Friday, 4 November 2016

(Jewish) OTD: 5 November


The Edict of Expulsion, which came into effect on 1 November, did two things. First, it ended the Jewish presence in medieval England. Second, it generated a great deal of paperwork – which people like me absolutely love! One of the most commonly cited documents from the immediate aftermath of the Expulsion is this letter issued by Edward I on 5 November. I think it is worth quoting it here in its entirety because it is a very interesting document:

To the treasurer and barons of the exchequer. Whereas the king in his parliament at Westminster at the quinzaine of Michaelmas [13 October 1275], ordained that no Jew of the realm should thenceforth lend anything in usury to any Christian upon lands, rents or other things, but should earn his living by trade and labour, and the Jews afterwards, maliciously deliberating amongst themselves, changed the kind of usury into a worse, which they called ‘courtesy’ (curialitatem), and depressed the king’s people under colour of such by an error double that of the previous one; wherefore the king, by reason of their errors and for the honour of Christ, has caused the Jews to leave his realm as perfidious men; the king, not wishing to be inconsistent with his previous ordinance, but rather to imitate it, has wholly annulled all manner of pains and usury and every spot thereof that may be exacted from any Christians of the realm for any reasons whatever by reason of the Jewry for any times whatsoever, willing that nothing shall be exacted from the Christians except the principal debts that they received from the Jews; of which debts he wills that the amount shall be verified before the treasurer and barons by the oath of three Christians, and that they shall be then paid to the king at suitable terms to be appointed by the treasurer and barons. He therefore orders them to cause his grace thus piously made to be read in the exchequer, and to cause it to be enrolled in the rolls of the exchequer, and to cause it to be firmly observed in accordance with the form above noticed.
This document starts with a reference to the Statute of the Jewry of 1275. This had famously placed a moratorium upon Jews lending money at interest. Edward justified the Expulsion on the basis that this had been flaunted by the Jews. There has been considerable debate within the historiography as to the extent to which this actually happened, however, I side with Mundill who suggested that Jews did stop their usurious activities. Once the deed was done, there was also room for a cheeky bit of piety – so Edward retrospectively suggested that it was for the ‘honour of Christ’. Additionally, it was ordered that any debts accruing interest would cease to do so, and that all the archae should be transported to London for enrolment. I’m not sure about the three people who were to appear before the barons of the exchequer but given that the orders stipulated that the two Christian chirographers were to accompany the archae these seem likely to be two of the individuals – I wouldn’t be surprised if the sheriff were the third but am not sure about this.

Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward I A.D. 1288-1296, ed. H. C. Maxwell-Lyte (London, 1904), iii, p. 109.

1 comment:

  1. I predict a great future for you, Dean. Another great post. Keep it up