New Historical Association course on medieval Jews in 2023

Professor Miri Rubin and Dean Irwin will be running a course with the Historical Association in early 2023, entitled ‘The Jews of Medieval England: Murder, Money, and Expulsion’. It has been designed to reach lifelong learners (with a particular emphasis on teachers). They will focus on specific aspects of medieval Anglo-Jewish history, as well as providing a full introduction to the topic. Although the dates have yet to be finalised, registration is now open and we hope that it might be of interest to you and your networks.

https://www.history.org.uk/historian/categories/813/news/4124/short-course-the-jews-of-medieval-england-murder

The Jews of Medieval England: Murder, Money, and Expulsion

Delivered by Professor Miri Rubin and Dr Dean A. Irwin

 
Starting January 2023 – Dates TBC

Background

A Jewish community was established in England shortly after the Norman Conquest. Initially confined to London, from the 1130s onwards Jews began to settle in other parts of the country, where they lived as English Jews for more than two centuries. Their life in England came to an end in 1290 with Edward I’s order of expulsion. As the only religious minority permitted to settle, the Jews occupied a unique legal position in under royal privilege and within English society. The Crown provided many protections and these allowed some Jews – especially before the 1250s – to become extremely wealthy. Equally, Jews were exposed to exploitation, most obviously through excessive taxation, and eventually though accusations of violent acts. In England around 1150 the child murder accusation – one of the most pernicious and enduring anti-Jewish slurs – alleged for the first time that Jews were obliged to murder a Christian child once a year in parody of the crucifixion of Christ.

What topics are covered in the course?

This course is designed to take participants through the spectacular highs and catastrophic lows of medieval Anglo-Jewish life. No prior knowledge is required. An introductory talk will familiarise participants with the historical context required. Thereafter, three discussion sessions will offer opportunities to consider the Jews through key themes that have dominated historical writing on the Jews: money, murder, and expulsion. As a conclusion to this course, a final talk will examine the daily lives of medieval Jews. Consequently, those undertaking this short course will be well equipped to understand various aspects of medieval Anglo-Jewish history, to impart it to others, and to pursue their own interests further.

When does the course take place?

This course will run from January to April 2023 and is free and open to all, subject to registration. You do not need to be a member to take part. 

Dates of the live sessions will be confirmed in due course, and will be structured as follows:

  • Session 1: Introduction – Medieval England and the Jews (1hr talk + 30 mins discussion) – Dr Dean A. Irwin
  • Session 2: Money (90 mins group discussion) – Dr Dean A. Irwin
  • Session 3: Murder (90 mins group discussion) – Professor Miri Rubin
  • Session 4: Expulsion (90 mins group discussion) – Professor Miri Rubin and Dr Dean A. Irwin
  • Session 5: Conclusion: Jewish Daily Life in the Middle Ages (1hr talk + 30 mins discussion) TBC

How is the course structured?

This course is 100% online and will include access to curated resources as well as live online lectures and discussion sessions. We encourage live participation in these lectures and workshops to make the most of the experience, however all the live events will be recorded and made available to listen to on the resource unit after they have taken place. 

Who can take part? 

The course is free and open to all, but the course is particularly designed for lifelong learners. It is available to anybody with an interest in the topic who wants to learn more while developing their historical skills, without the pressure of any form of assessment. You do not need any prior knowledge of the topic to take part. 

Who is leading the course? 

Dr Dean Irwin is an independent scholar who works on the Jews of medieval England. He is a board member of the medievalJewishStudiesNow! blog.

Professor Miri Rubin is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London and President of the Jewish Historical Society of England. She has published extensively on medieval Europe, including an edition of The Life and Passion of William of Norwich for Penguin in 2014.

How do I take part? 

To register for the short course, please complete this short form and we will contact you with further details when they are confirmed. If you have questions, please contact us

Historical Association short courses

Following the successful pilot of a short course over the summer and autumn of 2022 the HA will be introducing two short courses a year.

