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236 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 



THE EXPULSION OF THE JEWS FROM 
ENGLAND IN 1290. 

{Continued from p. 100.) 

VI. — The Prohibition of Usury. 

Very soon after the passing of the Statute of 1270, 
Edward left England to join the second Crusade of St. 
Louis, and did not return till 1274, two years after he 
had been proclaimed king. At once he took up with 
characteristic vigour, and with the help and advice of a 
band of statesmen and lawyers, the work of administrative 
reform that he had already begun as heir-apparent. He 
recognised that the state of affairs established in 1270 
could not endure, since, under it, the Jews, while practi- 
cally prevented from lending money at interest, now that 
the law forbade them to take in pledge real property, the 
only possible security for large loans, were nevertheless 
still nothing but usurers, allowed by ancient custom and 
royal recognition to carry on that one pursuit as best they 
could, and prevented by the same forces from carrying on 
any other. Edward, with his usual love for " the defini- 
tion of duties and the spheres of duty," ' felt that it was 
necessary to define for the Jews a new position, which 
should not, as did their present position, condemn them 
to hopeless struggles, nor demand from him acquiescence 
in what he believed to be a sin. 

For the Church had never ceased to maintain the 
doctrine of the sinfulness of usury which Ambrose and 
Clement, Jerome and Tertullian, had taught in strict 
conformity with the communistic ideas of primitive 
Christianity. It is true that till the eleventh century 

1 Stubbs, Constitutional History. II., 116. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 237 

usury and speculative trading generally had not been 
active enough to call for repression, nor would the Church 
have been strong enough to enforce on the Christian world 
the observance of its doctrine. It could not follow up 
the attempt made by the Capitularies of Charles the Great 
to prevent laymen from practising usury, and it had to 
rest content with enforcing the prohibition on clerics. 1 
But the growth under Hildebrand of the power of the 
Church over every-day life, and the elevation of the moral 
tone of its teaching that resulted from its struggles with 
the temporal power, enabled it to adopt with increasing 
effect measures of greater severity. Hildebrand, in 1083, 
decreed that usurers should, like perjurers, thieves, and 
wife- deserters, be punished with excommunication ; 2 and 
the Lateran General Council of 1139, when exhorted by 
Innocent II. to shrink from no legislation as demanding; 
too high and rigorous a morality, decreed that usurers 
were to be excluded from the consolations of the Church, 
to be infamous all their lives long, and to be deprived of 
Christian burial. 3 The religious feeling aroused by the 
Crusades still further strengthened the hold on the 
Christian world of characteristically Christian theory, 
while the prospect of the economic results that they 
threatened to bring about in Europe, awoke the Church 
to the advisability of putting forth all its power to 
protect the estates of Crusaders against the money-lenders. 
Many Popes of the twelfth century ordained, and St. 
Bernard approved of the ordinance 4 that those who took 
up the Cross should be freed from all engagements to 
pay usury into which they might have entered. Innocent 
III. absolved Crusaders even from obligntions of the kind 
that they had incurred under oath, and subsequently 
ordered that Jews should be forced, under penalty of 



1 Ashley, Economic Itixtnry anil Theory, I., 12G-32, 148-50. 
8 Hefele, ConottiengexeMchte, V., 175. 

3 Ibid., 438-441. 4 Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England, 23. 

VOL. VII. it 



238 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

exclusion from the society of Christians, to return to 
their crusading debtors any interest that they had already 
received from them. 1 

Stronger even than the influence of the Crusades was 
that of the Mendicant Orders. The Dominicans, who 
preached, and the Franciscans, who " taught and wrought " 
among all classes of people throughout Europe, carried with 
them, as their most cherished lesson, the doctrine of poverty. 
It was by the teaching of this doctrine, and by the practice 
of the simple unworldly life of the primitive Church, that 
the founders of the two orders had been able to give new 
strength to the ecclesiastical institutions of the thirteenth 
century. And their teaching, if not their practice, made 
its way from the Casiuncula to the Vatican. Cardinal 
Ugolino, the dear friend of S. Francis, became Gregory 
IX. ; Petrus de Tarentagio, of the order of the Dominicans, 
became Innocent IV. ; and Girolamo di Ascoli, the " sun " 
of the Franciscans, was soon to become Nicholas IV. 
Moreover, the work of formulating and publishing to the 
world the official doctrines of the Church was in the 
hands of the Mendicants. A Dominican, Raymundus de 
Pefiaforte, was entrusted by Gregory IX. with the 
preparation of the Decretals, which formed the chief 
part of the canon law of the Church. 2 And friars of 
both orders codified with indefatigable labour the moral 
law of Christianity, and set it forth in hand-books, or 
Summce, which were universally accepted as guides for 
the confessional, and which all agreed in condemning 
usury. 3 Hence, the doctrine of its sinfulness was taught 
throughout Christian Europe, by priests and monks, by 
Dominican preachers and Franciscan confessors, who could 
enforce their lesson by the use of their power of granting 

1 Corpus Juris Carumiel (Leipzig, 1839), II., 786. 

2 Raumer, Gescliiehte der Holtenstavfen, und ihrer Zeit, III., 581. 

3 Endemann, Studwn in, der Momanisch-Kanonistischen Wirthsehafts- 
und tiechtslchre,!., 16-18. Stintzing, QesehioMe der Popularen Literatur 
des Romiseh- Canonischen Reehts. 



