top of page
< Back

Jewish History and Archives: Presidential Address

Sir Hilary Jenkinson

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish History and Archives 1 By Sir Hilary Jenkinson, C.B.E., LL.D., F.S.A. IT is the privilege of age to be, within reason, not merely reminiscent but even autobiographical: and though I hope I shall not tax your patience long with the autobiography I must begin by claiming your indulgence for some exercise of that privilege. When I was invited to take office as President of this Society I was in two minds whether I could accept the invitation : not, you will readily conceive, because I failed to appreciate the very great honour it did me, for I am, I believe, only the third non-Jewish President in sixty years, and I was both touched and grateful that members of the Council thought me worthy of such a distinction. I hesitated because I felt honestly doubtful whether I could contribute anything in the way of a Presidential Address which would satisfy either you to hear or me to deliver. The names of past Presidents, some whom I have known a little personally and more whom I have known well by reputation, occurred to me?Lucien Wolf, Israel Abrahams, H. S. Q. Henriques, Gustave Tuck and Philip Guedalla, to name only a few no longer with us whom I have actually been privileged to meet during the long period in which I have been able to maintain some occasional contact with the affairs of the Society. I thought of the quality and variety of the topics they had discussed and of the weight of expert knowledge of Jewish affairs in the present as well as Jewish History in the past with which they had spoken; and I hesitated to take a place in such company. It is true that in the early days of my connexion with Records, and at a date when research in documents was not so common a practice as it has since become, I was tempted to see myself as one of the historians of the English Jewries of the thirteenth century. The remarkable Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887 was then a comparatively recent achievement ?two of the colleagues whom I first met when I joined the Record Office (Charles Trice Martin and Hubert Hall) had contributed to it?and one of the first books which gave me some idea of what might be done by patient gleaning in the astonishing series of English Records to which I was then being introduced was Joseph Jacobs' cJews of Angevin England'. My first official tasks of any importance had led me to the discovery of some exclusively Jewish Records (Receipt Rolls and Tallies) which were new, and that in a relationship with like records of a non-Jewish character which made me, as it still makes me, think that accepted views of the nature and functions of the medieval Scaccarium Judeorum might need some revision; even though they had been held by such scholars as Jacobs and Charles Gross. It is true also, that, greatly daring, I ventured to express these views in the 'Transactions' of this Society in 1912 and that I sought confirmation of them in the preparation of a volume of "Jewish PleaRolls' which the help and encourage? ment ofthat kindest and most patient of editors, Israel Abrahams, enabled me to produce, after many delays, in 1929. But there, I am afraid, with only very occasional subsequent incursions, my intrusion into the field of Jewish History ended and although my interest has by no means ceased, and the possibilities of the documents which aroused it (in spite of the work of other writers such as Herbert Loewe, Michael Adler and Canon Stokes) have not yet been exhausted, any idea I might have had of figuring modestly as an historian of the medieval English Jewry has lapsed. 1 Presidential Address delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England, 3rd November, 1953. e 53</page><page sequence="2">54 JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES I have ventured to be so far personal because this lapse of mine was not confined to Jewish History : I had in fact begun to follow a line which neither I nor I think anyone else had up to then considered as an independent one?the line of the archivist; the person not primarily occupied himself in research but concerned with the conservation and accessibility of documents in the interest of other people, perhaps in the distant future, who may, possibly for purposes quite unknown to him, have occasion to use them. The development of this new profession in England, which I believe to be a matter of profound importance for many branches of Research but pre-eminently for the Historical, has now been my main preoccupation, both officially and extra-officially, for many years : and if I finally decided to accept the honour which brings me here tonight it was because I thought that though no longer a practising historian who could signalise his accession to office as your President by communicating to you the latest results of his personal researches, it might be useful if, speaking definitely as an archivist, I de? scribed some features of that development which might be new to you and considered, or invited you to consider, their relation to the special problems of Jewish Historiography in general and the work of the Jewish Historical Society of England in particular. You will see that this means that I must seek your further indulgence for a general review (I shall make it as brief as possible) of certain developments in historical writing, and the use of Archives, in this country which have occurred mostly within my own official memory and well within the life-time of this Society. Perhaps after all it will not need so much apology if we remember, what is indeed the text of my Address, that the history of the Jewish People in England, though