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Book Notes: Medieval English Jews and Royal Officials: Entries of Jewish Interest in the English Memoranda Rolls, 1266-1293, Zefira Entin Rokéah (ed. and trans.)

Joe Hillaby

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Book Notes Medieval English Jews and Royal Officials: Entries of Jewish Interest in the English Memoranda Rolls, 1266-1293, ed. and trans. Zefira Entin Rokeah (Hebrew University Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 2000) ISBN 965-493 034-X This is, effectively, a companion to volumes 1 to 3 of the Society's Calendars of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews (1905-29) edited by J. M. Rigg and Sir Hilary Jenkinson, rather than Sarah Cohen's volume 5 of the Plea Rolls in which Latin and French transcriptions were printed. Rokeah follows the format of the Calendars. She gives extensive, but not full translations of the Memoranda Roll entries, of which there are more than 1300, for this volume is intended not only for the specialist, but also for those who are not trained as medievalists or do not live in London. Two early Memoranda Rolls exist from John's reign, but the extant sequence begins in 1217-18, during the years when William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, was acting as regent for the boy king, Henry III. The rolls consist of notes made either by the king's or the lord treasurer's remembrancers during the annual viewing and auditing of the sheriff's accounts, or in the normal run of affairs within the Exchequer Court. Their contents are there? fore remarkably varied. From the rolls spanning the years 1266-93, tnat is PRO E 159/41-66 and E 368/41-64, Zefira Rokeah selected those relating to Jewish affairs for translation and inclusion. Her purpose is twofold: firstly to show 'how the activities of, and the attitudes towards, the Jews may have changed in the years before the expulsion'; secondly, and more generally, to draw attention to this 'rich and hitherto unexploited source' for the history of medieval Anglo-Jewry. The entries are grouped into twenty-seven annual chapters. They are preceded by a most helpful introduction dealing with not only the wider history of the Memoranda Rolls, but also technical matters and the languages used. An extensive index ensures ease of use by both specialist, and non-specialist readers. Rokeah also identifies items of special interest among the 1300 entries. These include matters relating to the trials for coin-clipping, plus valuable material concerning Jewish property and debts at the 1290 expulsion and the charge of corruption against William de Watford, one of the royal justices of the Jews, in 1272, and H?mo Hauleyn and Robert de Ludham in 1288. The former is described in detail in items 382 and 383 and the latter in 1059-62, 1069-77 and 1113-14. However, these were not isolated phenomena. Bribery 225</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes charges were proven against Peter des Roehes's protege, Robert Passelew, in 1234. These included 'equalising the tallage of London with the tallage of York [Jewry] which had formerly exceeded it'. Other justices so charged include William le Breton in 1241, Philip Lovel in 1251 and Robert de Ho in 1252. At county level, bribery and corruption were endemic. On the dis? missal of his patron, the powerful Walter II de Lacy, in 1223 H?mo of Here? ford's tallage obligation rose from some ?17 to ?70. In Worcestershire the hereditary sheriff, William III de Beauchamp, learned early in his reign how useful the county Jewry could be in tightening his family's hold on the fertile Severn and Avon valleys. In Gloucestershire in 1220 methods were more straightforward. In response to the accusation that he might have received ?10 for arranging Solomon Turbe's fall from the tower of Gloucester castle, the sheriff replied 'No . . . only 10 marks'. This collection of Memoranda Roll entries is of particular value for the additional information it provides as to the range and quantity of Jewish debts taken into the hands of the Crown. At seventeen years of age the Prince Edward, with easy access to capital, was already securing an interest in stra? tegically situated estates encumbered by debt to his father's Jews. By 1286 John Pecham, the Franciscan archbishop of Canterbury, felt it necessary to point out to Queen Eleanor that, by amassing such estates, a sin no less heinous than usury itself, she was jeopardizing her immortal soul. Both the reasons for such debts and the consequences of Edward Fs and Eleanor's attitudes towards them not only merit detailed exploration, but are also splen? did examples of the breaking down, as Stacey advocated more than a decade ago, of the 'boundaries that have traditionally divided "majority" from "minority" history'. Joe Hillaby</page></plain_text>