The Expuhion oftlie Jews from England in 1290. 239 

or refusing absolution. How strong and violent a public 
opinion was thus created is best shown in the lines in 
which Dante, the contemporary of Edward I., tells with 
what companions he thought it fit that the Caursine 
usurers should dwell in hell. 1 

There was every reason why the hatred of usury should 
be as strong in England as anywhere. The Franciscan 
movement had spread throughout the country, and had 
found among Englishmen many of its chief literary 
champions. 2 And the Englishman's pious dislike of 
usury had been strengthened by many years of bitter 
experience. Italian usurers had in the previous reign 
gone up and down the country collecting money on behalf 
of the Pope, and lending money on their own account at 
exorbitant rates of interest. 3 From some of the magnates 
they obtained protection (for which they are said to have 
paid with a share of their profits),* but to the great body 
of the Baronage, to the Church and the trading classes, 
their very name had become hateful. One of them, the 
brother of the Pope's Legate, had been killed at Oxford. 6 
In London Bishop Roger had solemnly excommunicated 
them all, and excluded them from his diocese. 6 

No English king who wished to follow the teachings of 
Christianity could willingly countenance any of his sub- 
jects in carrying on a traffic which was thus hated by the 
people and condemned by all the doctors of Christendom. 
Even Henry III. was once so far moved by indignation and 
religious feeling as to expel the Caursines from his king- 
dom, 7 and had religious scruples about the retention of 
the Jews. 8 But, as has been shown, he could not do with- 

1 B pero lo minor giron suggella, 
Del segno suo e Sodoma e Caorsa. 

Inferno, XL 49, 50. 

2 Monumenta Franciscana (Rolls Series), XLV., L., 10, 38-9, 61. 

3 Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, I., 399-400. 

4 M. Paris, Chronica Majora, V., 245. s Ibid., III., 482-3. 
6 Ibid., III., 332-3. 7 Ibid., IV., 8. 

8 M. Paris, Hittoria Anglorum, III., 104. 

R 2 



240 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

out the Jewish revenue. Edward was not only free from 
dependence on that source of income, but he was also a far 
more religious king than his father. He was a man to 
obey the behests of the Church, instead of setting them at 
naught with an easy conscience, as his father had done. 
In the second year of his reign the Church, by a decree 
passed at the Council of Lyons, demanded from the Chris- 
tian world far greater efforts against usury than ever 
before. 1 Till this time, though Popes and Councils had 
declared the practice accursed, churches and monasteries 
had had usurers as tenants on their estates, or had even 
possessed whole ghettos as their property. 2 Now this was 
to be ended, and it was ordained by Gregory X. that no 
community, corporation, or individual should permit 
foreign usurers to hire their houses, or indeed to dwell 
at all upon their lands, but should expel them within 
three months. Edward, in obedience to this decree, ordered 
an inquisition to be made into the usury of the Florentine 
bankers in his kingdom with a view to its suppression, 
and allowed proceedings to be taken at the same time 
and with the same object against a citizen of London. 3 
And the events of the last reign enabled him to pro- 
ceed to what at first seems the far more serious task of 
bringing to an end the trade that the Jews had carried 
on under the patronage, and for the benefit, of the Royal 
Exchequer. 

For the Jews could no longer support the Crown in 
times of financial difficulty as they had been able to do in 
previous reigns. The contraction of their business that 



1 Ashley, Economic History and Theory, I. 150 ; Labbeus, Sacrosancta 
Concilia, xi. 991, 2. 

3 Depping-, Les Juifs dans le 3/oyen Age, 202, 207 ; Muratori, Antiqui- 
tates Italicce Mcdii Aevi, I. 899, 900 ; Ninth Report of the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission, p. 14 (No. 264). 

* Forty-fourth Report of Deputy-Keeper of Public Records, pp. 8, 9, 72 ; 
The Question whether a Jew, etc., by a Gentleman of Lincoln's Inn, 
London, 1753 ; Appendix, § 18. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 241 

was the result of their exclusion from many towns, and 
the losses that they had suffered through the extortions of 
Henry III. and the plundering attacks of the barons, had 
very greatly diminished their revenue-paying capacities, 
and the legislation of 1270 must have affected them still 
more deeply. At the end of the twelfth century they had 
probably paid to the Treasury about £3,000 a year, or 
one-twelfth of the whole royal income, 1 and for some parts 
of the thirteenth century the average collection of tallage 
has been estimated at £5,000 ; 2 but in 1271 — by which 
time the royal income had probably grown to something 
like the £65,000 a year which the Edwards are said to 
have enjoyed in time of peace 3 — Henry III., when pledging 
to Richard of Cornwall the revenue from the Jewry, 
estimated its annual value, apart from what was yielded 
by escheats and other special claims, at no more than 
2,000 marks. 4 And while the resources of the Jews had 
fallen off, the needs of the Crown had increased. Not 
only must Edward have conducted his foreign enterprises 
at a much greater cost than did his predecessors, under 
whom the English knighthood had been accustomed to 
serve without serious opposition, but, in addition, he had 
to make the best of a vast heritage of debt that his father 
had left him. 8 He had to seek richer supporters than the 
Jews, and such were not wanting. 

The Italian banking companies were the only organisa- 
tions in Europe that could supply him with such sums of 
money as he needed. From all the greatest cities of Italy — 
from Florence, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and Asti 
— they had spread to many of the chief countries of Europe, 



1 Jacobs, 328. * Papers Anglo-Jewish Hist. Exhibition, 195. 

3 Stubbs' Constitutional History II., 601. 

4 Rymer, Foedera, I. 489. Cf. Public Record Office, Q, R. Miscellanea. 

5 Chronicles Ed. I. and II. (ed. Stubbs), Vol. I., p. C. Cf . Forty-second 
Report of Deputy-Keeper of Public Records, p. 479 (At the beginning of 
his reign Edward says, in his writs to the sheriffs, " Pecuniae plurimum 
indigemus "). Forty-third Report, 419. 