These courses will bring together collated written resources, podcasts and films alongside interactive lecture sessions. Each course will have expert historians and lecturers as speakers and facilitators. The live sessions will be available as a recording for those registered on the course.

The content of the short courses aims to increase knowledge and understanding of a particular event, time or thematic and the courses should appeal to all adult learners with an interest in history. 

Licoricia included in Historical Association blog

We are very excited that Licoricia is now included in the Historical Association’s One Big History Department blog:

A 13thC Jewish woman: Licoricia of Winchester

Thank you to William Carver of The Licoricia of Winchester Appeal (mail@licoricia.org) for this blogpost. The story of Licoricia of Winchester provides a window into the 13th century world and offers a story that can build coherent knowledge from the later to the earlier middle ages. Her story also illuminates the story of Jewish people in England in the period and is therefore an important addition to a more diverse curriculum.

Licoricia was a remarkable Jewish businesswoman, wife and mother who lived in Winchester in the 13th Century.  Robert Stacey of Washington University has described her as ‘the most important Jewish woman in thirteenth century England’.  A statue has been erected of her in Winchester which HRH Prince Charles visited in March 2022.  She is a gateway into the forgotten Jewish community of the time with important lessons for today.  

Why she is important as a historical topic in her own right

She is important in her own right because of who she was, what she represents and what she achieved against great difficulty and danger.

She was a Jew, part of a persecuted minority, and she personally experienced this persecution, which increased through the thirteenth century to a climax in 1290.  Her first husband Abraham was accused of child-murder (a common prejudice of the time).  She was young about the time of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), and the Council of Oxford in 1222, middle-aged when Henry III’s ‘Statute concerning the Jews’ was promulgated in 1253 and elderly at the time of Edward I’s Statute of the Jewry of 1275 (all enacted progressively severe anti-Jewish measures).  She experienced the sacking of Winchester’s Jewry by the French in 1217.    She became a leader of her community with its synagogue on her land, and like many Jews was held hostage in the Tower of London whilst money was raised to pay the increasingly heavy levies on her community.  She probably paid fines not to wear the tabulae, badges which Jews were required to wear because of church pressure.  She will have taken refuge in Winchester Castle when Simon de Montfort destroyed Winchester’s Jewry in 1265.  In 1277 she was murdered at home in Jewry Street for unknown reasons.  

Her family was also persecuted.  Her second son, Benedict, became probably the only Jew allowed to become a guildsman in Europe, and was appointed ‘Keeper of the Queen’s Gold’ (Edward I’s Queen, Eleanor of Provence, was entitled to ten per cent of all Jewish fines, tallages and confiscated property, including those of executed people).  Despite or perhaps because of this, he was murdered as part of the 1277 coin-clipping pogrom.  Her youngest son Asher, was probably forced out of England by Edward I, along with the rest of the English Jews, in 1290 – England was the first country to do this. Graffiti, probably his, but subsequently lost, was found in Winchester Castle in the seventeenth century by John Selden.

She was a woman.  It was very unusual and dangerous for a commoner woman to run such a significant business and work closely with the king.  Her danger is illustrated by the coercion used against her to extract funds – she was held hostage in the Tower of London several times to do so – and by the execution of her son Benedict.  She raised funds for Henry III and Queen Eleanor as well as local and national projects including the Edward the Confessor chapel at Westminster Abbey.  She was also a single mother after she was widowed soon after the birth of her youngest son, Asher.  This would have brought its own pressures to bear.

She was highly educated and this was key to her success.  Her education was unusual for the time, but more common amongst Jews, who have traditionally highly valued literacy – she probably spoke French, English, Latin and Hebrew, and was well-versed in law and finance – and this was key to her success.  

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said at the unveiling of Licoricia in February 2022 (attended by leaders of the Jewish, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, Quaker, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh and Bahai communities) that ‘the story of Licoricia shines a light on the nature of the medieval Jewish community.  Despite living in a society which was frequently hostile to Jews, Licoricia was totally committed to raising her family, building a successful enterprise and contributing to the prosperity of the country.  The statue sends a powerful message today about the importance of hard work, being generous, and respect for all people’.  

