“Do not kill them, lest my people forget”: Changes in Attitudes Towards Jews in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century England

Keywords: medieval, Britain, England, Jewish, Judaism

Abstract

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.

Author Biography

Rebecca Colleen Reilly, Boston College
Rebecca Reilly is a student in the History and International Studies Departments at Boston College.

References

Abulafia, Anna Sapir. “Jewish-Christian disputations and the twelfth-century renaissance.” Journal of Medieval History 15 (1989): 105-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-4181(89)90012-2.

Brand, Paul. “Jews and the Law in England, 1275-1290.” English Historical Review 115 no. 464 (2000): 1138–1158.

Cohen, Jeffrey J. “The Flow of Blood in Medieval Norwich.” Speculum 79 no. 1 (2004): 26-65. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0038713400094720.

Huscroft, Richard. Expulsion: England’s Jewish Solution. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2013.

Hyams, Paul. “The Jewish Minority in Mediaeval England, 1066-1290.” Journal of Jewish Studies 27 (1974): 270-293. https://doi.org/10.18647/682/JJS-1974.

Jones, Sarah Rees and Sethina Watson (eds.). Christians and Jews in Angevin England: the York Massacre of 1190, Narratives and Contexts. York: York Medieval Press, 2013.

McCulloh, John M. “Jewish Ritual Murder: William of Norwich, Thomas of Monmouth, and the Early Dissemination of the Myth.” Speculum 72 no. 3 (1997): 698-740. https://doi.org/10.2307/3040759.

Moore, R.I. The Formation of a Persecuting Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Rokéah, Zefira Entin. Medieval English Jews and Royal Officials. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2000.

Skinner, Patricia. “Viewpoint: Confronting the Medieval in Medieval History: The Jewish Example.” Past & Present 181 (2003): 219-247.

Stacey, Robert C. “Anti-Semitism and the Medieval English State.” The Medieval State, ed. J.R. Maddicott and D.M. Palliser. London: Hambledon, 2000.

Thomas, Hugh M. “Portrait of a Medieval Anti-Semite: Richard Malebisse,” Haskins Society Journal 5 (1993): 1-16.

Published
2018-09-23
How to Cite
Reilly, R. C. (2018). “Do not kill them, lest my people forget”: Changes in Attitudes Towards Jews in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century England. Elements, 14(1). Retrieved from https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/elements/article/view/10323
Section
Articles