242 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

to France, England, Brabant, Switzerland, and Ireland. 1 
They were merchants, money-lenders, money-changers, and 
international bankers, and in this last occupation their 
supremacy over all rivals was secured by the great advan- 
tage which the wide extent of their dealings enabled them 
to enjoy, of being able to save, by the use of letters of 
credit on their colleagues and countrymen, the cost of the 
transport of money from country to country. 2 They were 
thus the greatest financial agents of the time. They trans- 
acted the business of the Pope. At the Court of Rome 
ambassadors had to borrow from them. 3 In France their 
position was established by a regular diplomatic agreement 
between the head of their corporation and Philip III. 4 
In England they had in their hands the greater part of the 
trade in corn and wool ; 6 and the protection and favour of 
English kings was often besought by the Popes on their 
behalf in special bulls. 6 

Edward began his reign in financial dependence on the 
Italians. His father had in the earliest period of his per- 
sonal government incurred obligations to them which he 
himself, as heir apparent, had to increase considerably 
at the time of his Crusade. 7 When in later years he 
needed money to pay his army, he borrowed it from them ; 
when he diverted to his own use the tenth that was voted 
for his intended second Crusade, they gave security for 
repayment. 8 So great were the amounts that they ad- 
vanced to him, that between 1298 and 1308 the Friscobaldi 



1 Muratori, Antiquitates Italicce Medil Aevi (Dissertatio XVI) ; Dep- 
ping, Les Juifs dans le Mogen Age, 213-6 ; Rymer, Foedera, I., 644. 

2 Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, I. 405, 6 ; and see Peruzzi, Storia 
del Commercio edei Banchieri di Firenze, 170. 

3 Peruzzi, 169 ; \ Arcliaeologia, xxviii. 218, 219. 

4 Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi, I. 889. 

5 Arcliaeologia, xxviii. 221 ; Cunningham, Growth of English Industry 
and Commerce, Early and Middle Ages, Appendix D ; Peruzzi, Storia del 
Commercio, 70. 

6 Rymer, Foedera, I. 660, 823, 905. 

7 Arcliaeologia, xxviii. 261-272. 8 Rymer, Foedera, I. 644, 788. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 243 

Bianchi alone, one of the thirty-four companies that 
he employed, 1 received in repayment nearly £100,000. 2 
He was compelled to favour them, although he attempted 
to stop their usury. He gave them a charter of privi- 
leges. 3 He presented them with large sums of money. 
He bestowed on the head of one of their firms high office 
in Gascony. At various times he placed under their charge 
the collection of the Customs in many of the chief ports in 
England. 4 

Edward's close connection with a body of financiers so 
rich and powerful made the Jews unnecessary to him. If 
he was not to disobey the decree of the Council of Lyons, 
he must either withdraw his protection from them or else 
forbid them any longer to be usurers. To withdraw his 
protection from them would be to expose them to the 
popular hatred, the danger from which had been the justi- 
fication of the relations that had been established between 
Crown and Jewry after 1190, and still existed. He chose 
the second alternative. In 1275 he issued a statute, in 
which he absolutely forbade the Jews, as he had just for- 
bidden Christians, 5 to practise usury in the future. He 
gave warning that usurious contracts would no longer be 
enforced by the king's officers, and he declared the making 
of them to be an offence for which henceforth both parties 
were liable to punishment. To ensure that all those 
contracts already existing should come to an end as quickly 
as possible, he ordered that all movables that were in 
pledge on account of loans were to be redeemed before the 
coming Easter. 6 

VII. — Edward's Policy: The Jews and Trade. 

Thus the Jews, already shut out from the feudal and 
municipal organisation of the country, were forbidden by 



1 Peruzzi, 174. 2 Archaeologia, xxviii. 244-5. 

3 Ibid, 231, Note 1. 4 Peruzzi, 172-5. 

6 The Question whether a Jew, etc. Appendix, §18. Pryime, A Shot t 
Demurrer, 58. 6 Blunt, Establishment and Residence, etc., 139-144. 



244 The Jetvish Quarterly Review. 

one act of legislation to follow the pursuit in which the 
kings of England had encouraged them for two hundred 
years. 

However, for the hardships imposed by the Christian 
Church there was an approved Christian remedy. Thomas 
Aquinas, the greatest authority on morals in Europe in the 
thirteenth century, had written : " If rulers think they 
harm their souls by taking money from usurers, let them 
remember that they are themselves to blame. They ought 
to see that the Jews are compelled to labour as they do in 
some parts of Italy." 1 A Christian king, and one whom 
Edward revered as his old leader in arras and as a model 
of piety, had already acted in accordance with the teach- 
ing of Thomas Aquinas. In 1253 St. Louis sent from the 
Holy Land an order that all Jews should leave France 
for ever, except those who should become traders and 
workers with their hands. 2 And now, when Edward was 
forbidding the Jews of England to practise usury, he 
naturally dealt with them in the fashion recommended by 
the great teacher of his time and adopted by the saintly king. 
" The King also grants," said the Statute of 1275, " that 
the Jews may practise merchandise, or live by their labour, 
and for those purposes freely converse with Christians. 
Excepting that, upon any pretence whatever, they shall not 
be levant or couchant amongst them ; nor on account of 
their merchandise be in scots, lots, or talliage with the 
other inhabitants of those cities or boroughs where they 
remain ; seeing they are talliable to the King as his own 
serfs, and not otherwise. . . . And further the King 
grants, that such as are unskilful in merchandise, and 
cannot labour, may take lands to farm, for any term not 
exceeding ten years, provided no homage, fealty, or any 
such kind of service, or advowson to Holy Church, be 
belonging to them. Provided also that this power to farm 

