s secret Jewish community out into the open – for many either had Spanish origins or had resided there.  Accordingly, on 24 March Menasseh and six other men – Manuel Martinez Dormido (also known as David Abrabanel), Antonio Ferdinando (Abraham Israel) Carvajal, Abraham Coen Gonsales, Simon (Jacob) de Caceres, Domingo Vaez (Abraham Israel) de Brito and Isak Lopes Chillon – petitioned Cromwell for permission to practise Judaism privately in their homes, to go about unmolested and to have a burial place outside the City of London for their dead.  Cromwell referred it to the consideration of the Council of State.

In April Menasseh issued a pamphlet vindicating the Jewish people from several ‘strange and horrid’ accusations that Christians had levelled at them.  These included the notorious libel that Jews celebrated Passover by feasting on matzoth mixed with the blood of murdered Christians and the rumour that the Jews intended to buy St. Paul’s cathedral and convert it into a synagogue.  Yet despite Menasseh’s efforts the smears continued, spread by word of mouth both in his own day and to future generations.  They also became more elaborate: Jews had offered £200,000 for St. Paul’s; £500,000 for St. Paul’s and the Bodleian Library, Oxford; unknown sums for a beautiful room in Whitehall and Hebrew manuscripts in Cambridge University Library; £500,000 for the town of Brentford; £100,000 fine and £50,000 per annum for the privilege of resettlement.

Meanwhile evidence continued to be taken in Robles’s case and by mid-May he had his ships, merchandise and other property which had been seized restored to him.  Then on 26 June 1656 the Council returned the Jews’ petition to Cromwell, apparently without recording the details of their discussion.  This is important because a few famous historians of Anglo-Jewry such as Albert Hyamson and Cecil Roth have argued that the Council responded positively to the petition but that the crucial document was subsequently destroyed.  Sceptics like H.S.Q. Henriques, Moses Gaster and more recently David Katz, however, are right to dismiss this as baseless speculation.  In fact, it needs to be emphasized that there was no Act of Parliament, no proclamation from Cromwell, no order from the Council of State either welcoming Jews to England or changing their legal status from aliens to denizens (foreigners granted certain rights).  The only evidence we have suggests that publicly Cromwell remained undecided on the issue.  We can only deduce – as Lucien Wolf and others since have done – that Cromwell gave Menasseh a verbal assurance that Jews would be permitted to worship privately in their homes.  While this was not the same as allowing them to build a public synagogue, it was in keeping with the spirit of certain clauses of the Instrument of Government of December 1653 which had extended religious toleration to those Protestant sects that did not disturb the peace.  But if the actual purpose of Menasseh’s mission was to gain official state approval for the readmission of Jews to England – rather than merely asking the authorities to turn a blind eye to their presence – then it must be judged a failure.

For all these set-backs Menasseh was to suffer further still.  In August 1656 the wardens of the united congregation of the Sephardic community in Amsterdam agreed to loan ‘a scroll of the Law’ to him.  He appears, however, to have quarrelled with the leaders of the London community and was not chosen to lead their congregation.  Instead Rabbi Moses Athias from Hamburg was appointed and the Torah returned.  On 19 December Antonio Carvajal signed a twenty-one year lease for a brick tenement on Creechurch Lane which by March 1657 was being converted into a synagogue.  Five years later a Christian visitor described it as having three doors, ‘one beyond another’, with services conducted upstairs.  In the mean time Menasseh, alone in a ‘land of strangers’, was forced to petition Cromwell for financial assistance.  He was granted a state pension of £100 per annum and at least two quarterly payments of £25 were made to him.  In September 1657 his only son Samuel died.  Although negotiations had begun for acquiring a burial plot at Mile End in Stepney, Menasseh decided to return to Holland with Samuel’s body.  But on reaching Middelburg, where he had relatives, Menasseh died.  Samuel was buried there while Menasseh was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery at Oudekerk near Amsterdam.  In September 1658 Cromwell followed them to the grave.  It was during his Protectorate that theological considerations – the necessity of converting the Jews before Christ’s reappearance – and, to a much lesser extent, economic advantages had overcome widespread hostility to tacit readmission.  With his death and the subsequent Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the tiny Jewish community, which had been considered under Cromwell’s personal protection, was once more exposed to full-blown prejudice: intermingled accusations revolving around the repulsive if familiar themes of blasphemy, blood, diabolism, magic and money.  Before exploring their fate during the reign of Charles II, however, we need to trace the long-term developments that culminated in the Resettlement.