it is a part of Jewish history as a whole, is also a part of English history. In the first place, then, what do we mean by the word "Archives" ? We mean by it the pieces of writing of all kinds, from formal registers to small notes, which accumulate naturally in the course of the conduct of affairs of any kind at any time; and are pre? served by the person or body concerned or their successors. Please observe (it is important) that we prescribe for the "affairs" no limit of date or character. They may be your affairs or mine or those of a Church or an Empire ; may have been con? ducted yesterday or in the thirteenth century. The original reason for the preservation of such documents is, of course, that they may be wanted for reference : their preserva? tion after that possibility has passed has not infrequently resulted from mere inertia : and the discovery that when their original usefulness had ceased they might serve the purposes of scholarship was the beginning of new schools of History in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At first, attention was naturally confined almost entirely to the archives of very important persons or bodies : and even among these only the more august and the earlier series attracted much attention?Domesday Book, for example; the great medieval Enrolments of the Chancery; State Papers of the Tudors; Bishops' Registers, perhaps, and the Cartularies of famous Monasteries : Original Accounts (even the medieval), when I first entered the Record Office, were only just beginning to be much thought of; and modern Departmental Records were if not poor, certainly unpopular relations. Moreover, the use made of Records was direct: they were of value because they, being the ' Documents in the Case,5 enabled the modern historian to correct or amplify the ex parte or incomplete statements made by his predecessors about the events which produced them. Treaties, for instance, were subjects of recognised historical interest, but knowledge of their terms was inadequate till Rymer set out to print for us from the contemporary records accumulated in the course of treaty-making their actual</page><page sequence="3">JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES 55 texts. But the use of Archives soon went much further than this. There began the development which has revealed to us the value of Archives for the indirect and incidental information which they may convey upon an infinite variety of topics which were certainly not in the minds of their compilers. An accountant (to take a hackneyed example) sets out to justify to his Auditor his expenditure of so many pounds, shillings and pence : and two centuries later learned men are wrangling over the value of that item in his accounts for the dating of one of Shakespeare's plays. It is this use of the information profusely but casually supplied by any great series of archives which has made possible in modern times the extension of research into entirely new fields, such as those of Economic, Social and Administrative History; and that in turn has led to the extension also of our interest in Archives far beyond the few great and imposing classes which still made a horizon for most people at the time when this Society's activities began. We have not, of course, ceased to be interested in great men and outstanding events, but we are also, and perhaps rather more, interested in movements and conditions; that is to say, in the things which affected the smaller people, our own opposite numbers in the past?the people whose lives and doings made up collectively the life of the thirteenth or the seventeenth century as ours are making up that of the twentieth. As a corollary, we have to take a good deal of interest in the humbler, but very voluminous, series of archives?the Taxation or Manorial or Parish Accounts; the Court Rolls and the vast series of Deeds concerning small properties; the Wills of minor people and Inventories of their goods; the Apprenticeship Records; the Proceedings before local justices and countless other series?from which the desired information may be drawn. This change in the direction of historical effort resulted first in a great increase of publication of an unofficial kind : the latter part of the nineteenth and the beginning of the present century saw the establishment of numerous societies, largely regional in outlook but some of the type of the Pipe Roll Society, the Seiden Society and our own; devoted wholly or in part to the publication of records in some particular interest. It is true that they for the most part confined themselves still to the more outstanding and early classes of Archives; but at the same time people began to be conscious that the lesser Archives, especially those in private custody, ought at least to be preserved and were in fact (owing to various causes upon which I must not here dilate) in grave danger of dispersal or destruction; and presently a few bodies, notably the Public Libraries, made a beginning by finding house-room for unwanted documents which might supple? ment their collections of material for local history. At the same time Local and Ecclesi? astical Authorities were being urged to spend more effort on the care of their own Archives and in a few cases were beginning to do so. By 1930 some scores of volumes were being published every year in this way and a definite movement was taking shape to locate and preserve documents of historical value which were no longer needed by their natural owners or custodians. In addition it was beginning to be realised that the conservation of archives might require qualifications which neither the historian nor even the librarian would normally possess : so that some of the large libraries were