Saturday, 25 June 2016

[#37] Adrienne Williams Boyrain, ‘Desire for Religion: Mary, a Murder Libel, a Jewish Friar, and Me’, Religion and Literature, 42 (2010), pp. 23-48.

Academic Entry:

A discussion of the Virgin Mary and Jewishness in the literature of medieval England with particular emphasis upon the role of gender and the way that Boyrain’s approach is informed by her personal experience.

General Entry:

In reading this article I did something that I’ve really done since I began thinking about medieval Jews: questioning how I fit into that narrative. Adrienne Boyrain points out that ‘[m]any students will volunteer their own religious convictions or lack of them as a preamble to questions or comments’ which is, for me, exceedingly tedious and irritating, and usually results in me adopting the opposite argument to them, just so that they can experience some sense of what they have subjected me to (childish, I know, but vaguely satisfying). However, at the start of this article Boyrain makes me incredibly envious, because in connecting her work to her apostasy, it gives a much stronger connection to her work. In comparison, I don’t hold any religious views, though as a result of studying medieval religion I have become more tolerant of those who do, and, like Boyrain, ‘I do what I do… because I care about it’. In my case however, my work is perpetuated by a much shallower motivation: the desire to know and, in Cecil Roth’s words, ‘[b]ecause it is fun’ (Roth: 1968-1969, p. 29). In the second section of this article Boyrain discusses something which has long baffled me when reading sources, is the Virgin Mary Jewish or Christian – apparently the answer is both. This is something which I would love to explore more and I would assume that this is explored further in Boyrain’s book Miracles of the Virgin in Medieval England but, alas, I don’t have a copy of, or access to, this so that will have to wait a good long while.

Following on from this, a discussion is provided of what a Jew is. There is a particular emphasis on the narrative of Adam of Bristol and Boyrain provides the most accurate modern summation of this text that I have ever come across ‘It is […] genuinely terrifying’, something which I wholeheartedly agree with. From a literary perspective I agree with Boyrain that there was a fear about how Christians could distinguish a Jew, but I do not think that this held true in reality beyond high political and ecclesiastical authorities. A major plus point for this section, in my opinion, is the fascinating analysis of the role that gender plays within the narrative. In the final section, Boyrain discusses a Jew called Sampson who impersonated a Friar Minor. I am glad that she singles out Robin M.’s highly ambiguous reference to this case, because I to found this tantalising, but he said nothing more on the subject and, again because of curiosity rather than a deeper link, and he regretted not saying more on this (though he was in the process of rectifying the omission and I hope to complete that). This section builds upon the discussion of the previous section in a way that I had never considered but provides an argument which I can think of several other cases (off of the top of my head) where the language might benefit from the same style of contextualisation as Boyrain employs here.

To conclude, in this article Boyrain draws together a number of different themes which are of significance to both literary and historical approaches to medieval Anglo-Jewry. I must confess that this is first time that I have read this piece, and shall have to read it a few more times to get to grips with the finer points of the argument which I have missed because of my ‘sledge hammer approach to history’ (as Robin M. called it), but I highly recommend this article, I found it to be captivating and a riveting read and I am sure that you, dear reader, will enjoy it as much as I have. Finally, Dr Boyrain is give a paper on ‘the Letters of Anglo-Jewish Women Converts, 1270-1420’ at the Leeds IMC in a couple of weeks and if you are interested by the gender themes in this article then I suggest you check out her paper (I certainly intend to!).

Work Cited:


Cecil Roth, ‘Why Anglo-Jewish History?’, Jewish Historical Society of England, 22 (1968-1969), pp. 21-29.

Friday, 24 June 2016

New Resources - The Jewish Chronicle

I have tracked down these articles in the Jewish Chronicle which relate to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry, however this is an incomplete list. I have, for example, been unable to track down the pieces by Robin M. from the early 1990s so I must assume that the online website is not a complete repository, so if anybody can supplement this list I will happily add the pieces.

Jewish Chronicle

Jennifer Lipman, ‘The medieval Jewish poet who preceded Chaucer’,  The Jewish Chronicle, 20 September 2012, available online at http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/82732/the-medieval-jewish-poet-who-preceded-chaucer  accessed on 17 Jun. 16.

Jonathan Romain, ‘Magna Carta’s three Jewish clauses’, The Jewish Chronicle, 4 September 2014, available online at http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/essays/122219/magna-cartas-three-jewish-clauses accessed on 17 Jun. 16.