In 1659, the year after Cromwell’s death, a group of London merchants petitioned his son and successor demanding the expulsion of Jews and seizure of their trading profits.  With the Restoration of monarchy in 1660 anti-Semitic voices became more strident for that same year the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London asked Charles II to recommend the enactment of Parliamentary legislation that would expel Jews and close ‘the door after them’.  Similarly, a London goldsmith named Thomas Violet published A Petition Against the Jewes (1661) in which he recommended destroying synagogues, suppressing Jewish religious rituals, ransoming and banishment.  But the roughly hundred and sixty strong Jewish community fought back.  Violet’s proposals were condemned and his reputation attacked.  Moreover, in December 1660 the principal Jewish merchants petitioned Charles II desiring continued residence in his dominions.  At the Privy Council’s recommendation the House of Commons then discussed measures for protecting Jews.  Ultimately, however, the Jews’ fate rested with Charles II and like Cromwell he showed himself favourably disposed.  The reason probably dates to his exile at Bruges, for in September 1656 he had instructed Lieutenant-General John Middleton to negotiate with some leading Amsterdam Jews.  Assuring Middleton that Menasseh’s mission to Cromwell had been undertaken without their consent, they may have secretly contributed money to the depleted royal treasury in return for the promise of Charles’s protection on his accession to the English throne.  This seems a plausible explanation for why Charles II granted Jews religious toleration.  Although a few notable advocates of Jewish readmission had been regicides, Cromwell’s public stance made things easier for the King: there was no Parliamentary statute to invalidate, no proclamation to annul.  Indeed, he too avoided grand gestures in favour of small measures.  Hence instead of an act of Parliament Charles II naturalized forty-eight Sephardic Jews during his reign.

350 years after the tacit readmission of Jews to England we would do well to remember that there was no consensus about religious toleration during the seventeenth century.  While no one had been burned at the stake for heresy in England since 1612 Catholics were still set on fire in effigy and seventy-five were executed between 1604 and 1680.  As for Ireland, in 1641 an estimated 2,000–3,000 Protestant settlers were massacred by Catholics.  In reprisal Cromwell’s troops slaughtered thousands of soldiers and civilians at Drogheda and Wexford.  There are also certain crimes to consider.  Between 1542 and 1736 perhaps as many as 500 people were executed for witchcraft in England; of these more than 100 were hanged in the home counties.  Furthermore, an Act of August 1650 against blasphemy prescribed six months imprisonment for a first offence– a more lenient sentence than the death penalty decreed by Mosaic Law and an Ordinance of May 1648.

We must never forget that religious persecution happened in the past – especially now that we have to yet again confront anti-Semitism both in its explicit guises and insidious disguises.  Both are equally repugnant.

In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore. Four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid became the first Jewish hereditary peer. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, and the first Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild, took his seat three years later when the parliamentary oath was changed from an exclusively Christian one.

A short history of Anglo-Jewry: The Jews in Britain, 1656-2006


In 1290 King Edward I of England (Longshanks)Offsite Link issued an edict expelling all Jews from England.

Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656. The edict was not an isolated incident but the culmination of over 200 years of conflict on the matters of usury. The first Jewish communities of significant size came to England with William the ConquerorOffsite Link in 1066. On the conquest of England, William instituted a feudal system in the country, whereby all estates formally belonged to the king, who appointed lords over vast estates, subject to duties and obligations (financial and knights) to the king. Under the lords were further subjects such as serfs, which were bound and obligated to their lords. Merchants had a special status in the system as did Jews. Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the King, unlike the rest of the population. This had advantages for Jews, in that they were not tied to any particular lord, but were subject to the whims of the king. Every successive King formally reviewed a royal charter granting Jews the right to remain in England. Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of Magna Carta of 1215.

Economically, Jews played a key role in the country. The church at the time strictly forbade usury, or the lending of money for profit. This left a hole in the heart of the European economy that Jews quickly filled (canon law was not considered to apply to Jews, and Judaism permits loans with interest Offsite Linkbetween Jews and non-Jews).  As a consequence, some Jews made large amounts of money. However, taking advantage of their unique status as his direct subjects, the King could expropriate Jewish assets in the form of taxation. He levied heavy taxes on Jews at will without having to summon Parliament.  The Jewish community acted as a kind of giant monetary filter: Jews collected interest on money loaned to the people which the King could take at his pleasure.