looking for staff specially trained for the purpose; and both the Library Association and the School of Librarianship in the University of London had gone so far as to include Archive Administration in their syllabuses. At this point there came into existence the British Records Association : concerned first to continue and enlarge an organisation already in existence for the rescue of private archives and their distribution to institutions where their permanent preservation and</page><page sequence="4">56 JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES accessibility to students could be guaranteed ; secondly to co-ordinate the work which was being done for archives by all manner of societies and other bodies ; and thirdly, and generally, to foster a body of sound public opinion upon all matters concerning the preservation and use of archives and, though perhaps few even of its founder members realised this, to create a new point of view and a new profession in this country. In all these matters it has, in spite of an intervening war, been successful beyond expectation. The work of its Records Preservation section has never ceased and after twenty years of successful struggle, during which it has dealt with something like half a million docu? ments, it has just received, from the Pilgrim Trust, the means of inaugurating an intensi? fied campaign for the rescue of private archives, now, since the War, more than ever endangered not only through ignorance of their value but on account of pressure on space, increased cost of staff, the breaking up of large estates, abandonment of great houses and disappearance or re-organisation of old establishments of every kind. It has a membership of over a thousand, including all the county councils : it has been respons? ible for a considerable amount of technical publication, including a new journal? 'Archives'; for persuading or encouraging a large proportion of the counties to establish Archives departments properly equipped and staffed not only to look after their own Records but also to give a home to others, private, local and even ecclesiastical, which were in danger; and for planning, to meet the new need for trained archivists, a special school and diploma course in the University of London. Finally it has proposed success? fully the official creation of a National Register of Archives. The function of this last-named institution is to take the first steps?that is location and registration?in the preservation of Local, Ecclesiastical and Private Archives. Analysis and registration are accomplished by a small staff sited at the Public Record Office; but for the primary supply of information it must necessarily depend on Local Knowledge and Local Effort: and its first task has been to organise in the counties?a large propor? tion of which have now been covered?bodies of voluntary helpers who submit upon an approved system reports of the existence and nature of bodies of archives of every description. Except to rule out the frivolous and ephemeral, no distinction is made as to date or kind : Ancient and Modern; Public, Semi-public or Private; Lay or Ecclesiastical; Official or Personal; Commercial, Industrial, Professional or Institutional: all are pabulum for the Register. Inevitably the Registry Staff do much in addition in the way of advice, inspections, co-operation with the British Records Association for the rescue of accumulations in actual danger of destruction or dispersal, and communication to students of information concerning new material for their researches. There remain to be mentioned one new question which is obsessing some of us to an increasing extent and one new development which transcends the boundaries of country. The question is?how far is the old specific of publication, as it has been understood up to date, sufficient to meet the needs of students in view of the vast extension in bulk andtdate of the archives we now present as worthy of their attention ? My first predecessor at the Record Office?that distinguished Jewish scholar Sir Francis Palgrave ?had no qualms : he looked into the future, as Maitland put it, "down along vistas of imperial folios" and was satisfied : so also were his contemporaries and those who came after him until very recent times, not only at the Public Record Office but in those other publishing bodies I have mentioned; and the result has been our enrichment by some thousands of valuable volumes. But the disquieting truth is that publication has only touched the border of the field which it started, a couple of centuries ago, to make access? ible, and meanwhile that field, by the addition to it of new classes not previously much</page><page sequence="5">JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES 57 esteemed, and still more by reason of vast and growing accruals of modern Archives, and their growing popularity with students has grown to even more embarrassing dimen? sions. Clearly as a formula for providing that accessibility which it is part of the archivist's business to provide, 'Publication' is obsolete. Modern facilities for travel and modern devices such as microphotography, making personal access to the originals more possible, are offering us new means of dealing with the problem, but it is by no means solved. For the moment, however, the question of how we shall in future deal editorially with our Archives is submerged in the larger problems of finding out what and where our Archives are; and how we may ensure their preservation. Finally I have to chronicle the birth of a new international outlook upon the work of the archivist. I will say no more of this at present than that the recognition of certain elements in that work as common to all nations and