In a 1988 paper Zefirah Rokeah reviews the accusations and points her finger at Theobold as the prime suspect. More on that later.
In 1994 there was a festival in Norwich to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the city's charter, and they commissioned an oratorio by Karen Wimhurst, the composer of the Lockerbie requiem. She chose as her subject the story of William, not the most edifying chapter in the city's history. We will never know what conclusion she would have reached as to the culprit, since the city authorities objected to the subject and the commission was withdrawn.
However, two years later in 1996 Arnold Wesker was asked to write a play for the opening of the recently constructed Norwich Playhouse. This time the Burghers were too late and the play, called Blood Libel, was the opening production at the theatre. Wesker sees the murder of William to have been the result of rape and the accusation against the Jews as a manifestation of antisemitism. The Jews are depicted by the Christians as hereditary enemies of the church, moneylenders, and their doctors using blood, trying to corrupt and convert Christian youths, arrogantly challenging Christian doctrines and preaching against images in churches. There are no Jews in the play - Wesker sees it as a Christian problem. I would like to have seen the faces of the Burghers of Norwich on the opening night. Unfortunately after its opening run the play has not been presented anywhere else.
In 1997 John McCulloh wrote a paper on the incident. Although his main object was to establish that there were sources for the story of the event other than the account by Thomas, he nonetheless gives his view on the culprit and believes it was an unknown sadist.
Last year Jeffrey Cohen (not the former Stanmore Rabbi) wrote an article where he expressed the view that if the body had been found today, we would attribute the murder to a paedophile or serial killer.
Before I give you my own ideas on who dunnit I want to digress slightly and talk about another issue that arises from the events.
Why did a Ritual Murder Charge arise in Norwich in the mid-twelfth century?
Why were the Jews accused of crucifying William, why at that time and why in Norwich?
It was at least 700 years since the last similar accusation against Jews.
Most historians see the late eleventh and the twelfth centuries as a turning point in the relations between Christians and Jews. Before the First Crusade in 1096 relations, whilst they were not unduly friendly, only rarely gave rise to anti-Jewish outbursts and the basic humanity of the Jews was not in question. During the twelfth century social antagonisms and heretical sects were spreading and Christian attitudes towards Jews became more negative. An irrational hatred of Jews began to develop primarily because many Christians were plagued by doubts and conflicts between what they wanted to believe and their more rational thoughts and they projected these insecurities on to Jews. Furthermore, at the time of the first crusade, many Jews killed their families and then themselves rather than submit to forced conversion. This enhanced the belief among Christians that Jews would kill not only themselves but also sacrifice Christian children. It was not a big step to start demonising Jews. It was a small step from demonising Jews to accusations such as the one in Norwich.
But why ritual murder?
Historians have discussed two ritual murder charges that had been recorded hundreds of years previously and although some consider they might have had a