Jews acquired a reputation as extortionate money lenders which made them extremely unpopular with both the Church and the general public. While antisemitism was widespread in Europe, medieval England was particularly antisemitic. An image of the Jew as a diabolical figure who hated Christ started to become widespread, and antisemitic myths such as the Wandering Jew and ritual murders originated and spread throughout England; as well as Scotland and Wales.  Jews were said to hunt for children to murder before Passover so they could use their blood to make matzah. Antisemitism on a number of occasions sparked riots where many Jews were murdered, most famously in 1190 when over a hundred Jews were massacred in the city of York.

The situation only got worse for Jews as the 13th century progressed. In 1218, England became the first European nation to require Jews to wear a marking badge. Taxation grew increasingly intense. Between 1219 and 1272, 49 levies were imposed on Jews for a total of 200,000 marks, a huge amount of money.  The first major step towards expulsion took place in 1275, with the Statute of Jewry. The statute outlawed all usury and gave Jews fifteen years to readjust. However, guilds as well as popular prejudice made Jewish movement into mercantile or agricultural pursuits almost impossible.

While in Gascony in 1287, Edward ordered English Jews expelled. All their property was seized by the crown and all outstanding debts payable to Jews were transferred to the King’s name. It was a bleak sign of things to come. Edward’s personal views on Jews are something of a mystery. In the glimpses we have of his dealings with them, he seems interested but unsympathetic. His mother, however, does seem to have been anti-semitic. Whatever his personal feelings, by the time he returned to England in 1289 Edward was deeply in debt. The next summer he summoned his knights to impose a steep tax. To make the tax more palatable, Edward in exchange essentially offered to expel all Jews. The heavy tax was passed, and three days later, on July 18, the Edict of Expulsion was issued. One official reason for the expulsion was that Jews had neglected to follow the Statute of Jewry. The edict of expulsion was widely popular and met with little resistance, and the expulsion was quickly carried out.

The Jewish population in England at the time was relatively small. While population estimates vary, probably less than 1% of England was Jewish; perhaps 3,000 people.  The expulsion process went fairly smoothly, although there were a few horrific stories. One story told of a captain taking a ship full of Jews to the Thames while the tide was going out and convincing them to go out for a walk with him. He then lost them and made it back to his ship before the tide came back in, leaving them all to drown. Other stories exist of Jews being robbed or killed, but the majority of the Jews seem to have crossed the channel in safety" (Wikipedia article on Edict of Expulsion, accessed 02-15-2009).

Rational Wiki    

The blood libel is an old anti-Semitic trope that claims that Jews use the blood of Christian (or, sometimes, Muslim) children to make their Passover matzo. While generally discarded in modern times in favor of "Jews rule the world" conspiracy theories, the blood libel is still propagated in some Islamic countries and is occasionally still believed even by Western anti-Semites. The consequence of the blood libel myth could be in fact bloody for Jewish populations, as they could result in a pogrom.

Blood libels against non-Jews have also been known to occur. Early Christians were frequently libeled as practitioners of cannibalism.


This incredible canard began in the first century when it was claimed — without proof — that the Jews carried out human sacrifice in the temple (the Bible and Jewish oral traditions make it pretty clear that the acceptable animals were certain birds, cattle, and goats). The first occurrence of the idea in Western Europe was that the supposed murder in 1144 of William of Norwich in England, which resulted in the Jews being banned from that country until 1655.

The most famous blood libel is known as the Damascus blood libel of 1840.The notoriety generated by this case was so widespread that Martin Van Buren wrote a letter of protest on behalf of the United States to the Ottoman officials running Syria at the time.

Specific Cases

Although there have been many cases of blood libel, some are more infamous — and in some ways, more significant — than others.

William of Norwich (England, 1144)

On 22 March 1144 (Gregorian calendar: 29 March), two days before Good Friday, 12-year-old William disappeared from the town of Norwich. On Saturday, his body was found in Thorpe Wood outside of town. The boy was believed to have been tortured. There was not enough evidence to identify a killer, so the local sheriff made no arrests. The men of the town blamed the local small community of Jews, whom they tried to lynch. The local sheriff was forced to intervene on the Jews' behalf. This was the earliest known blood libel in English history. Over the next 25 years, a local monk wrote a seven-volume tome titled The Life and Miracles of William of Norwich in an effort to get the boy canonized. (Other locals hoped he would be canonized because it would draw pilgrims to the town.) He never was, but that didn't stop many anti-Semites from calling him "Saint William of Norwich". His feast day is March 26, but his cult and his feast are officially suppressed.