1 Thomas Aquinas, Opusculum, XXI. (Ad Bucismm Brabantiae in 
Vol. XIX. of the Venice edition, 1775-88.) 
' M. Paris, Chronica Majora, V. 361, 2. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 245 

lands, shall continue in force for ten years from the making 
of this Act, and no longer." * 

The 16,000 2 Jews of England were thus called upon 
to change at once their old occupation for a new one, and 
the task was imposed upon them under conditions which 
made it all hut impossible of fulfilment. They were 
forbidden to become burgesses of towns ; and the effect of 
the prohibition was to make it impossible for them, in most 
parts of England, to become traders, for it practically ex- 
cluded them from the Gild Merchant. It is true that some 
towns professed that their Gild was open to all the 
inhabitants, whether burgesses or not, so long as they took 
the oath to preserve the liberties of the town and the king's 
peace. 3 But most of the Gilds were exclusive bodies, to 
which all non-burgesses would find it hard to gain 
admission, 4 and Jewish non-burgesses, though not as a 
rule kept out by a disqualifying religious formula, 5 would 
on account of the unpopularity of their race and religion, 
find it trebly hard. 6 As non-Gildsmen, they would be at 
a disadvantage both in buying goods and in selling them. 
They would find it hard to buy, because, in some towns at 
any rate, the Gildsmen were accustomed to " oppress the 
people coming to the town with vendible wares, so that no 
man could sell his wares to anyone except to a member of 
the society." 7 They would find it in all towns hard to sell, 
in some impossible. In some towns non-Gildsmen were 
forbidden to deal in certain articles of common use, 



1 Blunt, Establishment and Residence, etc., 141. 

2 This is the number of those who left the country in 1290. Mores 
Hlstoriarum (Rolls Series), iii. 70. Probably the number of those in the 
country in 1275 was about the same. 

3 Gross, Tlw Gild Merchant, I. 38. * Ibid., I. 39-40. 
6 Ibid. II., 68, 138, 214, 243, 257. 

6 One Jew alone is known to hare become a member of a Gild during 
the residence of the Jews in England before 1290. He became a citizen 
at the same time. His election took place in 1268 (Kitchin's Winchester — 
Historic Towns Series, p. 108), After 1275 it would have been illegal. 

7 Gross, The Gild Merchant, I. 41. 



246 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

such as wool, hides, grain, untanned leather, and unfulle.!. 
cloth ; in others, as in Southampton, they might not 
buy anything in the town to sell again there, or keep 
a wine tavern, or sell cloth by retail except on market day 
and fair day, or keep more than five quarters of corn in a 
granary to sell by retail. There were even towns where 
the municipal statutes altogether forbade non-Gildsmen 
to keep shops or to sell by retail. 1 

It was almost as difficult for Jews to become agriculturists 
or artisans, as to become traders. They were allowed by 
the statute to farm land, but for ten years only, and they 
were far too ignorant of agriculture to be able to take 
advantage of the permission. They could not work on the 
land of others as villeins, because, even if a Christian lord 
had been willing to receive them, they would have been 
prevented by their religion from taking the oath of 
fealty. 2 

Only under exceptional conditions could they work at 
handicrafts. A Jew who possessed manual dexterity might, 
as was sometimes done in the thirteenth century, have 
worked for himself at a cottage industry, and might, though 
the task would have been a hard one, have gained a 
connection among Christians, and induced them to trust 
him with materials. 3 But many crafts were at the time 
coming under the regulations of craft-gilds. Certainly as 
early as the beginning of the fourteenth century, there 
were in London fully-organised gilds of Lorimers, 
Weavers, Tapicers, Cap-makers, Saddlers, Joiners, Girdlers, 
and Cutlers. 4 In Hereford there were Gilds for nearly thirty 
trades. 5 It was probably very often the case, as it was with 
the Weavers' Gild in London, that a craft-gild existing 



1 Gross, The Gild Merchant, I. 45, 46, 47. 

2 Liber Custumarum (Rolls Series), 215. 

3 Ochenkowski, Englands Wirthschaftliehe Eiitwichelung im Ausgange 
des Mittelalters, 51-4. 

4 Liber Oustumarum (Rolls Series) 80-81, 101-2, 121 ; Liber Albus (Rolls 
Series), 726, 734. Riley, Memorials of London, 171*. 

5 Johnson, Customs of Hereford, 115-6. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 247 

in any town could forbid the practice of the craft in the 
town to all who had not been elected to membership, or 
earned it by serving the apprenticeship that the Gild's 
statute required. 1 The period required by the Lorimers' 
statute was ten years, by the Weavers', seven, and in some 
cases certainly, and probably in all, the apprenticeship had 
to be served under a freeman of the city. 2 The apprentice 
who had served his time, was still, in some towns and 
industries, unable to practise his craft, unless he became a 
citizen and entered the frank pledge. 3 It was difficult for 
a Jewish boy to become an apprentice, for the Church 
threatened to excommunicate any Christian who received 
into his house, as an apprentice would naturally be received, 
a Jew or Jewess ; it was impossible for a Jewish man to 
become a citizen, for the king forbade his Jewish " serfs " 
to be in scot and lot with the other inhabitants of the cities 
in which they lived. 