Alan Shaw, ‘York – site of atrocity, symbol of hope’, The Jewish Chronicle, 15 March 2013, available online at http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/103483/york-%E2%80%94-site-atrocity-symbol-hope accessed on 17 Jun. 16.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

[#36] Miriamne Ara Krummel, ‘Jewish Culture and Literature in England’ in Albrecht Classen (ed.), Handbook of Medieval Culture: Fundamental Aspects and Conditions of the European Middle Ages, vol. 2 (Berlin, 2015), pp. 772-793.

Academic Entry:

An introduction to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry upon the basis of the culture and literature of the community which is not an especially successful piece.

General Entry:

I came across this text by accident when I was looking for something else, but I thought it would be good to review. Alas, I do not have access to the three volumes, although if anybody wants to donate them to my collection then they would be greatly received, and as such I am afraid that I will be unable to answer the more general questions that I usually receive in relation to texts like this. I shall start by putting my cards on the table and saying that I do not like, or agree with, this introduction to medieval Anglo-Jewry. For me, it is based up older scholarship and erroneous assumptions which I would hope would not be perpetuated through the historiography, and while it could have been an superb piece, particularly within the context of this volume more generally, I do not feel that it achieved this.

Section one of this book, reminded me of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe whereby the English were subjugated under the Norman, and Jewish, York in the aftermath of the Expulsion – needless to say that I disagree, in the strongest possible terms, with this assessment. In section two, Krummel attempts to argue that there were unofficial ghettos within medieval England upon the basis of the fact that the Jews tended to congregate together. Within this section, however, there is no attempt to engage with the most recent efforts to map Jewries, which has convincingly highlighted that this settlement was made upon the basis of social status rather than being a specifically Jewish settlement (e.g. Meyer: 2009, pp. 31-55; Rees Jones: 2013). Similarly, in the third section on the domus conversorum, Krummel bases her arguments on older scholarship but not upon the important work of Lauren Fogle which certainly adds something to this discussion (e.g. Fogle: 2005). For me, the strongest section in this chapter is the fourth which talks about the literary history of medieval Anglo-Jewry – as one might expect given Krummel’s background – and this discussion includes the Jewish writers as well as those narratives which heavily featured the Jews (namely the blood libel accounts). This is followed by, what is for me, the least successful section: a discussion of the medieval Anglo-Jewess. I am hugely biased on this point, because of my deep love of gender history, but I just find this section to be very standard. For one thing, it only looks at the highest level of Jewish life rather than the more nuanced picture which has been forwarded by the likes of Hannah Meyer (2009). In the sixth, and final, section which considers the Expulsion (1290), which is a fairly standard narrative, which focuses particularly upon where the Jews went to after England.

            To conclude, I do not find this to be an especially good introduction to the discipline of medieval Anglo-Jewish history. However, as always I would recommend that you, dear reader, not take my word for this and instead read it for yourself and make up your own mind. Finally, I think that looking at these volumes, an excellent project for a publisher like De Gruyter to undertake, given its propensity for producing magnificent handbooks, would be an edited collection of medieval Jewry generally, which would include interdisciplinary approaches and national outlines, which have been attempted here, but not really achieved successfully. This is something which I am hugely in favour of, and think that it is nothing short of a travesty that such a volume(s) has not already been produced, and I would love to be in a position to spearhead this project myself.

Work Cited:

Lauren Fogle, ‘Jewish Converts to Christianity in Medieval London’ (London, unpublished PhD diss., 2005).

Hannah Meyer, ‘Female moneylending and wet-nursing in Jewish-Christian relation in thirteenth-century England’ (Cambridge, unpublished PhD diss., 2009).


Sarah Rees Jones, ‘Neigbours and Victims in Twelfth-Century York: a Royal Citadel, the Citizens and the Jews of York’ in Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson (eds.), Jews and Christians in Angevin England: The York Massacre of 1190, Narratives and Contexts (York, 2013), pp. 15-42.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

David of Oxford Divorce Case Conference Paper

Given the frequency with which I comment upon the work of professional historians, it would be the height of hypocrisy for me not to open my own work up to comment. Therefore, I am uploading this paper, which I delivered at a conference on 20 June, where I attempt to unpack the David of Oxford divorce case. I had to omit a great deal of material to fit within the time frame (which I may use if I write this paper up for the conference's journal - if only to talk about Licorica of Winchester - but I haven't decided yet). One point, Dr Pinchas Roth pointed out to me that the discussion of Jewish divorce could be more nuanced, but I did not have time to incorporate this into this paper. I have omitted the PowerPoint slides just in case of any copyright issues. Enjoy!