Hugh of Lincoln (England, 1255)

On 31 July 1255 (Gregorian calendar: 7 August), a young boy named Hugh, who seems to have been the illegitimate son of a woman named Beatrice, disappeared in the town of Lincoln. His body was found about a month later in the well of a Jew who has been identified by the names Copin, Kopin, Jopin and Joscefin. A priest who was present when the body was found offered Copin clemency if he confessed and implicated other Jews.[3][4] Wikipedia claims that Copin was tortured into confessing.[5] Either way, Copin did confess to crucifying the boy and implicated other local Jews in the murder. Unfortunately for Copin and successive generations of British Jews, these events occurred at the worst possible time.

Under English law of the time, the monarch could claim all English Jews as property of the crown. This allowed the monarch to tax Jews at a higher rate than English Christians. Earlier that year, King Henry III had sold his rights to English Jewry to his younger brother, Richard Earl of Cornwall. However, the king could still claim the property of any Jew who was guilty of a felony. In September, Henry arrived in Lincoln and revoked Copin's clemency. He then had Copin tied to a horse and dragged around the town, after which Copin was summarily hanged. Afterwards, eighteen other Jews were hanged in Lincoln, while another 90 to 100 were taken to the Tower of London where about 20 more were executed and their properties were claimed by the crown. Richard, who would be elected King of Germany (aka, "King of the Romans") the following year, exercised his right as their "owner" and pardoned the rest.

The exact year of the boy's canonization is not easily found. It's possible that, like WIlliam of Norwich, his "canonization" as a martyr was actually a local tradition and not an official investiture by the pope. His cult and feast day, July 27, are also suppressed.

Claims were made that while the boy was interred at his local church in Lincoln, many miracles occurred. Others claimed that he was thrown into Copin's well because God would not allow the boy's body to remain covered by the earth. (Alleged miracles are the most important factor for fast-tracking somebody to sainthood.) His body was exhumed and reinterred at Lincoln Cathedral. Ironically, this cathedral was an indirect reason why the boy is called "Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln." In 1185, the cathedral was badly damaged by an earthquake. Efforts by the local archbishop, Hugh of Lincoln, quickly reenergized the construction of the cathedral. The elder Saint Hugh of Lincoln was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1220.

Legitimate or not, the sainthood of Little Hugh led to centuries of blood libels in the Lincoln area and elsewhere in England. In 1955, the Church of England placed a plaque over his shrine decrying the centuries of anti-semitism that resulted from his death.

“”By the remains of the shrine of "Little St. Hugh"

Trumped up stories of "ritual murders" of Christian boys by

Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the

Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many

innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend, and the

alleged victim was buried in the Cathedral in the year 1255.

Such stories do not redound to the credit of Christendom,

and so we pray:

Lord, forgive what we have been,

amend what we are,

and direct what we shall be.

—Text of the plaque

Today, police detectives would probably look to Beatrice and possibly her friends as the chief suspects, as she was the one who found her son in the well (after allegedly receiving a tip from Hugh's friends), and then led the priest and others there. Conspiracy theorists would probably wonder if King Henry III had somebody kill the boy so that the ensuing blood libels would allow him to reclaim English Jews as his "property" from Richard.

Little Saint Hugh has been referenced many times in English popular culture. One of the earliest references was in "The Prioress's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales, written about a century after the Jews were officially expelled from in England in 1290. There would not be another Jewish community established in England until 1656 during the rule of Oliver Cromwell.


The whole idea is theologically nonsense, as kashrut strictly forbids the consumption of blood in any form. Furthermore, kashrut limits acceptable mammals to even-toed ungulates that chew cud, which humans are not, except in some parts of America. The only Jewish ritual that involves blood is circumcision, because obviously people tend to bleed when parts of their bodies are cut.


While it is perhaps possible to understand how super-superstitious people living in the 12th century might have fallen prey to this ridiculous libel, what is not so easy to understand is how (supposedly) educated people in the 21st century can believe it. Some Jewish groups contend that the meme does show up in different forms. For example, a poster protesting Israeli policies once used "canned baby meat" with a "made in Israel" label.