Excluded from the trades and handicrafts of the towns, 
the Jew might try other means of earning a livelihood. 
He might attempt to travel with wares or with produce, 
from one part of England to another, or he might be an 
importer or an exporter. But wholesale trade of this kind 
would be open to those alone who had command of a large 
capital. And this was not the only difficulty in the way. 
If the Jew went about the countiy with his goods from 
fair to fair, or from city to city, he would do so at very 
great risk. He would have to travel over the high roads, 
the perils of which made necessary the Statute of Win- 
chester, and are recounted in the words of its preamble, 
tie jour en jour roberies, homicides, arsons, plus sovenerement 
sont fetes que avaunt ne soleyent* If he survived the 
dangers of the road and reached a fair, he would find 



1 Liber CWftMrearam, 418-425. 

2 Liber Custwmarum, 78, 81, 124. Riley, Memorials of London, 179, 
216. 

3 Liber Omtumarum-, 79, Ochenkowski, Op. Cit., 64. 

4 Stubbs, Select Charters, 470. 



248 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

there an assemblage made up in part of " daring persons," 
such as those, who, in spite of the orderly traders and 
citizens, had caused the massacre at Lynn, in 1190, 1 or 
those who, at Boston killed the merchants and plundered 
their goods, until " the streets ran with silver and gold," 2 
or those citizens of Winchester who, in the reign of Henry 
III., carried on for a time a successful conspiracy to rob all 
itinerant merchants who passed through the country. 3 
With his foreign face and striking badge, he would be the 
first mark for the hatred of the riotous crowd. And if he 
escaped violence and robbery, he had still to fear the officials 
of the lord of the fair, who exercised for the time unlimited 
and irresponsible power, and who, according to the regula- 
tions of some fairs, could destroy the goods of any trader 
if their quality did not please them. 4 When he had 
managed to escape from the mob and the officials, his 
difficulties were not over. He might make his bargains, 
but there was no court of justice to which he could appeal 
to enforce the completion of any transaction that required 
a longer time than that of the duration of the fair. Redress 
for any injustice committed at a fair, or for the failure to 
carry out an agreement made there, could be obtained only 
through application made by the municipality of the com- 
plainant to that of the wrong-doer. 8 The Jew had no 
municipality to present his claims. If those with whom 
he had transactions deceived him or refused to pay him, he 
was helpless. There was no power to which he could 
appeal. 

If instead of going to a fair he tried to sell, in a town, 
produce from another country or a different part of 
England, he was in a position of even greater difficulty. 



1 Jacobs, 116. 

8 Walsingham, Historia Anglicana (Rolls Series), I. 30. 

3 M. Paris, Chronica Majora, v. 56-8. 

4 Ochenkowski, Englands wirthsehaftlicJie Entwiehelung , 157. 

5 Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Early and 
Middle Ages, 17.">. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 249 

In a strange town he was as much an alien as in a strange 
country, and there was scarcely any limit to the vexations 
and sufferings that on that account he would have to endure. 
In London, for example, alien merchants were forbidden to 
remain in the city for more than forty consecutive days. 
While they were there they might not sell anything by retail, 
nor have any business dealings at all with any but citizens. 
There was a long list of articles that they were altogether 
forbidden to buy. They might not stow their goods in 
houses or cellars ; they had to sell within forty days all 
that they had brought with them; they were allowed 
neither to sell anything after that time, nor to take 
anything back with them. They were continually annoyed 
by the officers of the city. 1 All these disadvantages the 
Jew would have to endure to the full while competing with 
many powerful organisations which were engaged in foreign 
trade, and had, after long struggles, secured from the king 
special charters of privilege. Such were the companies 
of the merchants of Germany, who had their steelyard in 
London and their settlements at Boston and Lynn ; the 
Flemings, who had their Hanse in London ; the Gascons 
who enjoyed a charter; the Spaniards and Portuguese; the 
Florentines, most powerful of all, and the Venetians, 
whose enterprise was, at the beginning of the fourteenth 
century at any rate, carried on under the auspices of the 
Republic.' 2 

The last opportunity for the Jews was to take part in 
the export of English produce. English wool was the 
most important article of international trade in Western 
Europe. It was brought from monasteries and landholders 
chiefly by the rich and powerful companies of Flemish 

1 Liber Custiimarum (Eolls Series), xxxiv.-xlWii., 61-72 ; Liber Albws, 
xcv., xcvi., 287 ; Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, I. 388-9. 

2 Liber Custumarum and Liber Albus, as referred to in preceding note : 
Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Early and 
Middle Ages, 181-6 ; Ochenkowski, Englands wirthsehaftliehe Entwiclte- 
lung, 180 ; Calendar of State Papers ( Venetian), lx.-lxix. ; Peruzzi, Storia 
dei BancMeri e del Commercio di Firenze, 70. 



250 TJie Jewish Quarterly Review. 

and Italian merchants, and sent to Flanders and Italy to be 
woven and dyed. 1 The Jews had, apparently, long taken 
some slight part in wholesale trade, 2 but the amount of 
capital that it required, and the power of the rivals who 
held the field, made it impossible for many of them to take 
to it immediately as a substitute for money-lending. 
Still it was the only form of enterprise in which they 
would not be at a hopeless disadvantage, and some Jews, 
those probably who had a large capital and were able to 
recall it from the borrowers, followed the example of the 
Italians, and made to landholders advances of money to be 
repaid in corn and wool. 3 

VIII. — The Temptations op the Jews. 

But even for those Jews who were rich enough to take 
part in wholesale trade, there was still a great temptation 
to transgress the prohibition against usury. All the legal 
machinery that was necessary for the due execution and 
validity of agreements between Jews and Christians — the 
chest in which the deeds were deposited, and the staffs 
of officers by whom they were registered and supervised 
— were still maintained in some towns, since they were 
necessary alike for the recovery, by the ordinary process, 
of the old debts (many of which, in spite of the order for 
summary repayment in the Statute of 1275, still remained 
outstanding) 4 and for the registration of any new agree- 

1 Cunningham, Growth, etc., 185 ; Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, 
pp. 415, 481 ; Calendar of State Papers ( Venetian), lxvi.-lxvii. 