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_Rt2-YIPArVM0N5Z3kxa1l3MFE

Thursday, 16 June 2016

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

This review has been completed as a response to David’s, from Birmigham (UK?), request for an accessible introduction to medieval Anglo-Jewry. See also review #8.
Academic Entry:

A thematic textbook which considers the key themes of medieval Anglo-Jewish life from 1066 until 1290.

General Entry:

It is a great pleasure to be able to review this book for this blog – not only is it the book that inspired my love of medieval Anglo-Jewry (for better or worse) but also was written by my friend and mentor and I discussed this text extensively with him. I’ve read this book somewhere in the region of a dozen times, in full (and many more times in part), since I was first introduced to it as my A-Level textbook in 2012. For me this book embodies not only a great deal of superb scholarship but also Robin’s spirit – it combines academic integrity with a writing style that makes it accessible to all. Moreover, the sentiment which is embodied within this book is truly inspiring. In Robin’s, ever eloquent, words it was his:
hope that reading about the medieval Jews of England will demand questions, foster understanding, but above all will make the reader reflect on the follies of bigotry, hatred or persecution. My fervent hope is that all should try to be more accepting, tolerant and open in all that they do among all those they rub shoulders with.
I cannot, of course, speak for everybody else, but my reading of this book has certainly impacted me in this way. For me, this is a very intelligent book in that it provides a thematic introduction to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry. Appearing just four years after Richard Huscroft’s book (2006) which provides a chronological overview of the same subject, the two texts work incredibly well with each other. Moreover, the chapters which Robin selects are incredibly insightful and go to the heart of the historiography. These chapters range from the distribution of Jewish communities (cap. 1), to their business activities and internal structures (caps. 2-3), Christian-Jewish relations (caps. 4-6) and Expulsions, both local and general (cap. 7).

            There is an elephant in the room with regards to a consideration of this book: Professor Stacey’s more negative review of the book (2011) – I shall put my cards on the table and say that I disagree with this review. However, part of the reason for this disagreement is that I know Robin’s published work exceedingly well, having recently surveyed it for something that I am working on, and with this knowledge it becomes clear that Robin’s write up has let him down and some issues merge in with each other, when in his other work they are clearly separated. Therefore, in some areas you have to understand Robin as much as the text and issues being covered. Having said that, for all its flaws, Robin is still an exponentially better historian in this book than I could ever hope to be, and I think for the vast majority of readers this will be sufficient. One overarching criticism that I have of this book, and it is something that me and Robin debated at length, is that it is a very good introduction but it could have been so much more in terms of a scholarly piece. Admittedly, it would have been difficult to cater to both a mass and an academic audience but if anybody could have done it, Robin could. Therefore, I (and Robin did as well) think that this book should be built upon by a more academic textbook – though I think that if I were to consider that task it would be from a chronological rather than a thematic approach.

The significance of the audience does have major implications for the text though. For example, in his chapter on the Jews and the economy, Robin focused on the activities of Aaron of Lincoln rather than engaging with an overarching discussion of these activities – though an epically good book will appear next year which discusses these trends. This theme of focussing on the sensational and the sublime is something which permeates every element of this book, and with my academic hat on it irritates me immensely, but from the perspective of a general audience is very good. Having said all of that, I would recommend this book to anybody, and everybody, as such is the calibre of the text that you will take something from it.

Work Cited:

Richard Huscroft, Expulsion: England’s Jewish Solution (Stroud, 2006).


Robert C. Stacey, ‘Review of The King’s Jews: Money, Massacre and Exodus in Medieval England’, Reviews in History, available online at http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1077 accessed on 16 June 2016.

Monday, 13 June 2016

[#34] Select Pleas, Starrs, and Other Records from the Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, A.D. 1220-1284, ed. and trans. J. M. Rigg (London, 1902).*

* Nota bene – This volume has been digistised and is available here: https://archive.org/details/selectpleasstarr00grearich accessed on 13 June 2016.

Academic Entry:

This volume is a compendium which includes a comprehensive introduction to thirteenth-century Anglo-Jewry, the most significant pieces of legislation, and important excerpts from the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews.

