Thursday, 10 November 2016

(Jewish) OTD: 10 November


When a medieval usurer died in medieval England (and Christendom for that matter) their property and chattels were supposed to default to the Crown. From this emerged the tradition among Anglo-Jewry that the heirs would pay the value of one third of the value of the deceased’s estate to the Crown instead. There are obvious examples where this was not observed, in 1186, for example, when Henry II confiscated the entire estate of Aaron of Lincoln (the treasure taken subsequently sank in the English Channel). Ordinarily, this third would have been a relatively small sum, however, for the richest Jews in the land it could be a staggering sum. One of the largest such sums that we know of comes from Hamo of Hereford who died in 1231. We gain an insight into the size of Hamo’s estate by the fact that his heir originally agreed to pay a fine of 5,000 marks (£3,333 6s 8d) in December 1231. For reasons that I cannot fathom, this increased the following September to a fine of 6,000 marks (£4,000). I expect that there is a good reason for this and it’s just my incompetence which prevents me from realising this, so if anybody has the answer, do feel free to rectify my idiocy. The original argreement was reached with Hamo’s eldest son Ursell, and the 1232 agreement with all of his sons. Having said that, however, Ursell died in 1241, hence this entry from 1242 is addressed to Moses and Abraham son of Elias (who was also described as an heir of Hamo previously). The 1232 agreement also stipulated that, after an initial substantial payment, they would then pay the sum at a rate of 300 marks per annum (£200). It is these terms of repayment that the 1242 entry refers to. This entry reveals that for a fine of £100, before Henry III “before he had crossed the sea” to France in mid-1242, for a shambolic military campaign around Saintes. For this sum, Moses and Abraham were permitted to lower the repayments to 200 marks (£133 6s 8d). There is an important context here. In the years immediately following Hamo’s death, his heirs were able to collect upon Hamo’s extensive portfolio of moneylending transactions. Conversely, the historical record, and common sense, tells us that by 1242 those Christians (in particular the Marcher Lords) who still had outstanding debts to Hamo were unwilling to pay, which had a corresponding effect upon the ability of Moses and Abraham’s ability to maintain their obligations to the Crown. Just as a final point, there is a minor omission from the English translation on the Fine Rolls of the Henry III website, the 200 marks is noted but the marks has been omitted – though “m[arcum]” does appear in the manuscript version at this point.

“Fine Rolls of Henry III Project”, accessed on 9 Nov. 2016.


Could I trouble you for a spot of feedback. I've been doing this blog feature for about ten days now, and whilst I enjoy writing the daily entries, as I'm sure that you imagine it takes quite a lot of time to find a different document daily, write something about that document, and contextualise it. Consequently, I would really appreciate your thoughts on the following points:

1) Do you actually like this feature or is it something that is pointless but everybody is to polite to say so?

2) How do you like the level of detail per entry? Is it to much, to little, or just right?

3) Is there anything that you don't like about the feature that you'd like to see removed? Or is there anything you'd like added?

4) If you know anything about medieval records, might you be willing to contribute an entry or two to this segment?

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1 comment:

  1. Just 'shared' your blog on FB - I'll be back with some questions next week - been busy!!!! Otherwise just keep it as it is. Excellent!!!