- Christians and Jews in Angevin England: The York Massacre of 1190, Narratives and Contexts ed. by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson
The first Jews to settle in England arrived not long after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and the medieval phase of Anglo-Jewish history came to an end in 1290 with the expulsion of all of its members other than those who had converted to Christianity. The final decade of the twelfth century looks to have been a major turning-point in this relatively short history. This was the first time serious violence occurred against Jewish communities not just in London but also in at least seven other towns in East Anglia, the Midlands, and York. The present volume is the outcome of a 2010 conference held in York that examined the wider context of the York “massacre.”
The first section of this volume is rather misleadingly titled “The Events of March 1190.” Three of the section’s five papers do indeed focus on providing an immediate context for them: they are Joe Hillaby’s paper on the attacks on Jewish communities elsewhere in 1189–90; Nick Vincent’s paper on the literary sources behind William of Newburgh’s chronicle account of the York massacre; and Sarah Rees Jones’s paper on what is currently known about the transformation of York into a major royal center postconquest, Jewish settlement in York from the 1170s onward, and the local inhabitants fined for the York attacks. But Robert Stacey’s important paper specifically rejects the traditional connection made between the 1189–90 Jewish killings and the creation in 1194 of a network of official registries (chests) for records of Jewish loans and the emergence of the Exchequer of the Jews in 1198 and argues that both are connected with something rather different: the assertion of a new royal jurisdictional monopoly over the Jewish community. The second section (“Jews among Christians in medieval England”) includes a characteristically thought-provoking paper by Paul Hyams on some of the barriers to social contact and trust between Jews and Christians in medieval England, a fascinating paper by Eva de Visscher using Hebrew and Hebraist texts from pre-1290 England to reconstruct how Christian readers learned Hebrew, and a paper by Pinchas Roth and Ethan Zadoff looking at the evidence for Talmudic study in England, with a particular focus on Rabbi Elijah Menahem. The third section (“Representations”) has an interesting paper by Heather Blurton on the chroniclers’ use of biblical and other narratives of the destruction and expulsion of the ancient Israelites as a model for their description of the violence against Jews in England, another by Matthew Mesley on a miracle story allegedly involving a blind and dumb Jewish woman at the tomb of St. Remigius of Lincoln and her subsequent conversion, and one by Carlee Bradbury on the visual tradition in English art of the [End Page 623] period from 1190 onward of dehumanizing a Jew present at the funeral of the Virgin Mary. The volume as a whole makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of the Jewish community in medieval England and its relationship with the Christian population and English royal government.
University of Oxford