It is perhaps a measure of the ridiculousness of this belief that Metapedia — that home of homophobia, racism and denialism — believes it. It also continues to persist in the Arab world, as evidenced by the popularity of Matzo of Zion, a book upholding the truthfulness of a Syrian blood libel from the 19th century.

In July 2009, another meme related to blood libel went viral after five New Jersey rabbis were among 44 suspects arrested for money laundering. Anti-Semites began claiming that the rabbis were really indicted for trafficking human body parts on the black market. In 2011, Sarah Palin referred to criticism of conservatives on their failure to accept gun control as "blood libel," even when no one was being accused of eating babies. Making this instance several orders of magnitude more heinous was that it came in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords - who is Jewish.

It was of course inevitable that when changing times moved the "Evil Foreign Religion" stigma from Judaism to Islam, the Blood Libel would eventually follow. In late 2013, a Turkish-German orthodox nun came forward with the claim that Muslims were killing Christians in Syria and selling their blood so other Muslims could wash their hands in infidel blood.



Toward the middle of the 17th century a considerable number of Marrano merchants settled in London and formed there a secret congregation, at the head of which was Antonio Fernandez Carvajal and Samuel Maylott, a French merchant, who has many descendants in England. They conducted a large business with the Levant, East and West Indies, Canary Islands, and Brazil, and above all with the Netherlands and Spain.


Bevis Marks Synagogue, the first synagogue of Spanish-Portuguese Jews, completed 1701, oldest synagogue in the UK, was built by the first generation of readmitted Jews to England

In the 1650s, Menasseh Ben Israel, a rabbi and leader of the Dutch Jewish community, approached Oliver Cromwell with the proposition that Jews should at long-last be readmitted to England. Cromwell agreed, and although he could not compel a council called for the purpose in December 1655 to consent formally to readmission, he made it clear that the ban on Jews would no longer be enforced. In the years 1655–56, the controversy over the readmission of Jews was fought out in a pamphlet war. The issue divided religious radicals and more conservative elements within society. The Puritan William Prynne was vehemently opposed to permitting Jews to return, the Quaker Margaret Fell no less passionately in favour, like John Wemyss, a minister of the Church of Scotland. In the end, Jews were readmitted in 1655, and, by 1690, about 400 Jews had settled in England.


Jew Bill of 1753

The Jewish Naturalisation Act received royal assent on 7 July 1753 but was repealed in 1754 due to widespread opposition to its provisions.

(The Jewish Naturalisation Act 1753 was an Act of Parliament (26 Geo. 2, c. 26) of the Parliament of Great Britain, which received royal assent on 7 July 1753 but was repealed in 1754 (27 Geo 2, c. 1) due to widespread opposition to its provisions.[1]

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, the Jews had shown particular loyalty to the government. Their chief financier, Sampson Gideon, had strengthened the stock market, and several of the younger members had volunteered in the corps raised to defend London. Possibly as a reward, Henry Pelham in 1753 brought in the Jew Bill of 1753, which allowed Jews to become naturalised by application to Parliament. It passed the Lords without much opposition, but on being brought down to the House of Commons, the Tories made protest against what they deemed an "abandonment of Christianity." The Whigs, however, persisted in carrying out at least one part of their general policy of religious toleration, and the bill was passed and received royal assent (26 Geo. II., cap. 26). The public reacted with an enormous outburst of antisemitism, and the Bill was repealed in the next sitting of Parliament, in 1754.)

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, the Jews had shown particular loyalty to the government. Their chief financier, Samson Gideon, had strengthened the stock market, and several of the younger members had volunteered in the corps raised to defend London. Possibly as a reward, Henry Pelham in 1753 brought in the Jew Bill of 1753, which allowed Jews to become naturalised by application to Parliament. It passed the Lords without much opposition, but on being brought down to the House of Commons, the Tories made a great outcry against this "abandonment of Christianity", as they called it. The Whigs, however, persisted in carrying out at least one part of their general policy of religious toleration, and the bill was passed and received the royal assent (26 Geo. II., cap. 26 ) .

The public reacted with an enormous outburst of antisemitism, and the Bill was repealed in the next sitting of Parliament, in 1754. Wikipedia)

In 1798 Nathan Mayer von Rothschild established a business in Manchester, and later N M Rothschild & Sons bank in London, having been sent to the UK by his father Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812). The bank funded Wellington in the Napoleonic wars, financed the British government's 1875 purchase of Egypt's interest in the Suez Canal and funded Cecil Rhodes in the development of the British South Africa Company. Beyond banking and finance, members of the Rothschild family in UK became academics, scientists and horticulturalists with worldwide reputations.


With Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the hopes of the Jews rose high; and the first step toward a similar alleviation in their case was taken in 1830 when William Huskisson presented a petition signed by 2,000 merchants and others of Liverpool. This was immediately followed by a bill presented by Robert Grant on 15 April of that year which was destined to engage the Parliament in one form or another for the next thirty years.

In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore; four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was made a baronet, the first Jew to receive a hereditary title. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, followed by the 1858 emancipation of the Jews. On 26 July 1858, Lionel de Rothschild was finally allowed to sit in the British House of Commons when the law restricting the oath of office to Christians was changed; Benjamin Disraeli, a baptised Christian of Jewish parentage, was already an MP.

In 1868, Disraeli became Prime Minister having earlier been Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1884 Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the British House of Lords; again Disraeli was already a member. (Though born a Jew, Disraeli's baptism as a child qualified him as eligible for political aspirations, presenting no restrictions regarding a mandated Christian oath of office.)

By 1880 the flourishing Jewish community in Birmingham was centred on its synagogue. The men organised collective action to defend the reputation and promote the interests of the community. Rituals regarding funerals and burials brought together the rich and the poor, the men and the women. Intermarriage outside the community was uncommon. However, the arrival of East European Jews after 1880 caused a split between the older, assimilated, middle-class Anglicized Jews and the generally much poorer new immigrants who spoke Yiddish.[15]

By 1882, 46,000 Jews lived in England and, by 1890, Jewish emancipation was complete in every walk of life. Since 1858, Parliament has never been without practicing Jewish members. Synagogues were built openly, occasionally across the country as large, architecturally elaborate classical, romanesque, Italianate or Victorian gothic buildings such as Singers Hill Synagogue, in Birmingham. However, not all grand examples survive: for instance Dalston Synagogue (counter-intuitively) in Newington Green, North London in the last-mentioned style was in poor repair so its congregation sold its land for building of an apartment block and relocated in 1970.

For detail go to  Life and Times of Sir Oswald Mosley & the British Union of Fascists

Between 1918 and 1931 Mosley was a Tory, then an Independent Tory, and then a member of the Labour Party. He became the youngest MP in the House of Commons at the 1918 General Election.  In 1930 and founded the New Party.  The crushing defeat of the New Party in the 1931 general election led to it being disbanded and the creation of the British Union of Fascists (BUF).  By 1936, after making little political headway, he saw the opportunity to exploit anti-Semitism for political gain. Violent clashes in the East End of London resulted in the “Battle of Cable Street” in October 1936, when the BUF and anti-fascist groups fought each other.  A friend of Hiler, he party went into decline. He died in 1980.


A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson pp565-6

A strong French voice in the diaspora could be welcome, particularly since the German voice was virtually silenced as a result of the Hitler age. Necessarily in recent decades, and particularly with the decline of Yiddish, the voice of the diaspora has been English. Indeed, it is some measure of the importance of the return of the Jews to England in 1646 that more than half of the world’s Jews now speak English, 850,000 in the countries of the British Commonwealth (plus South Africa) and nearly six million in the United States. The real British moment in the history of the Jews came and went with the birth of modern Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and the mandate. British Jewry became and remained the most stable and contented and the least threatened of the major Jewries. It took in 90,000 refugees in the 1930s, to its great enrichment, and expanded from about 300,000 just before the First World War to well over 400,000 at the end of the Second. But, like Italian Jewry, it developed demographic weaknesses which became progressively more marked in the 1960s and 1970s. In the years 1961-5, for instance, the English synagogue marriage rate was an average of 4.0 per thousand compared to a national average of 7.5. The total number of Jews slipped from 410,000 in 1967 to below 400,000 in the 1970s and probably to below 350,000 in the second half of the 1980s. There was no lack of energy in modern British Jewry. Jewish enterprise was active in finance, as always, and it was of critical importance in entertainment, property, clothing, footware and the retail trade. It created national institutions like Granada TV. The Sieff dynasty turned the successful firm of Marks & Spencer into the most enduring (and popular) triumph of post-war British business, and Lord Weinstock transformed General Electric into the largest of all British companies. The Jews were vigorous in the publishing of books and newspapers. They produced the best of all diaspora journals, the Jewish Chronicle. In growing numbers they adorned only occasionally) the benches of the House of Lords. There with time, in the mid-1980s, when no fewer than five Jews sat in the Brilish cabinet. But this impressive energy did not take philoprogenic forms. Nor was it collectively exerted to constitute a leading influence within the diaspora or on the Zionist state. In this respect British Jews behaved, and perhaps was obliged to behave, like Britain herself: it handed over the torch to America.