General Entry:

Looking at one of my bookcases, one set of books immediately stands out: the six (well used) volumes of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews (PREJ). These volumes have underpinned the last century of scholarship of on the subject of medieval Anglo-Jewry. That being said, there is a book, which is sadly absent from my collection, which I use just as much and would argue is just as important as these full volumes of the PREJ volumes. That is J. M. Rigg’s (who edited the first two volumes of PREJ in released in 1905 and 1910 respectively) volume of the most significant entries in the PREJ rolls, published by the Seldon Society in 1902. Indeed, I might even be tempted to argue that this volume was an even more important contribution to medieval Anglo-Jewish history than the respective, relatively comprehensive, PREJ volumes for several reasons. First, looking at the introduction, which provides a very detailed history of thirteenth-century Anglo-Jewry, this seems to me to be a more substantive contribution to the historiography, than the book which was produced by Albert Montefiore Hyamson six years later (1908) and which would become the standard textbook for decades to come. Indeed, such is the calibre of this introduction that even in the light of more than a century of historical research, I feel that a great deal can still be gained from this section, providing that it treated with caution. Second, the provision of some of the most important pieces of legislation concerning the Jews during the thirteenth-century, with the original Latin and an English translation, which has yet to be surpassed (though I am currently attempting something which revises these translations, so that may change in the coming years). While minor amendments might be made to these translations, in light of contemporary standards, in terms of content these do not impact upon the reading of these pieces of legislation – hence the Latin and English version are commonly cited in scholarship and have been since this appearance of this volume. Third, and finally, the documents which are reproduced (again in Latin transcription and English translation) are nothing short of a masterpiece. Naturally they have an inherent significance in their own right, however context provides them with even more significance. That is to say, while the first two PREJ volumes appeared in a relatively short space of time, the same cannot be said of the other volumes (volume six, the most recent volume, only appeared in 2005 and there is still on more volume to appear, which Professor Brand informed me that he was working on).  As a consequence, for a great span of the twentieth-century these excerpts were the only way to access the PREJ rolls short of visting the rolls in person which would be a difficult task for most. Thus, individually these elements are each worthy of commendation, but collectively they amount to a work so magnificent that the work of many other, superb, historians is rendered pale in comparison. It therefore goes without saying that I cannot recommend this book enough.

Work Cited:


Albert Montefiore Hyamson, A History of the Jews in England (London, 1908).

Friday, 10 June 2016

[#33] Henry Abramson, ‘A ready Hatred: Depictions of the Jewish Woman in Medieval Antisemitic Art and Caricature’, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 62 (1996), pp. 1-18.

Academic Entry:

A discussion of the iconography of the Jewess in medieval art.

General Entry:

I am just coming to the end of my MA degree and it seems increasingly likely that I will cease to be in academia by September, and that the project that I am working on at present will be my last. This has made me think about the very first project that I did (with a great deal of help from Robin M.) which consider the position of Jewish women in the English evidence. At the heart of that research was this article that I read by Henry Abramson, and while it does not specifically discuss England, the theme’s that he explores inherently link to medieval Anglo-Jewry. I should add the disclaimer that the research that I conducted caused me to conclude that the English evidence does not substantiate the conclusions in this evidence (though I cannot speak to other European countries) so I would strongly urge you to read it for yourself – it’s a fun piece and it had a major impact upon me, even if I did not ultimately agree with it.  As a result I will try to be more circumspect with my comments so as to let you, dear reader, formulate your own opinion of the piece.

            In this piece, Abramson considers the iconographical significance of representations of Jews and women and the ways in which these two interacted and merged with each other in the form of the Jewess. There is a very interesting discussion of the circumcision of Christ at the beginning which I find to be thought provoking, and this leads on to a more general discussion of Jewish sexuality. This article is rounded off with a discussion of the elements specific to Jewesses. For me, this is an important piece of scholarship because previously the role played by gender within Jewish iconography had not really been discussed. As a consequence, this article seems to conform to part of a wider trend that started to occur during the 1990s of including gender studies in medieval Jews.  One point that I would make is that some of the features which Abramson discusses become more convincing  or nuanced when they are considered in relation to the work of literary scholars (see, for example, Bale: 2007; Johnson: 1998). In addition, some of the arguments which Abramson promulgates in this article have subsequently been challenged by scholars like Sara Lipton (2008). Despite the plethora of interpretative problems that I have with this article, I still have absolutely no problems recommending it as it is an enjoyable piece, which opened a new area of discussion, and which I spend a lot of time thinking about.

