Abstract

This study seeks to show that opposition to the Jewish Naturalization Act (26 Geo. II. c.26) with its images of Christianity, law, and property reveals a constitutive moment in the formation of Britain as a nation. The Act, which had passed both the Commons and the Lords, was repealed because of popular outcry. While the "Jew Bill" has been studied in the context of Anglo-Jewish history, this incident can also serve to illustrate several British political and cultural preoccupations of the mid-eighteenth century. I argue that the discourse about Jews in the pamphlets and prints highlights contemporary concerns about the deep religious and political divisions within the polity. The controversy around the Bill underscored the fissured nature of Christian Britain and recharged lingering English fears about rebellion and civil unrest so prominent in the seventeenth century. The contrast of a divided Britain and the representation of a cohesive Jewish nation presented a threat but also an opportunity for galvanizing a broad spectrum of political culture.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 157-171
Launched on MUSE
2005-12-06
Open Access
No
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