therefore susceptible of international handling began in conferences twenty years ago under the auspices of the Comite Inter? national de Cooperation Intellectuelle, a committee of the League of Nations, and has become since the last war an accomplished fact. An International Council for Archives is now in existence and acts as one of the advisory bodies to the institution known as UNESCO, which has recognised archive studies as an independent element in the "Educational, Scientific and Cultural" interests that it is commissioned to serve. I have selected here for your consideration, if I may summarise, five major develop? ments : (1.) the widening (an enormous widening) of the scope of interest in archives to include low as well as high and modern as well as ancient; (2.) realisation of the present day danger to archives, especially private ones, not only of neglect but of actual destruction or dispersal, and measures taken to meet this; (3.) distinction between the functions of the historian, for whom archives are a source to be exploited for his particular purpose, and the archivist, whose business it is to conserve and make them available for any purposes ; (4.) recognition of the inadequacy of straight publication as a specific to secure accessibility for study; and (5.) the international point of view. Now how do these developments affect in particular Jewish Historiography and the work of the Society ? May I take first as the most obvious, that question of the publication of texts or calendars and its insufficiency by itself as a means of making Archives accessible to students : should that affect the policy pursued by the Society up to date ? So far as concerns the medieval records I think the answer is No. I have always held, and I think most medievalists would agree, that up to at least an advanced date in the thirteenth century available material as a whole is relatively so small, and the Archives which survive are so packed with detailed allusion to persons, places and topics, that at least all the principal series are worth publication in the form of full indexed texts or calendars, if only to serve as general reference books for the period?a kind of medieval encyclopaedia ?and, fortunately or unfortunately, the purely Jewish classes surviving to us up to 1290 are sufficiently limited to make complete publication a realisable ideal. It is no light task; indeed it is formidable : also one would like to see it proceeding at a faster rate; and I think means might be found to shorten the form of presentation in some cases without omitting any of the facts : but it seems to me feasible within a predictable time and eminently worthwhile. In saying this I am thinking not only of the Jewish Plea or, as I prefer to call them, Memoranda Rolls but of the Jewish Receipt Rolls. Known survivals of Tallies and Starrs you have already dealt with. Outside these series there are not likely to be found now for the medieval period more than stray documents, nor many as important as the curious record of Jewish complaints, parallel with those of</page><page sequence="6">58 JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES Christians, against the Poitevin officials of Henry III in 1234 which were published by Mr. Michael Adler some years ago. Such occasional trouvailles can be dealt with in published notes as they come to hand. In the work I have just been describing we are spared at least one problem : the material is already located. Apart from the financial question, the difficulty is that of finding suitable editors and it is considerable : but even in these times there is still a proportion of young students who are capable and desirous of pursuing their graduate studies in the medieval field; and I cannot believe it impossible that occasional Jewish students should be stimulated into following the same path. They could not have a more obvious ground for exercising themselves in research not only to their own profit but to that of the Community. When we come to our next period?that between 1290 and 1656?the lay-out is quite different. Apart from the Accounts of the House of Converts in Chancery Lane, which the work of Mr. Adler and others have made so familiar, there are for obvious reasons no series of exclusively Jewish Records made in this country. It is true, as was long ago pointed out by the first President of this Society, that in the centuries following the Expulsion there must have been a considerable pene? tration of Jews into England in various guises or capacities ; true also that the reconstruc? tion of single episodes in this period, such as the metamorphosis of Edward Brandon, Convert, into Edward Brampton, Knight, a prominent figure in the later fifteenth century and mixed up somehow with the affair of Perkin Warbeck, is a fascinating possibility; especially perhaps (a matter to be touched upon later) with some help from foreign sources. But it is not possible to predict for ourselves or prescribe for others specific tasks in research of this kind : they must wait on the appearance of some new fact casually revealed which starts a train of deliberate investigation. The same applies to the period immediately following the Cromweliian. The Jew in England, though still subject to disabilities, was no longer so situated that references to his activities will be found only or mainly in special classes devoted to Jewish affairs. He may appear like any of his English contemporaries in almost any type of record; that is to say not only in such series as the State Papers but also in all those minor Archive classes which now, as we have seen, claim almost equally the attention of historians. I had a curious example of this very recently in a casual note, in the