What she reveals about her world

England was diverse eight hundred years ago.  Jews were part of the English community from 1067 until 1290, having arrived after the Norman Conquest in 1066. They contributed to the building of iconic places of worship such as Westminster Abbey and Lincoln Cathedral, castles like the Tower of London, as well as to trade and culture.  When Licoricia’s second husband David died, she had to pay £3,800 towards the Edward the Confessor chapel in Westminster Abbey; David Carpenter has estimated annual royal income at about £25,000 in the thirteenth century).

It has been estimated that the Jews contributed between a seventh and a tenth of royal income in the thirteenth century.  The Jews formed a private income for the king and queen, whose property they were, and who protected the Jews when it was in their interest to do so.  

Only a small number of Jews however were top financiers, and there was competition from the Christian population despite the efforts of the church to discourage this activity.   The Jews were restricted in the jobs they could do – work they were allowed to undertake included doctors, teachers, scribes, poets, vintners, metalworkers and tradesmen.  Three quarters of the Jewish population eked out a living at the lower end of the urban scale; in general, Anglo-Jewry was no richer and no poorer than the Christian community.

Many prejudices against the Jews were seeded in the Middle Ages, and watered by the church. Such prejudices included deicide, the killing of children (blood libel) and the exaggerated association of Jews and money. These prejudices led to marking through badges and clothing, attempts at conversion and attacks.  The first example of blood libel came from Norwich in 1244, and it spread throughout Europe and still exists today.  Badges, an antecedent of the Nazi yellow star, were introduced by the Catholic church in its Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and were intended to make Jews and Muslims more easily distinguishable from Christians as a prevention against miscegenation.  This was adopted by the 1222 Oxford Synod, which also, inter alia, prevented Jews from entering churches, hiring Christians as servants or wetnurses, or building synagogues in places where they were not already settled.

England was the first country to expel its Jewish population.  As Rebecca Abrams writes in her new book, by 1290 the Jews were ‘decimated in number and financially ruined’, as a result of ‘ruinous royal taxation, civil war, mob violence and judicial murder’.  

Links to educational material

Hampshire’s History and Curriculum Centre have developed five lessons on Licoricia.  A three lesson enquiry enables students to discover what the extraordinary life of Licoricia of Winchester reveals about medieval society and how it treated its Jewish community. They explore how the experience of medieval Jews changed over time and why. Students can also examine how and why Licoricia’s perceived significance has changed over time. A second, two lesson enquiry, explores the medieval history of Winchester to discover what it reveals about the experience of the Jewish minority who lived there. It provides a meaningful local study and familiar context in which to learn about the attitudes, power structures, relationships and events that affected their lives. 

Edexcel has included her in their resource booklet

Some lesson material has been kindly developed by Mr Chris Zieba of Bitterne School, Southampton.  Please see https://licoricia.org/schools/

Background:  

The medieval Jews

The population of Winchester’s Jewish community in the 13th century was around 200 (larger than today), and that of the entire population about 0.25%, similar to today.  

By 1189 there were 24 major Jewries outside of London, as well as many smaller communities.   Winchester had recently been the capital of England and close links were maintained with the French possessions of the Angevin and Plantagenet kings.

For more information please see www.licoricia.org or Rebecca Abrams’ new book, Licoricia of Winchester:  Power and Prejudice in Medieval England.

The statue of Licoricia in Winchester

The unique statue of Licoricia stands near where she lived, on Jewry Street.  She is depicted with her youngest son Asher (whose name means “happy”) who is aged about five years old. 

At the base of the statue is written “Love thy neighbour as thyself ” from the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) Leviticus ch.19 – a message which is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. 

The statue is located at Winchester’s ARC on Jewry Street where there are rooms available for school parties.  It can be included in Winchester’s medieval Jewish trail to make a fascinating day out.