2 Jacobs, 66-7 ; Archaeological Journal, xxxviii. 179. 

3 This was the procedure adopted by the Italians : They paid down 
a sum as earnest-money, and then took a bond (Peruzzi, 70). Cf. Tovey, 
207. 

4 For pledges still unredeemed, land still in the hands of the Jews 
and old debts still unpaid long after the Statutes of 1270-1275 had been 
passed, see MSS. in Public Becord Office (Queen's Remembrancer's 
Miscellanea, 557, 13-23) ; Rymer, 1. 570 ; John of Peckham, I. 937 ; 
Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1281-1292, p. 81; Prynne, Second Demurrer, 
pp.74 and 80 (=154). 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 251 

ments that might be made for the delivery of corn and 
wool, or for the repayment of money lent ostensibly 
without interest. There was no lack of would-be bor- 
rowers to co-operate with the Jews in using this machinery 
in order to make agreements on which, in spite of the 
prohibition of usury, money might profitably be lent. The 
demand for loans was great, far too great to be satisfied, 
as the Church thought it reasonable to expect, 1 by money 
advanced without interest ; and owing to the progress of 
the change from payment of rents in kind or service to 
payment in cash, 2 it was steadily growing. It had been 
met by the money of the Italian bankers, of the Jews, of 
English citizens, and, as is freely hinted by writers of the 
time, of great English barons, who secretly shared in the 
transactions and the profits of the Jewish and foreign 
usurers. 3 The supply had suddenly been checked by the 
simultaneous prohibition of all usury whether of Jews or of 
Christians. Now a Jew who wished, by collusion with a 
boiTower, to evade the law against usury, had only to study 
the methods that had been followed by the Caursines, and 
those that were still followed by the Italians and acquiesced 
in by the heads of the religious houses with whom they 
had dealings. The Caursines, for example, sometimes 
avoided the appearance of usury by lending 100 marks 
and receiving in return a bond, acknowledging a loan of 
£100. 4 Sometimes they lent money for a definite period, 
on an agreement that they were to get a " gift," in return 
for their kindness in making the loan, and "compensation " 
in case it were not repaid in time. 5 Sometimes by a still 
more elaborate- device, the Italians combined their two 

1 Labbeus, Sacrosancta Concilia, XI. 649-50. 
* Vinogradoff, Villeinage in England, 179, 307. 

3 M. Paris, V. 245 ; Wilkins, Cone., I. 675 ; Be Antiq. Legions, 234 sq. 
(Archbishop of York's remarks on the corruption of the Great Council and 
on the fautores of Jews.) 

4 M. Paris, Chronica Majora, V. 404-5. 

5 Muratori, Antiqnitates Italicie Medii Aevi, I.. 893. 



252 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

professions of money-lenders and merchants, by inducing 
a monastery which had borrowed money, to acknowledge 
the receipt, not only of the money, but also of the price of 
certain sacks of wool which it bound itself in due time to 
supply. 1 The Jews, no doubt, followed the example of 
the Caursines and of the Italians. In official registers, 
which are still extant, there are mentioned bonds which 
secured to Jewish creditors a large payment in money 
together with a small payment in kind, and which doubt- 
less represent collusive transactions, in which the offence of 
usury was to be avoided by the substitution of a recom- 
pense in kind for interest in money. Other bonds for 
repayment of money alone are mentioned in the same 
registers as having been executed after 1275, and every one 
of the kind that was executed between that date and the 
date of the amendment of the Statute against usury may 
be safely considered to represent a transaction which was 
an offence, either veiled or open, against the prohibition. 

The temptation to transgress the Statute of 1275 could 
appeal only to Jews with capital, but on the poorer Jews 
other temptations acted with even more strength and even 
worse results. 

The only reputable careers known to have been 
open to the poorer Jews were to become servants in the 
houses of their rich co-religionists, 2 or else to imitate in a 
humble way their financial transactions, either by keeping 
pawnshops, 3 or by carrying on, in towns where there was 
no recognised Jewry, business of the same kind as that 
of the rich money-lenders in the larger Jewish settlements. 
To follow these pursuits was now impossible, in consequence, 
not only of the prohibition of usury, but also of the strict- 
ness with which Edward enforced the old legislation 

1 Rotuli Parliamentorum, I. 1, 2. 

2 Royal Letters (Rolls Series), II. 24. 

3 Lest Jurisdiction of Norwich (Selden Society), p. 10; Cf. Ancren 
Riwle (Camden Society), 395. " Do not men account him a good friend 
who layeth his pledge in Jewry to redeem his companion ? " 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 253 

against the residence of Jews in towns where there did no 
exist a chest for the deposit of Jewish debts, and a staff of 
clerks to witness and register them. 1 There was thus 
nothing to which the poorer Jews could turn. Crowded 
as unwelcome intruders into a small and decreasing number 
of towns, without legal standing or industrial skill, hated 
by the people and declared accursed by the Church, they 
were bidden to support themselves under conditions which 
made the task impossible unless they could take by storm 
the citadel of municipal privilege which bade defiance to 
the " greatest of the Plantagenets " throughout his reign. 

Under such conditions degeneration was inevitable. Some 
of the Jews are said to have taken to highway robbery 
and burglary ; 2 some went into the House of Converts, 
where they got l^d. a day and free lodging. 3 But to the 
dishonest there was open a far more profitable form of 
dishonesty than either of those already mentioned, viz., 
clipping the coin. 