Work Cited:

Anthony Bale, ‘The Female “Jewish” Libido in Medieval Culture’, The Erotic in the Literature of Medieval Britain (Woodbridge, 2007), pp. 94-104.

Willis Johnson, ‘The myth of Jewish male menses’, Journal of Medieval History, 24 (1998), pp. 273-295.


Sara Lipton, ‘Where Are the Gothic Jewish Women? On the Non-Iconography of the Jewess in the Cantigas de Santa Maria’, Jewish History, 22 (2008), pp. 139-177.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 1940).

Marcus Roberts (of Jtrails) has very kindly provided me with this digital copy of Cecil Roth's A History of the Jews in England (London, 1940), which would be seriously revised twenty-years later for the third edition (based largely on the work of H. G. Richardson). However, I think that much can still be gained from reading this version. I am told that this version was produced by people who were of a neo-Nazi persuasion, and think that it would be a travesty if such an influential text were only disseminated to similar people, so if nothing else I've finally found something useful that the far right have done.


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_Rt2-YIPArVb1hpaHNtX2xiRTQ/view?usp=sharing

New Link

While perusing the internet I came accross a document by Marcus Roberts (of the Jtrails website) entitled 'The Story of England's Jews: The First Thousand Years'. I thought it would be a good idea to highlight this resource (which is available here: http://www.jtrails.org.uk/about/history-of-english-jews) as well as the Jtrails website more generally (http://www.jtrails.org.uk/) which is usually of a good qualitiy.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

[#32] J. J. N. McGurk, ‘The Jews of Medieval England: Part I – The Late Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, History Today, 23 (1973), pp. 313-321.

Academic Entry:

Not Appropriate

General Entry:

When I was perusing through the online archive of History Today I was surprised to realise that there were only three articles relating to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry (that is the two parts of this article – the second of which will be reviewed subsequently – and Miri Rubin’s article on William of Norwich: 2010). For me this is utterly baffling and nothing short of a travesty, a dozen ideas for articles for a general readership spring to mind without the slightest bit of effort but historians have not utilised this resource to disseminate key themes to a broader audience. Yet, I was also pleasantly surprised to find this article from the early 1970s which is a (very) brief introduction to the early history of medieval Anglo-Jewry, which I had not previously been aware of. As I outline below there are some problems (some of them serious) with McGurk’s essay, but I think many of these are obvious with hindsight as much as anything else. That being said, I think it is a spectacularly good thing that somebody had the foresight to try and generate interest in the subject during the period when only senior academics, like Cecil Roth, were championing the cause of an ‘exotic and esoteric footnote’ on English history (Mundill: 2011, p. 572), so, brownie points and a Blue Peter badge for that (I’m not sure how well those references will translate beyond – or even within – the British Isles, so feel free to make use of Google if they go completely over your head). In terms of content, McGurk covers most of the key events relating to the first century and a half of Jewish presence in England, with emphasis on the charters issued to the Jewry, the early settlements, Aaron of Lincoln, and the massacres of 1189-90. I say ‘most’ because there is one omission so glaring that it hardly needs to be remarked upon: the case of William of Norwich.

                For all of its good, however, this is not an article without serious flaws. First, the chronology is somewhat sketchy and the way that it is presented one gets the impression that the archae were an inherent feature of Jewish life during this period – they were not, they were only established in 1194. Second, McGurk uses Roth’s famous phrase of a ‘Royal Milch Cow’ (Roth: 1964) to describe the Jewish relationship with Henry II – this is not an argument that can be convincingly promulgated or sustained for any aspect of Christian-Jewish relations during the twelfth-century. Third, and finally for the purposes of this review, McGurk advances the argument, which was commonly accepted at the time so there was nothing wrong with it in that sense, that the 1190 marked the beginning of the end for medieval Anglo-Jewry and it was just a spiral of decline until the Expulsion a century later – I cannot state emphatically enough how erroneous this argument is. Having said all of that, I would recommend this article to general readers with the proviso that it be treated with caution (the same advice that  I would give to reading any of my comments).

Work Cited:

Robin R. Mundill, ‘Out of the Shadow and into the Light – the Impact and Implications of Recent Scholarship on the Jews of Medieval England’, History Compass, 9 (2011), pp. 572-601.