Quarterly Report of a county archivist, of the emergence during the sorting of some exceedingly miscellaneous files of documents belonging to a certain diocese of a petition addressed to the Bishop in English and Hebrew, about 1675, by a person described as "Jacob Son of Dr. Samuel", who was or had been Clerk to Menasseh ben Israel. It is to be observed that the time of which we are speaking is that in which certain categories of local Archives first begin to be plentiful?those of Quarter Sessions, for instance, and of the Parish (do not forget that there are about 11,000 ancient parishes in England) which were to be for the next two centuries not only legal and ecclesiastical organisations but the centre and the executive unit respectively of local government of every kind all over the country and therefore the points at which the lives of ordinary people were most likely to impinge on official records. I will not dwell on this because frankly, such discoveries as that which I instanced just now are dependent on either good luck or good indexing : and the archivist can do little to help the Jewish, or any other, historian unless and until?and I am afraid that is a far day?he has the resources for making his lists and indexes on a scale which few if any archive establishments can at present afford. The best that can be said is that the historian can himself do something to ease the situation. For its starting point?for finding as it were the point of impact</page><page sequence="7">JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES 59 of the topic in which one is interested upon any given body of archives?research of the kind we are now considering depends very largely on regional or personal connexions : and from this point of view I welcome the suggestions made, I think, by my immediate predecessor in office in a paper read some years ago in which he advocated a much increased attention to Jewish Genealogy in this country and to the history of local con? gregations. We must also welcome the work undertaken at various times in regard to individual Jewish personalities or to groups of them such as that which Mr. Wilfred Samuel has given us in his study of Jewish underwriters at Lloyd's; and finally and particularly we must welcome the volume on 'Anglo-Jewish Notabilities' published for us by the Society in 1949?an invaluable work of reference to be followed I hope, as is the way of invaluable works of reference, by many supplements. Research of this kind contrives "a double debt to pay"; for not only is it interesting in itself but it furnishes tools for the opening up of other resources. But I am anticipating a little or rather have allowed my thoughts to slide from the late seventeenth century into the more modern period upon which I had mean to dwell separately. We reach with the eighteenth and mneteenth centuries the largestt and most unexplored tract of the whole vast field of English Archives. On the other h and so far as Jewish History is concerned we come back here to a state in which we have once more a certain amount of information available in categories of Archives exclusively Jewish? and Jewish this time in their compilation as well as their content; Archives which give us accordingly a specific problem to solve and, I shall submit, a specific duty to perform. There are two major categories of such Archives. The first is that of Jewish institu? tional records?the Archives of synagogues, schools, charities and societies of all kinds, including certain set types of Registers, Minutes, Accounts and so forth which began now to be kept regularly and series of which may with good fortune survive for our enlightenment. Archives of the Western Synagogue, to take only one example, were extant?I am afraid we must use the past tense for many were destroyed during the War ?from about 1750. The use made by Dr. Roth of those and the Archives of the United Synagogue and like material, especially in his books on the Great Synagogue and on Provincial Jewry has demonstrated how fruitful such Archives may be: and the same may be said of Dr. Lionel Barnett's 'Bevis Marks Records' and Mr. Hyamson's 'The Sephardim of England' But I think those authors would agree with me that we have here exceptional cases. I believe I am right in saying that at present?apart from a few such exceptions? no one knows to what extent Archives of these classes have survived : and I hope you will not think me too much of an alarmist if I add that experience elsewhere leaves me in little doubt that this may mean considerable danger. Here then is room for much valuable work. It is archivist's rather than historian's work, because it is concerned only with safeguarding the material, not necessarily with its immediate exploitation, but it is fundamental, urgent and something that anyone historically minded may undertake with little technical training or equipment. I suggest to you that so far as the Modern Records of Jewry in England are concerned our first need (and I do not think the object should prove unattainable) is a complete Survey which shall take account of all the Jewish institutions in this country that from the eighteenth century?or the seventeenth if you will?down to the present day may have produced, or are producing, Archives. We need the Survey to go further and verify what Archives do in fact survive, where, and in what condition : and we need it to go further still if possible and list the individual pieces. Other work in connexion with such matters as repair, the elimination of what is valueless, and perhaps even custody and housing may follow, Those, however, are</page><page sequence="8">60 JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES matters which in some cases involve