The offence had long been prevalent. In 1248 such 
mischief had been done that, according to Matthew Paris 
" no foreigner, let alone an Englishman, could look on an 
English coin with dry eyes and unbroken heart." 4 It was 
in vain that Henry III. issued a new coinage, so stamped 
that the device and the lettering extended to the edge of 
the piece, 5 and caused it to be proclaimed in every town, 
village, market-place, and fair that none but the new pieces 
with their shapes unaltered should be given or taken in 
exchange. 6 The opportunity for dishonesty was too tempt- 
ing. The coins that actually circulated in the country 

1 Rymer, Foedera, I. 503, 634 ; Papers of the Anglo-Jewish Historical 
Exhibition, 187-190'. 

* Calendar of Patent Bolls, 1281-1292, p. 98 ; Papers Anglo-Jewish Hist. 
Ex. 167. 

3 See Dictionary of Political Economy, Article Jews, (House for 
Converted). 

4 Chronica Majora, V. 15. 

5 Annates Monastici (Rolls Series), II. 339. 
e M. Paris, Chronica Majora, V. 15, 16. 

VOL. VII. S 



254 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

were of many different issues, 1 they were not milled at the 
edges, 2 they were so liable to damage and mutilation of all 
kinds that their deficiency of weight had to be recognised 
and allowed for. 3 Hence anyone who had many coins 
passing through his hands could secure an easy profit by 
clipping off a piece from each one before he passed it 
again into circulation. In the early part of the reign of 
Edward I., such was the deficiency in the weight of genuine 
coins (an annalist of the period estimates it at 50 per cent.),' 4 
and such the amount of false coin in circulation, that the 
price of commodities rose to an alarming height, foreign 
merchants were driven away, trade became completely dis- 
organised, shopkeepers refused the money tendered to them, 
and the necessities of life were withdrawn from the mar- 
kets. 6 The King had to promise to issue a new coinage, 
but the announcement of his intention only increased the 
general disturbance. The Archbishop of Canterbury com- 
plained that in consequence of the disturbance of circulation, 
he could not find anyone, except the professional usurers, 
from whom he could borrow money on which to live during 
the interval before the revenues of his see began to come 
in. 6 When the King at this period of his reign went to 
a priory to ask for money, the first and most cogent of the 
excuses that he heard was that "the House was im- 
poverished by the change in the coinage of the realm." 7 
Public opinion ascribed to the Jews the greatest share in 
the injuries to the coinage. " They are notoriously forgers 
and clippers of the coin," says Matthew Paris, 8 And that 
the suspicion was not absolutely without justification is 
shown by the fact, that early in Henry Ill's reign, the 

1 Rnding, Annals of the Coinage, I. 179. 

3 Ashley, Economic Hist., Theory, I. 169. 

3 Ashley, I., 215, n. 95 ; of. Jacobs, 73 and 225. 

* Annettes Monastici (Rolls Series), IV. 278. 

6 Annates Monastiei, IV. 278 ; Liber Custumarum, 189. 

6 John of Peokham, Registrwm Epistolarwm. (Rolls Series), I. 22. 

7 Annales Monastici III. 295. 8 Historia Anglorum, III. 76. 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 255 

community made a payment to the King in order to secure 
as a concession the expulsion from England of such of its 
members as might be convicted of the crime. 1 When in- 
quiries were ordered into the causes of the debasement, in 
1248, it was generally considered that the guilt would be 
found to rest with the Jews. 2 The official verdict included 
them with the Oaursines and the Flemish wool-merchants 
in its condemnation. 3 

It was not unnatural that Edward, when the evil re- 
appeared in his reign, should share the general suspicion 
against the Jews, seeing that they had only recently begun to 
give up dealing in money, while many of the poorer among 
them must have become, since 1275, desperate enough to 
be ready to take to any tempting form of dishonesty. The 
King's indignation at the suffering that had been caused 
by the injury done to the old coinage, and at the expense 
that was involved in the preparation of the new issue 
which had become necessary, prompted him to act on his 
suspicions, and to take a measure of terrible severity 
in order to make sure of the apprehension of the most 
probable culprits. When, in 1278, he was making prepa- 
rations for an inquiry into the whole subject of the 
coinage, he caused all the Jews of England to be im- 
prisoned in one night, their property to be seized, and 
their houses to be searched. At the same time the gold- 
smiths, and many others against whom information was 
given by the Jews, were treated in the same way. 4 

The prisoners were tried before a bench of judges and 
royal officers. There can be no doubt that many innocent 
men were accused, even if they were not condemned. 
At a time when all the Jews in England were imprisoned, 
there was a great temptation for Christians to bring false 
accusations against those among them whom they dis- 
liked on personal or religious grounds, especially as there 

1 Tovey, 109 ; Madox, History of the Exclwquer I. 245, z. 
s M. Paris, Chronica Majora, IV. 608. 

3 Ibid., V. 16. ' Annates Monastici, IV. 278. 

S 2 



256 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

was a good chance of extorting hush-money from the 
accused, or, in case of condemnation, of concealing from 
the escheators some of their property. 1 The Jews and the 
King recognised the danger. One Manser of London, for ex- 
ample, was wise enough to sue that an investigation might 
be held into the ownership of tools for clipping that were 
found on the roof of his house. 2 The King, anxious that 
punishment should fall only on the guilty, issued a general 
writ, in which the various motives for false accusation were 
recited, and it was ordered that any Jew against whom no 
charge had been brought by a certain date might secure 
himself altogether by paying a fine. 3 Nevertheless, a large 
number both of Jews and Christians were found guilty. Of 
the Christians only three were condemned to death, though 
many others were heavily fined. For the Jews, however, 
there was no mercy. Two hundred and ninety-three of 
them were hanged and drawn in London, and all their 
property escheated to the King. A few more had been 
condemned, but saved their lives by conversion to 
Christianity. 4 