BBC History Extra podcast on Licoricia

History Extra is the official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed. A podcast led by Miri Rubin of the JHSE has just been released:

What can one woman reveal about Jewish life in medieval England?

Miri Rubin, Dean Irwin and Toni Griffiths examine what the extraordinary life story of Licoricia of Winchester can reveal about the experiences of Jews in medieval England

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/licoricia-winchester-podcast-miri-rubin/

Rebecca’s book reviewed in the Jewish Chronicle

https://www.thejc.com/life-and-culture/all/licoricia-of-winchester-book-review-a-fascinating-look-at-the-richest-woman-in-medieval-england-5TeVAkbHuYZ3cZk33NLYff

Licoricia of Winchester
by Rebecca Abrams
Gomer Press £14.99



Little is known about Licoricia of Winchester, “the richest woman in Plantagenet England”.

She first appeared in an official court record of 1234, obliged to cancel the 10 per cent interest on a £10 debt. Moneylending for English Jews of that period was the shortest way to wealth, but they were vulnerable to the whims of antisemitic monarchs who tolerated them only for as long as they were useful.

Jewish wealth could be pillaged at will, usually in the form of tallage.

In 1210 King John imposed a £40,000 tallage (£25,000,000) on money lenders, all of whom were Jewish. When money was not forthcoming, property and bonds were seized.
Tallage forced Jews to call in debts from Christian clients at short notice, exacerbating the latter’s pre-existing dislike for these infidel foreigners (Norman Jews came from Rouen).

In Rebecca Abram’s short history, Licoricia and her family emerge as canny, brilliant financiers. Her second marriage, to David of Oxford, took place after Henry III intervened to overrule the decision of the Paris Beth Din to refuse David a divorce from his first wife, Muriel, who had previously petitioned the London Beth Din without success.

David stood to lose his property if he disobeyed Paris’s verdict. Henry needed David’s wealth. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

When David died, Licoricia was forced to hand over 5,000 marks (£2,500,000) from his estate. Four thousand of these went to build the shrine of Edward the Confessor, Henry’s patron saint, in Westminster Abbey. Abrams sees an analogy.

“Just as so many great eighteenth and early nineteenth century institutions in England were founded on profits from slavery, so were many of the magnificent English medieval churches and cathedrals built with money extorted from Jews.”

Her book is published in conjunction with the Licoricia of Winchester Appeal that also saw the erection of a statue in Winchester.

Among the appeal’s aims are the promotion of “tolerance and the value of diversity in the community”. It is a praiseworthy endeavour and it is refreshing to see a Jewish figure used in this context.

The final pages of Abrams’s illuminating book address events leading to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 by Edward I following an extortionate tallage that led to the ruin of the community, rendering it useless.

The story of this remarkable woman reads like a blueprint for many later expulsions and destructions of Jewish communities and, sadly, serves as the strongest riposte to her claim that,

“Remembering and learning from the past is our safeguard against repeating the same or similar mistakes in the present and future.”

Positive review of Rebecca’s book in the Jewish Chronicle

The JC has published a really good review of Rebecca’s book:

Licoricia of Winchester Book review: A fascinating look at the richest woman in medieval England

The story of this remarkable woman reads like a blueprint for many later expulsions and destructions of Jewish communities

Mark Glanville

BY MARK GLANVILLEAUGUST 19, 2022 12:00

articlemain

The statue of Licoricia in Winchester

Licoricia of Winchester
by Rebecca Abrams
Gomer Press £14.99



Little is known about Licoricia of Winchester, “the richest woman in Plantagenet England”.

She first appeared in an official court record of 1234, obliged to cancel the 10 per cent interest on a £10 debt. Moneylending for English Jews of that period was the shortest way to wealth, but they were vulnerable to the whims of antisemitic monarchs who tolerated them only for as long as they were useful.

Jewish wealth could be pillaged at will, usually in the form of tallage.