Britain allowed about 40,000 Jews from Austria and Germany to settle in Britain along with 50,000 Jews from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and 10,000 Kindertransport children rescued on the eve of war.

Today, when many fear that anti-semitism is on the rise again, they acknowledge that, in the judgement of the Jewish peer Lord Janner, "in the UK it's not as serious as it is in France, Denmark, the Netherlands or Belgium." Instead Lord Janner perceives a different threat. Today there are about 350,000 Jews in the UK - around two-thirds in London, with around 40,000 in Manchester and significant communities in Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Gateshead and Southend. That spreads the community pretty thin.

For a detailed review got to We've been here before  The Guardian 8 June 2002

Williams, Hywel (2005). Cassell's Chronology of World History. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 316. ISBN 0-304-35730-8.

England Related Articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia

David S. Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603-1655 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982)

David S. Katz, The Jews in the History of England, 1485-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)

‘The Middle Period’ For details of Jews between 1290 - 1609

Shakespeare and the Jews, James Shapiro, Columbia University Press 1996

The Club, The Jews of Modern Britain, Stephen Brook, Constable and Constable 1989

The Sephardim of England, Albert M Hyamson, Methuen 1951

In fiction
"The Queen's Fool", by Philippa Gregory, is told from the point of view of a (fictional) Marrano girl living in England at the time of Queen Mary (BRILLIANT)

‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ by Ariana Franklin about the investigation in 1171 by a female doctor into the claimed murder of a boy by Jews

Resettlement of the Jews in England    Wikipedia

Sephardic Jews in 17th Century London and the Readmission by David J Ferdinando

A Chronology of the Jews in Britain

The History of the Medieval Jews of England

Jewish Museum London

Chaucer and the Jewish Ritual Murder Narratives by David Zhang

Menasseh ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell,  Lionel Abrahams,
The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1901


A short history of Anglo-Jewry: The Jews in Britain, 1656-2006, The Independent, Paul Vallely, 13 June 2006


The Jews were expelled in 1290.  Oliver Cromwell allowed them to return in 1656.
In 2006, a ceremony in London celebrated the 350th anniversary of that decision.


Today there is a vibrant community with congregations ranging from Ultra Orthdox to Liberal. While there little antisemitism there is a strong sense of the need for security.  An example is the visible security outside synagogues.  A reaction to what exists was in 2018 following the adoption of a modified definition of antisemitism by the Labour party (one of the two main parties) instead of the International Definition and the accusation af antisemitism and racism against its Leader.   

A popular myth known by Jews as ‘the blood libel’ or ‘ritual murder’ may have originated in England with the accusation against William of Norwich in 1144.  It was claimed that he and other Jews killed a Christian boy to use his blood in the ritual preparation of unleavened bread for the Passover ritual.  This claim spread from England to Europe and was then used in  20th century Nazi propaganda.  Barons, to whom Jews lent money, encouraged mob responses to such claims as Jewish homes were then ransacked and debt records destroyed.  

The Jews were expelled from England in 1290.

From the mid 16th century, Jews came to England as Spanish and Portuguese merchants. They lived a double life (called Marrano’s), practising Judaism in secret while in public attending Lutheran churches, somehow observing feasts, fast-days and some dietary laws.  The authorities turned a blind eye to their private religious activities

Toward the middle of the 17th century Marrano merchants settled in London and formed a secret congregation that passed information about the Spaniards to the authorities.   For Messianic reasons petitions favoring readmission had been presented to the army in 1649. Their views attracted the attention of Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, who In 1656 petitioned Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector after the defeat of Charles 1 in the Civil War, asking for his community to have the right to settle. That petition was a catalyst for change.  

In 1655 Antonio Fernandez Carvajal (1590 - 1659) became the first naturalised British Jew when he and his two sons were granted ‘denizenship’ (an inhabitant of a place) as English subjects (the patent was dated August 17).  In December 1656 he acquired land for a Jewish cemetery which was a public statement of Jewish existence.  In 1659, his memorial service was attended by Samuel Pepys.

Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Poland founded their first synagogue in 1692 in Broad Street, Mitre Square.London.  The magnificent Spanish and Portuguese Jews' synagogue in Bevis Marks, in the City of London, followed in 1701.  The legality of the practice of Judaism in England received indirect parliamentary recognition through the 1698 Act Suppressing Blasphemy.

In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore. Four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid became the first Jewish hereditary peer. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, and the first Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild took his seat three years later when the parliamentary oath was changed from being a Christian one.

The Reform Act of 1867 enfranchised all male householders and gave the vote to Jews

in 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister.  His parents had had him baptised a Christian when he was twelve.  He entered Parliament in 1837.

By 1890 Jews had had all restrictions to every position in the British Empire, except that of monarch, removed. 46,000 Jews now lived in England.

From the 1880’s many Jews immigrated as they were fleeing from pogroms in Poland and Russia. These Jews (ashkenazim) had a distinct East European and Yiddish culture and soon outnumbered those with a Spanish and Portuguese culture (sephardim).

The 1930’s saw the creation of the British Fascist Party under Sir Oswald Moseley which went into decline after the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

The Labour Party, with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader,  has had aad publicity due to antisemitism.  It has been forced to accept the interntional definition and is being investigated (2019)





A Short History of the Jews in Britain to 2006

Blood libel

Edward I Expels the Jews from England (1290)

From Expulsion (1290) to Readmission (1656)

1656, Readmission of Jews to England

Resettlement Period,

Resettlement Period,

Oswald Moseley

British Jews After
World War 2

From the Nazis




from the Jewish Historical Society of England

Go to Timeline - Britain for more information


 The Middle Period

The period between the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 and their readmission in 1656 is generally called ‘The Middle Period’. Although there was no Jewish community during this period, Jews visited Britain from time to time for various reasons and some Marranos established themselves in Britain for periods of time.

Further reading: Wolf (1887); Roth (1959)


Attempt at

Revocation of

the Edict of Expulsion

A delegation of six Jews came to London to try to obtain a revocation of the expulsion. They were not successful, although according to Joseph Hacohen’s Emek Habacha they were not expelled until 1358.


Jewish doctor

Attends Henry IV

Elias Sabot from Bologna was summoned to attend Henry IV and given permission to reside and practise medicine anywhere in England.


Court of the

Star Chamber


It is generally believed that the Court of the Star Chamber was named for the star pattern on the ceiling of the room at the Palace of Westminster where its

meetings were held. However, this might not be correct.  Before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 a copy of their legal documents known as shtarot or starrs from the Hebrew word shetar (a covenant) had to be deposited in chests. These chests were held in various places, but the main one was a room in the Palace of Westminster near the exchequer. This room became known as the star-chamber. When the Jews were expelled this room began to be used by the King’s Council. In time the

fact that its name derived from the Jewish starrs was forgotten and possibly because of the name the ceiling

was painted with stars not the other way round. The room has now been converted into the lottery office.

August 18 1494

Evidence of Jews (Marranos)

in Tudor England

In a letter from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to Henry VII, they requested that some Jews in London be forced to return some money they had impounded.

No evidence exists that Henry took any action regarding the money or the Jews. The letter was written two years after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492

and indicates that some Jews had fled to England.

Further reading: Katz (1996)

January 25 1531

Jewish help with Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine

of Aragon

King Henry decided that one of the major grounds for his divorce was the prohibition in Leviticus against‘taking thy brother’s wife’ and that the levirate marriage requirement in Deuteronomy 10 did not apply.  Some historians consider that to assist in the researches a complete edition of the Talmud was imported, others consider that although a Talmud was imported at that time it was not imported by Henry nor to assist in the arguments for his divorce. He also sought and obtained help from some Jewish experts in Italy. At the beginning of 1531 Marco Raphael, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, arrived in London to advise Henry VIII on this. In the

end his help was not necessary as it was overtaken by events – Archbishop Cranmer declaring the marriage to Catherine void and Henry marrying Anne Boleyn,who was pregnant with the future Queen Elizabeth I.

Further reading: Katz (1996), Chapter 1.

C 1531

Renewal of Jewish residence in


Samuel Usque stated in his book Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel published in 1553 that some Jews

who left Portugal after 1531 went to England where they were ‘despised and abused’.