questions of policy and require anyhow technical treatment?matters for the full-time archivist?and I shall therefore not attempt to deal with them here. But upon one point let us be quite clear?until we know what there is we can neither safeguard it nor use it. Such a Survey as I have suggested is of course closely related to the task of the National Register of Archives : a task (let me underline this) which would be impossible without the aid of numerous historians turned archivists. That aid, as I have indicated, is organised upon a regional basis; but there are some institutions which transcend regional divisions and of these the Jewish People is emphatically one. I should like to think that an effort by Jewish historians (who alone are competent to do it effectively) to take this first step for the safety of modern Jewish Archives in England might be integrated with our national effort to secure the safety of archives in this country as a whole. The remarks I have just been making apply equally to the second category of modern Jewish archives to which I referred?that of Private Family and Business or Professional Archives. Indeed the need for a comprehensive Survey, as an essential first step towards practical measures for conservation, is perhaps even more urgent here; because pre? servation of documents of this nature depending on personal and individual considerations they are in even more danger of destruction or dispersal through carelessness or any of the other circumstances which I mentioned when speaking of the work of the British Records Association. Yet they are potentially both valuable and numerous. Dr. Roth ?if I may cite him once more?in the admirable address which he entitled 'The Challenge to Jewish History'gave very sufficient indication of the way in which Jewish personalities of importance emerged in every walk of life after the Resettlement in England. I suggest that this indication might be followed by systematic research into the possible existence still of documentary survivals from their activities and from the activities of many others, particularly those engaged in commerce or industry. The late Sir John Clapham referred on the occasion of this Society's Jubilee celebrations, to indications of Jewish material which he had found among the Archives of the Bank of England and I notice that this has been followed by an article by an Officer of the Bank, Mr. Giuseppi. Valuable indications indeed, but how much might their value be increased if we had the private Archives of the persons concerned to supplement them. The subject is much too large for detailed treatment here, but to take only one example, the London Chamber of Commerce published some years ago a list of nearly 1,400 firms in London alone which had been in existence for more than a hundred years, including many of twice that age. I have often wondered?and the National Register of Archives, when it has time, will have to inquire?how many of those have preserved their Archives : and I add for your consideration the further speculation?how many were Jewish, and what contribution their archives, if preserved, and the archives of others like them, might make to Jewish History ? You will have perceived the point of view which, very diffidently, I am venturing to commend to your consideration. No one who has examined, as I have been doing lately, the Catalogue of and Index to the published papers of this Society which we owe to the devotion of Mr. Hyamson?and may I in passing pay my tribute to the value of that laborious piece of work, which I hope it may presently be possible to make gener? ally available for study?no one who has realised the richness and variety of information which this one subject, the History of the Jewish people in England, has already drawn from casual approaches to the great mass of English Archives, could wish to divert into other channels any part of the energy necessary to continue the flow of such contributions</page><page sequence="9">JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES 61 to knowledge. The names of many of the writers alone including some from outside the Society?such as my own tutelary deity F. W. Maitland; my old friend Charles Sayle, expert on incunabula; and Sir John Clapham, the distinguished economist; with others still living?authorities upon subjects primarily non-Jewish, are evidence of the way in which the Jewish vein, running across other strata of Research, produces from time to time such an outcrop as that to which Maitland gave the characteristic sub-title of 'An Apostasy at Common Law'; or that which a more modern lawyer (I am sure he will not mind being bracketed with Maitland) has called Jewish Causes Celebres. Long may the Society's publications continue to attract such contributions. On the other hand the initial safe-guarding of archives must always have a certain claim to priority over their exploitation, however great the charms of the latter : and I must (if my experience such as it has been, is to be of any service to you) insist, even at the risk of being repetitive, upon the dangers to which Jewish in common with non-Jewish archives of the types I have mentioned, are subject under modern conditions; on their potential quantity and value; and on the possibility for persons of good-will, alive to the interest and importance of historical evidences and having the essential qualifications of a know? ledge of Jewish affairs, to make an invaluable contribution to the safeguarding of this part of our inheritance of historical material. The compilation and publication of such a Survey as I have indicated is, as I have said, only a first step : but that step once taken I should have little fear but that practical measures would