The activity with which Jews took part, or were supposed 
to take part, in the debasement of the coinage, and in the pro- 
hibited practice of usury, 6 must have aroused in the mind of 
the King some misgivings on the subject of his new policy. 
Nevertheless, he did not as yet despair of its ultimate 



1 Calendar of Patent Bolls from 1281 to 1292, 128, 147, 173, 176,213, 
291, 451 ; Citron. Ed. I., I. 93; Sotnli Parliamentorum, I. 51a; Rymer, 
Feeder a, I., 570. 

2 Papers Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, 42-3. 

3 Tovey, 211-13. 

1 Chronicles of Edward 1. and Edward IT. (Rolls Series), I., 88 ; 
Chronicon Petroburgcnse (Camden Society), 29. 

5 " Whereas in the time of our ancestors, kings of England, 
loans at interest were wont and were allowed to be made by Jews 
of our kingdom, and much of such profits fell into the hands of 
those our ancestors, as the issues of our Jewry ; and we, led on 
by the love of God, and wishing to follow more devoutly in the 
path of the Holy Church, did forbid unto all the Jews of our 
kingdom who had viciously lived from such loans, that none of them 
henceforth in any manner be guilty of resorting to loans at interest, 
but that they seek their living and sustain themselves by other legitimate 



The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. 257 

success. The crimes of the Jews were no greater than 
those of the Christians around them, though they called 
forth heavier punishment. Christians clipped and coined ; 
Christians still lent money on usury. 1 And a certain 
amount of crime among Jews could not but be looked for 
as a natural result of the terrible difficulties in the way of 
the social revolution that had been demanded of them. 
Edward saw that he had been trying to do too much at 
once. The Jews could not change their occupation as 
suddenly as he had wished. The country could not do 
without money-lenders. By making the lending of money 
at interest a penal offence, and thus encouraging debtors 
and creditors to keep their transactions secret, Edward had 
weakened the supervision that had been exercised by the 
Treasury, since 1194, over the business and property of 
the Jews, and thus he had increased the chance of fraud in 
the collection of tallages, and in the apportionment of the 
share of each estate that had long been claimed by the 
Crown as the succession due on Jewish property. 2 But he 
had not stamped out usury, though the Statute of 1275 
had forbidden it. He had not even secured the redemption 
of all pledges of Christians from the hands of the Jews, 
though the Statute of 1275 had demanded it. And, there- 
fore, in order that he might not keep on the Statute Book 
a law of which the effective administration was impossible, 

work and merchandise, especially since by the favour of Holy Church 
they are suffered to sell and live among Christians. Nevertheless, 
afterwards, in a blind and evil spirit, turning to evil, under colour of 
merchandise and good contracts and covenants, what we established 
by rational thought, premeditating mischief anew, they do it 
with Christians by means of bonds and divers instruments, which 
remain with the Jews, and in which, on a given debt or contract, 
they put double, treble, or quadruple more than they lend to the 
Christians [this reads like an exaggeration], penally abusing the name 
of usury. . . ." (Papers Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, 225-6). 

1 For Coining, see Ruding, Annals of the Coinage I. 197 ; Calendar of 
Patent Rolls from 1281 to 1292, 97 ; Abbreviatio Rotulorum Originalium 
(Record Commission), 49 ; Peckham, Uegistrum Epistolarum, 1. 146. For 
Usury, Forty -fourth Report of the Deputy-Keeper of tlie Public Records, 
pp. 8 and 9 ; Archceologia, XXVIII., 227-9; Peckham, II., 542 ; and for a 
later period, Rotuli Parliamentorum, II. 332a, (VII.) 350S. 

2 Papers of Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, p. 192 (note 54), and 
p. 222. 



258 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

he mitigated the severity of the provisions of 1275, and 
issued, probably a few years later, a new Statute, in which 
he prescribed certain conditions under which usury was to 
be permitted. He allowed loans to be made under con- 
tract for the payment of interest at the rate of half a mark 
in the pound yearly, but for three years only ; and, in order 
to reduce the temptation to conclude secret transactions, 
restored legal recognition to all debts of the value of £20 
or upwards that were made under the prescribed condi- 
tions, and were registered before the chirographer and 
clerk, and threatened heavy penalties against all who 
should lend up to that amount without registration. 1 

Edward was wise in thus substituting for his earlier, 
harassing measure, one that allowed for gradual change, 
and that attempted to control the evil of which the imme- 
diate suppression was impossible. But the few years' 
experience that he had already had ought to have made 
him go farther still. It ought to have shown him that it 
was hopeless to expect the Jews to give up usury so long 
as the greater part of them were practically excluded 
from all other pursuits, and that, if ever he was to bring to 
a successful issue the policy that he had inaugurated, he 
would have to find some means of enabling them to work 
side by side with Christians, and to compete with them on 
equal conditions. 

Such a task would have been full of difficulties, the 
greatest of which resulted from the active hostility with 
which the rulers and teachers of the Christian Church in 
the thirteenth century, unlike their predecessors, regarded 
the Jews. The growth and nature of this hostility must 
now be considered. 

B. Lionel Abrahams. 
(To be continued) 

1 Papers of Anglo-Jewuh Historical Exhibition, pp. 224-9.