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The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000

The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000

Todd M. Endelman
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 359
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  • Book Info
    The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000
    Book Description:

    In Todd Endelman's spare and elegant narrative, the history of British Jewry in the modern period is characterized by a curious mixture of prominence and inconspicuousness. British Jews have been central to the unfolding of key political events of the modern period, especially the establishment of the State of Israel, but inconspicuous in shaping the character and outlook of modern Jewry. Their story, less dramatic perhaps than that of other Jewish communities, is no less deserving of this comprehensive and finely balanced analytical account. Even though Jews were never completely absent from Britain after the expulsion of 1290, it was not until the mid- seventeenth century that a permanent community took root. Endelman devotes chapters to the resettlement; to the integration and acculturation that took place, more intensively than in other European states, during the eighteenth century; to the remarkable economic transformation of Anglo-Jewry between 1800 and 1870; to the tide of immigration from Eastern Europe between 1870 and 1914 and the emergence of unprecedented hostility to Jews; to the effects of World War I and the turbulent events up to and including the Holocaust; and to the contradictory currents propelling Jewish life in Britain from 1948 to the end of the twentieth century. We discover not only the many ways in which the Anglo-Jewish experience was unique but also what it had in common with those of other Western Jewish communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93566-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Cecil Roth (1899–1970), the preeminent figure in the writing of English Jewish history in the mid-twentieth century, served as president of the Jewish Historical Society of England nine times. In his valedictory presidential address in September 1968—“Why Anglo-Jewish History?”—Roth defended the enterprise (and the society and himself, by extension) against critics who considered it “petty and unimportant” and believed that “after all that has been written on the subject there is nothing more to be discovered.” In his apologia, Roth referred to discoveries made by members of the society that proved that “industrious cultivation of our own...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Resettlement (1656–1700)
    (pp. 15-39)

    Edward I expelled the Jews of England in 1290, bringing to an abrupt end the medieval period in English Jewish history. The order of expulsion uprooted a once prosperous community whose origins can be traced to the late eleventh century, when Jewish merchants from northern France crossed the Channel in the wake of the Norman conquest. Although described by Cecil Roth as “the least important, both numerically and culturally,” of all medieval western Jewries,¹ the Jews of England nonetheless occupied a prominent position in the life of the country before their decline in the half-century before the expulsion. Jewish merchants...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Bankers and Brokers, Peddlers and Pickpockets (1700–1800)
    (pp. 41-77)

    The Jewish community of the resettlement period was overwhelmingly Spanish and Portuguese in origin. In the first decades following readmission, some Ashkenazim migrated to London (there were almost no Jews elsewhere in Britain then), but they were too small in number to create communal institutions of their own. A few were wealthy merchants, but most were humble traders, itinerant peddlers, and longtime vagabonds who traveled the length of the Diaspora. By 1690, however, there were enough Ashkenazim to support their own synagogue, and from this time the Ashkenazi population grew at a rapid pace.

    By 1720 at the latest, there...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Poverty to Prosperity (1800–1870)
    (pp. 79-125)

    At the start of the nineteenth century, most Jews in England were immigrants or the children of immigrants—impoverished, poorly educated, dependent on low-status street trades and other forms of petty commerce, popularly identified with crime, violence, and chicanery, widely viewed as disreputable and alien. Over the next three-quarters of a century, the social character of the Jewish community was transformed dramatically. Poverty ceased to be its defining characteristic. On the eve of mass migration from Eastern Europe, the majority of Jews in Britain were middle class. They were native English speakers, bourgeois in their domestic habits and public enthusiasms,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Native Jews and Foreign Jews (1870–1914)
    (pp. 127-181)

    Between 1881 and 1914, 120,000 to 150,000 East European Jews settled permanently in Great Britain, effecting a radical transformation in the character of Anglo-Jewry. Their poverty, occupations, and foreignness drew unwanted attention to them and native-born Jews alike, fueling the fires of xenophobia and antisemitism. By virtue of their numbers, they swamped the established community and gave Anglo-Jewry, once again, a foreign-born, lower-class cast, which disappeared only in the mid-twentieth century. Furthermore, their behavior rubbed against the comfortable grain of native Jewish patterns, creating intracommunal friction. Their old world religious practices offended those accustomed to the polite but somnolent atmosphere...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Great War to the Holocaust (1914–1945)
    (pp. 183-227)

    The outbreak of World War I ushered in four decades of unparalleled horror in European history. Although British Jews escaped the death and destruction that swept over continental Jewish communities, they were not spared their repercussions and consequences. The collapse of the Russian, German, Austrian, and Turkish empires in the wake of World War I and the rise and fall of Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s forced communal leaders and organizations to confront a host of novel problems. While earlier crises abroad, such as the Damascus blood libel of 1840 and the Russian pogroms of 1881, had also sparked...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Fracturing of Anglo-Jewry (1945–2000)
    (pp. 229-256)

    In the five decades after World War II, the landscape of British Jewry was transformed in ways both familiar and unfamiliar. Economic mobility and suburbanization, already under way in the interwar years, accelerated. Jews, women as well as men now, entered the professions and the new service industries in increasingly large numbers. By the end of the century, little remained of an inner-city Jewish working class. Antisemitism declined—fitfully and unevenly, to be sure—and Jews were appointed to high-profile positions in government, the universities, and public life. Indifference to ritual and worship, ignorance of Jewish learning and lore, and...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 257-270)

    For earlier generations of historians, Anglo-Jewish history was a success story, a tale of toleration and achievement, to be proudly celebrated. Cecil Roth, it will be recalled, declared that “in this happy land” Jews “attained a measure of freedom . . . which has been the case in scarcely any other.” Roth’s upbeat appraisal is no mere historical curiosity, the artifact of a more confident, naive age. At the end of the century the British historian William Rubinstein echoed Roth, claiming that “the story of the Jewish people throughout the English-speaking world has almost always been a success story, a...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 271-314)
  14. Glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish Words
    (pp. 315-318)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 319-336)
  16. Index
    (pp. 337-347)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)