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


Miri Rubin, ‘Making a Martyr: William of Norwich and the Jews’, History Today, 60 (2010), pp. 48-54.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

[#31] Entries relating to the Jews of medieval England contained in the Oxford Dictionary of Medieval Biography (online edition).

·         Robert C. Stacey, ‘Eveske, Elias l’’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), available online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/52245?docPos=&backToResults=%2Fsearch%2Fresults%2Fcontributors.jsp%3FcontributorId%3D1118 accessed on 6 June 2016.

·         Robert C. Stacey, ‘Lincoln, Aaron of’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), available online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37090?docPos=&backToResults=%2Fsearch%2Fresults%2Fcontributors.jsp%3FcontributorId%3D1118 accessed on 6 June 2016.

·         Robert C. Stacey, ‘Norwich, Isaac of’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), available online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37588?docPos=&backToResults=%2Fsearch%2Fresults%2Fcontributors.jsp%3FcontributorId%3D1118 access on 6 June 2016.

·         Robert C. Stacey, ‘York, Aaron of’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), available online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/38612?docPos=&backToResults=%2Fsearch%2Fresults%2Fcontributors.jsp%3FcontributorId%3D1118

Academic Entry:

Bibliographic entries in the ODNB relating to the careers of four (pre-) eminent Jews from medieval England.

General Entry:

I should start by saying that I love the ODNB – many of its entries are comprehensive and set the gold standard as far as biographical entries are concerned.  That being said, I am always disappointed by the sheer lack of entries relating to the Jews of medieval England. There are only four entries, as far as I am aware, of which only one relates to two of the six super-plutocrats (as I think of them) who dominated medieval Anglo-Jewish life during the mid-thirteenth century are reflected. Moreover, those entries that do appear are remarkably circumspect for some of the most important Jewish figures from medieval England and do no more than signpost some of the critical elements of the individuals being covered. Now, at this point it is probably fair to provide the disclaimer that the entries are written by one of the most distinguished, and eminent, scholars in my field: Professor Robert C. Stacey. However, while I love Stacey’s approach and methodology, there is something about his writing style that I really find polarises me against what he writes and, as regular readers will know it is instances like this that I really want to emphasise that you should read the things being reviewed for yourself. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with Stacey’s pieces from a factual point of view – we just have totally different approaches.

            There are two key themes which come out from these entries. The first, as one might expect given Stacey’s publications, is an emphasis on the presence of these figures in the tallage rolls (see especially Stacey: 1985). The second consideration which prevails is in the two entries relating people who were appointed arch-presbyter of the Jews, Elias l’Eveske and Aaron of York. Moreover, Stacey paints a relatively erudite picture of the career of each Jew, however, such is the briefness of these descriptions that one gets little sense of the lives of the individuals being pursued. I think that it might be expected that a historian who once condemned Michael Adler as having ‘done little more than plunder the printed records for curious details’, as Stacey did (Stacey: 1987, p. 62), might have made more of an effort not to do the same within the writing of these entries. However, I think the fact that these entries appeared at all in the ODNB is a positive feature, but they are perhaps to short and too few to provide any serious glimpse into the lives of individuals or medieval Anglo-Jewry more generally. Therefore, it must surely be an endeavour of a group as prestigious and esteemed as the ODNB upon the sterling foundations laid by Stacey and expand both the current entries and the number of entries relating to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry.

If you know of any other entries relating to medieval Jews then please do let me know – I have deliberately excluded the entries for William of Norwich and Little St. Hugh of Lincoln for obvious reasons but it is interesting to note that both of those entries are more substantive that the ones considered here.

Work Cited:

Robert C. Stacey, ‘Royal Taxation and the Social Structure of Medieval Anglo-Jewry: The Tallages of 1239-1242’, Hebrew Union College Annual, 56 (1985), pp. 175-249.


Robert C. Stacey, ‘Recent Work on Medieval English Jewish History’, Jewish History, 2 (1987), pp. 61-72.

Monday, 6 June 2016

#27 additional reference

In entry #27, I expressed my thoughts on Sara Lipton's new article discussing a caricature of Jews. That article has been considerably shortened for a piece in the New York Review of Books and is available here: http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/06/06/the-first-anti-jewish-caricature/.

[#30] Roger Dahood, ‘The Anglo-Norman “Hugo de Lincolnia”: A Critical Edition and translation from the Unique Text in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France MS fr. 902’, The Chaucer Review, 49 (2014), pp. 1-38.

