The Licoricia story is rich ground for lessons in that it facilitates enquiry into place, history, identity and culture, prejudice, sources, and geography, all through a new lens. It promotes diversity, education and female achievement.
The statue itself is a fascinating enquiry into costume. Licoricia carries a tallage demand and her son Asher a dreidel. She does not wear tabulae because she would have paid not to.
The plinth carries important messages about shared texts between the Abrahamic faiths, in a font developed by a refugee, and in a translation which was at least partly undertaken in Winchester (the King James Bible).
The history brings into question fascinating sources from the time, and asks important questions about their veracity and completeness, and the evidence outside these sources. Amazing artefacts exist such as manuscripts, tombstones, buildings, tokens and utensils such as the Bodleian Bowl. There is even poetry. It further facilitates enquiry into church and state, and medieval prejudice.
Geographical knowledge is assisted on a macro scale by the widespread distribution of Jews throughout Britain, and their links with France and beyond; the studying of people and place has an excellent case study in Winchester, which retains a streetplan which can be traced to the Romans and Saxons, and contains many medieval buildings. We can tell where Jews lived and were buried because medieval Winchester is one of the best documented and researched cities anywhere. The Jews were forced to migrate frequently and provide strong links to continental Europe and beyond
Looking at today, lessons can investigate the nature of modern prejudice and how it is influenced by the past, as well as looking at the importance of education and gender equality. We wish to celebrate and promote diversity, and this can be done through examining how minorities such as the Jews enriched society then and do so now.
We will be publishing our book in the Spring of 2022 which should be an excellent resource for viewing history through a new lens, and providing lessons for today.
We have already worked Hampshire County Council’s HIAS to develop Key Stage 3 lessons which will be available for its schools from the start of academic year 2021/2, and have an important aim of developing further lessons for distribution to schools throughout the UK. Below are some ideas kindly put together by Mr Chris Zieba of Bitterne School, Southampton.
Please contact us if we can be of help in developing your educational resources or facilitating visits.
Ideas for including Licoricia of Winchester and the Medieval Jewish experience in the classroom (from Bitterne School, with many thanks)
The history of the project and of the time tab gives an overview of Licoricia’s life and the Jewish experience in Medieval England.
For those teaching in Hampshire, the story of Licoricia presents a range of opportunities to explore local history. Nationally, Licoricia’s story can be used to enrich, or as a window into, several themes on the History national curriculum. Hopefully, the following is helpful for seeing how you could include this history as part of your curriculum.
- Lives of significant individuals – Why was Licoricia important in Medieval England?
- Significant people/events/places in the locality – Use Licoricia’s story as a window/gateway into life in Medieval Winchester. Could link with the St Giles fair.
- A local history study – Use Licoricia’s story as a window/gateway into life in Medieval Winchester. Could link with the St Giles fair.
- Extending chronological understanding – Opportunities to look at Winchester and local area through time, or migration through time.
Lots of links to the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain 1066-1509 curriculum strand.
- The Norman Conquest – Jewish migration to England could be included as part of a study of the impacts/changes following the Norman Conquest.
- Role of religion – Dominance and control of the Church and how this led to some Jews being relied on as moneylenders. The ‘othering’ of other religions, links to the Crusades. Influence of the Pope e.g. Honorius IV in 1286 demanding an increase in restrictions to separate Jews and Christians.
- Society, economy and culture – St Giles fair and trade connections, diverse towns and communities, how beliefs influenced the treatment of different groups, the role/status of women.
- Changing power of the monarch – Licorica’s links with Henry III, role of de Montfort in the development of parliament and the destruction of debt records during conflict with Henry and Edward, role of Baron resentment in the 1290 expulsion.
The experiences of Jewish communities could also feature as part of thematic study, for example migration through time.
A sample lesson developed by Bitterne School:
Story resource: Licoricia of Winchester and the experience of Jews in Medieval England
The first evidence we have that Jews came over to England in significant number was following the Norman Conquest. They are reputed to have been invited to the country in order to encourage trade. They initially settled in London but by 1159 they had formed nine communities that were self-governing in Jewish matters, one of which was in Winchester.
The Jewish community often clustered in particular neighbourhoods and in Winchester they largely dwelled in and around Jewry Street. They lived alongside their Christian neighbours and although it has been suggested that there were exceptionally good relations between the two communities, the Winchester Jews faced accusations of killing Christian children as part of ‘Jewish’ rituals. In 1232 a one-year old boy was found dead near St Swithun’s Priory. The whole Jewish community was imprisoned in Winchester Castle for their own safety until the person who committed the murderous act was discovered. Eventually, the boy’s mother was found guilty, but the Jewish community was only allowed to leave the castle after it had paid a fine. However, the citizens of Winchester were not happy with the verdict and resentment brewed for several years.
All the Jews in the land were under the custody of the King. This meant they were allowed to trade and practise their religion, but had to pay large taxes (tallages) to the King for living, working and worshipping in the country. Some Jews were engaged in moneylending and they acted as a sort of bank for the King. Christianity banned the practice of moneylending. Because of this, anyone harming a Jew was answerable directly to the King, giving rise to the term ‘the King’s Jews’.
One of these moneylenders was Licoricia of Winchester. She would have been able to speak several languages (at least Norman French, Latin, vernacular English and, it is presumed, Hebrew) and would have learnt her trade from her family and community. She settled in Jewry Street.
Many of Licoricia’s clients were landowners and minor gentry. Her first recorded loan was for a sum of £10 – this would be enough to pay for a new, fully fitted ship. Licoricia married David of Oxford, one of England’s richest Jews, in 1242. Sadly, the marriage only lasted 2 years as David died in 1244, leaving Licoricia with her new son, Asser. As happened when a windfall to the Crown was expected, Licoricia was taken to the Tower of London whilst David’s estate was sorted out. In David’s case Licorcia paid the sum of 5,000 marks (£3,500) and Licoricia herself paid a further forced contribution of over £2,500 in inheritance tax. Most of the money went to pay for the building of Westminster Abbey and its rich shrine to Edward the Confessor. After David’s death Licoricia formed a close working relationship with Henry III and his Queen Eleanor and relatives. She became a leading figure in the community. Her business went well until the advent of the Barons’ Wars which had a severe detrimental effect on the Jewish community. One spring day, early in 1277 she was found murdered in her house in Jewry Street. As Licoricia was such a prominent Jew, her death attracted a lot of attention, the news even spreading to the continent. The motive for her murder is not known.
In the 1200s, anti-Semitism (discrimination against Jews) increased. Rumours were spread about Jews causing disease and killing babies to drink their blood. The Barons did not like that the king could get money from Jewish lenders and they were not liked by the Church who banned them from buying food from Christians. From 1253 onwards, Jews aged 7 years and older were required to wear a strip of yellow felt. Some communities were able to pay money not to have to wear this yellow marker, and for a while, Winchester was one of these. In 1265, the Siege of Winchester by Simon de Montfort the Younger resulted in the murder of many Jews in the city, and Jews saw their businesses raided and destroyed. Events such as these came to a head in 1290 when King Edward I ordered Jews to be expelled from England, a law which remained in effect for the rest of the Middle Ages.