“Do not kill them, lest my people forget”: Changes in Attitudes Towards Jews in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century England
This essay supports Paul Hyams’ thesis that while attitudes toward Jews over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries certainly cooled, they did so less dramatically or inevitably than the 1290 expulsion might suggest if imagined as a culmination of policy. Chronicled hostility, alongside which the Jewish ‘blood libel’ myth developed as justification, appears to have increased with perceived Jewish economic status. Their status after their impoverishment decreased as royal policy perpetuated longstanding social divisions that largely originated from neither religious nor economic cleavages, only cultural ones. The treatment of the Jews in the period may simultaneously be understood as one of English identity consolidation in the post-Conquest period, as Jews first coexisted with Anglo-Saxons after the Norman invasion. Since economic reasoning alone does not explain the treatment of the Jews in the latter half of the thirteenth century, this essay also examines instances of anti-Jewish violence and successive Plantagenet king’s policies targeting the Jews and understands them as indicators or constructions of religious and national alterity.
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