Academic Entry:

In this article Roger Dahood transcribes and translates the thirteenth century poem Hugo de Lincolnia complete with an introduction which examines the history of the poem and the literary context within which the poem was written as well as considering the literary elements which form the poem.

General Entry:

Arguably the most famous blood libel case which occurred in medieval England was that of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln – so called in order to differentiate him from St. Hugh of Lincoln, a bishop of the diocese. In the plethora of discussions of this case there has been a tendency to put the emphasis on the chronicle or governmental accounts of the narrative. However, for me, one of outstanding sources relating to the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry generally, and this case specifically, is an (roughly) contemporaneous poem written in the Norman-French. Previously, this text has been largely inaccessible to historians of medieval Anglo-Jewry, but thanks to this new transcription and translation by Roger Dahood, it is now more accessible than ever. In this article, he not only provides the text of Hugo de Lincolnia but also provides the context of the archival and publication history of the text. In addition, Dahood, very much informed by a literary perspective, provides a discussion of the composition of the poem, including the rhyming styles of the poem. In terms of the poem itself, Dahood (rightly) establishes that this contains a level of detail concerning the city of Lincoln which is unsurpassed in the chronicle accounts, and this detail is evident throughout the poem. For me, there are two important stanzas which speak to the heart of Christian-Jewish relations during this period:

The king gave his true promise thus: | “By God’s pity! If it is such | As you [Hugh’s mother] have said, | The Jews will die without mercy!
And if you have lied | About the Jews concerning such a crime, | By St. Edward, have no doubt | the same fate will befall you.
In other words, the blood libel accusation could not simply be levied in this instance against the ‘King’s Jews’ and the same evidentiary standards applied in this instance as would any other (indeed the stakes were considerably higher, proportionate to the crime). I shall leave my comments on the content at that so as not to ruin the poem for readers.

            The major problems that I have with this article stem from the fact that Dahood was not writing from a medieval Anglo-Jewish perspective but rather for students of Chaucer, so as to provide the context for that famous final stanza of Chaucer’s Prioresses Tale which reads ‘O Hugh of Lincoln, likewise murdered so | by cursed Jews, as is notorious | …’ (Chaucer: 2003, p. 176). The impact of this upon the text is that there is remarkably little effort to contextualise this poem within the context of the other chronicle accounts or governmental records. Fortunately, the implications of this are mitigated by a recent article by David Carpenter which was formed by a discussion of all of the literary accounts and the governmental records (Carpenter: 2012). Despite the irritating nature of this approach for me personally, this does not inhibit the reading of the poem itself, and indeed the case of Little St. Hugh has been written about so often that there are many places from which you can garner the original information (including the original sources which is my preferred location!).

Work Cited:

David Carpenter, ‘Crucifixion and Conversion: King Henry III and the Jews in 1255’, in Susanne Jenks et. al. (eds.), Laws, Lawyers and Texts: Studies in Medieval Legal History in Honour of Paul Brand (Turnhout: 2012), pp. 129-148.


Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. and trans. Nevill Coghill (London: 1951, rpt. 2003).

Sunday, 5 June 2016

New Online Resources Links

I have just adding the following sources to the ‘Links to Lectures, Podcasts and Blogs’ page, which are taken from Jewish Women’s Archive online encyclopaedia. As many know, the bread and butter of my research interests is the role that gender played within medieval Anglo-Jewry, so I find this to be a particularly important resource – not just for medieval sources (and one can certainly spend the day, as I have done in the past, flicking through its online encyclopaedia).

Elisheva Baumgarten, ‘Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)’, Jewish Women’s Archive, online encyclopedia, available online at http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/medieval-ashkenaz-1096-1348 accessed on 5 June 2016.

[Not specifically about England but provides good level of European context.]

Cheryl Tallan and Suzanne Bartlet, ‘Licoricia of Winchester’, Jewish Women’s Archive, online encyclopedia, available online at http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/licoricia-of-winchester accessed on 5 June 2016.

[As people who who know me will know, Licorica is one of my favourite women from history and this provides a good introduction to her life.]

Cheryl Tallan and Emily Taitz, ‘Entrepreneurs’, Jewish Women’s Archive, online encyclopaedia, available online at http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/entrepreneurs accessed on 5 June 2016.


[Not specifically about England but provides good level of European context with an entry relating to Licoricia of Winchester.]