In 1210 King John imposed a £40,000 tallage (£25,000,000) on money lenders, all of whom were Jewish. When money was not forthcoming, property and bonds were seized.
Tallage forced Jews to call in debts from Christian clients at short notice, exacerbating the latter’s pre-existing dislike for these infidel foreigners (Norman Jews came from Rouen).

In Rebecca Abram’s short history, Licoricia and her family emerge as canny, brilliant financiers. Her second marriage, to David of Oxford, took place after Henry III intervened to overrule the decision of the Paris Beth Din to refuse David a divorce from his first wife, Muriel, who had previously petitioned the London Beth Din without success.

David stood to lose his property if he disobeyed Paris’s verdict. Henry needed David’s wealth. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

When David died, Licoricia was forced to hand over 5,000 marks (£2,500,000) from his estate. Four thousand of these went to build the shrine of Edward the Confessor, Henry’s patron saint, in Westminster Abbey. Abrams sees an analogy.

“Just as so many great eighteenth and early nineteenth century institutions in England were founded on profits from slavery, so were many of the magnificent English medieval churches and cathedrals built with money extorted from Jews.”

Her book is published in conjunction with the Licoricia of Winchester Appeal that also saw the erection of a statue in Winchester.

Among the appeal’s aims are the promotion of “tolerance and the value of diversity in the community”. It is a praiseworthy endeavour and it is refreshing to see a Jewish figure used in this context.

The final pages of Abrams’s illuminating book address events leading to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 by Edward I following an extortionate tallage that led to the ruin of the community, rendering it useless.

The story of this remarkable woman reads like a blueprint for many later expulsions and destructions of Jewish communities and, sadly, serves as the strongest riposte to her claim that,

“Remembering and learning from the past is our safeguard against repeating the same or similar mistakes in the present and future.”

Licoricia one of hundreds of Jews held in the Tower

World-famous as a royal fortress and prison, the Tower of London is also one of the most substantial standing remains of medieval England’s Jewish history. From the mid-twelfth century to the expulsion of the Anglo-Jewry in 1290, the Tower was both a place of imprisonment and of refuge for hundreds of Jews.

The Constable of the Tower had sole authority to arrest and imprison the London Jewry and even Jews arrested elsewhere in the country were normally transferred to the Tower. Yet, the Constable was also charged with protecting the city’s Jews during pogroms and the Jewish community even helped defend the castle from a siege by rebel barons in 1267. This two-year project explores the Tower’s central place in this complex story of coercion and coexistence.

The findings of the project and the biographies of prisoners can be found https://www.hrp.org.uk/about-us/research/the-jewish-history-of-the-medieval-tower-of-london/

Licoricia, her son, and other Jewish stories at the Tower of London

Did you know that Jewish money paid for Traitors’ Gate?

Rory MacLellan

The most significant standing remains of the Jewish history of medieval England is not a synagogue but a castle: the Tower of London. From 1189 to 1290, hundreds of Jews entered the Tower as prisoners, refugees, or workers, including Licoricia of Winchester and her son Benedict. At the same time, Jewish tax money funded the castle’s expansion, including the infamous Traitors’ Gate. This lecture will reveal some of these stories of imprisonment, sanctuary, persecution and even cooperation, when Jews and Christians fought together to defend the Tower from siege.

Rory MacLellan is a historian specialising in medieval religious history, particularly the crusades and the Anglo-Jewry. He was awarded his PhD in Medieval History by the University of St Andrews and recently completed a research project on the Tower of London’s Jewish history for Historic Royal Palaces.

Thursday 30 June 2022, 19:00

Lecture via Zoom 

Reserve tickets: https://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/book-online/110401

Our book by Rebecca Abrams published today

We are very excited to announce that our book, Licoricia of Winchester: Power and Prejudice in Medieval England, by Rebecca Abrams (https://www.rebeccaabrams.co.uk/) has been published today as a paperback and ebook. It is available online from Amazon and from many other platforms as well as good bookshops including P&G Wells, The Winchester City Museum, and the ARC in Jewry Street. It is a fascinating and illuminating book full of excellent illustrations and well-worth purchasing.