follow where necessary : at least they would be possible; which at present they are not. I come finally to one more of the developments?the most recent?which I mentioned in the first part of this paper : that of the International Point of View. As a rule international organisation has for me, I confess, a certain suspect quality inasmuch as it is an artificial creation rather than a natural growth : and if there is one outstanding characteristic in Archives it is that they are, as I began by saying, accumulations due to natural causes. But the Jewish people furnishes in this, as in other matters, an exception? al case. Its History and Archives in England have a double character : for while they are in one sense part of the History and Archives of this country, in another sense they are units in a whole composed of elements drawn from half the nations of the world. In stating this point of view I am, of course, saying nothing new. It is expressed? and with much more eloquence?in the very first paper (contributed by a distinguished foreign visitor) which figured in the volume brought together by the Exhibition of 1887 : and you will find it exemplified in many of the articles in this Society's 'Transactions'; where the story which has its starting point in English or Anglo-Jewish archives is supplemented or concluded from those of Portugal or Holland or Hamburg. Indeed the 'Transactions' go further in illustration of it. For a mere glance at the titles shews Anglo-Jewish historians devoting whole articles to Jewish archives and history in Jamaica and the Canaries, Malta and Canada, Dublin, Spain and South Africa. It would seem then that the ground is already prepared for the suggestion (indeed I believe it has already been made tentatively) of a Survey in which this Society might play a prominent part and the scope of which should go far beyond what I have suggested. The first effort at international treatment of Archives produced a 'Guide International des Archives' and the second has in contemplation a new edition of it. How necessary such work may be I can testify from my personal experiences when, during the late War, I tried to frame measures for the protection of Archives against the hazards threatened by friend or foe first in this country and then in Italy, Austria and Germany; and, as a preliminary, endeavoured to construct Lists which should answer the question put to me by the</page><page sequence="10">62 JEWISH HISTORY AND ARCHIVES Powers with whom I had to deal, who were prone to ask, not unnaturally?Where are these Archives ? I am bound to add that I found particular difficulty in respect of the Jewish items. It is tempting to indulge the thought that parallel, or perhaps preliminary, to a new general 'Guide IntemationaV there might be compiled, in rather more detail, a Guide to Jewish Archives all over the world; and that members of this Society might be the means of starting the movement to provide it. I hope I shall not be thought unsym? pathetic?I am not?to this idea if, with an eye perhaps upon my own more restricted proposition, I make the obvious remark that setting one's own house in order is the time-honoured preliminary to larger operations, but indeed the two are very closely related: it may even be found that they are inseparable. I have spoken throughout, as I said I would, in the character of an Archivist address? ing Historians. But I have gone further, for I have suggested that for those interested in Jewish History in this country, except for the earliest period, the most urgent work at present is themselves to turn archivist for the location, and if necessary conservation, of material which is essential for an orderly and systematic scheme of research and which may be, if that operation is not undertaken, not only neglected but lost. But there is one thing more that I should particularly like to say to this audience by way of conclusion. It is a thing I have said twice already, once in inaugurating the new School of Archives at our old friend, University College, and once to an international meeting at the Hague : but I should like to repeat it here. Archives, we have seen, are the documents in the case; the things which, if properly preserved and properly used, will tell us what as a matter of fact occurred, because they are themselves part of the facts : and the archivist's business is not himself to research upon or make deductions from them but merely to preserve them in their integrity and make them accessible. His Creed, the Sanctity of Evidence : his Task, the pre? servation of everything, physical or moral, which is evidential in the documents committed to his charge : his Aim, without prejudice or afterthought to make available, for all who wish to know, the means of knowledge. Seen in this light the good archivist is almost as selfless a devotee of Truth as it is possible to imagine. That is a form of devotion which has not been common in the world of late years. Indeed our times have witnessed the erection of its very opposite almost into a creed, certainly into a science : and upon the skilled suppression or fabrication of evidence, upon the disregard or misrepresentation of facts, has been based all that is most hateful and perverted (how hateful and how perverted I need not tell you) in the history of Europe during our lifetime. I am not, of course, presenting to you the work of the archivist as a political or social panacea. But it has importance?and if I am not wrong will have more?in modern life not only because it ministers to those who wish to undertake research, but because in its methods and its ideals the World may find one answer to the menace of the Propagandist.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page