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Why Anglo-Jewish History?

Cecil Roth

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Why Anglo-Jewish History?* CECIL ROTH, M.A., D.Phil. To say that I consider it a great honour to have been invited to serve once again as your President would be something of a meiosis. I still recall the awe with which as a schoolboy I used to read of the meetings of this august body and of the lectures delivered before it by the giants who were in the land in those days. In my first term in Oxford I saved my pennies (one hundred and twenty-six of them: half a guinea's worth, that is) and became a student member. That was some 48 years ago: and now, I fear, I have become the Oldest Living Inhabitant, suffering from all the debilities, decrepitude, nostalgia, and retrospective self aggrandisement legendarily associated with that exalted state. I well remember how in the mid-1920s, when Lucien Wolf had been goaded into a resumption of his activities by the pre? sumptuous incursions into his subject of whipper-snappers like the late Wilfred Samuel and myself, we managed to induce him to accept the Presidency for a seventh term, after an interlude of fifteen years. Our benefactor, Gustave Tuck, who craved this distinction for himself as a recognition of his services, was disappointed. We pointed out to him that Wolf had special claims for our mild honours that year, for he was about to celebrate his seventieth birthday. 'But I too will be seventy next year', Tuck grumbled. 'Exactly', we said. 'So then you will be President.' So it was. And now I, in my seventieth year, and having lived in as many centuries as any person now alive (except no doubt for some legendary figure in Russia, who still remembers Napol? eon's invasion), am summoned forth from my well-earned but alas not idle retirement to follow this illustrious example, standing before you to deliver a Presidential Address for the ninth time: an awesome record unprecedented in the history of our, or I should hope of any other, Society. And the responsibility is all the greater because the ostensible reason for my resuscitation is that this year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of our foundation, at that crowded meeting in the rooms of the Mac cabaeans, on the evening of Saturday, 3 June 1893. Owing to war-time exigencies, it fell to my lot, though then a mere stripling of 44, to be your representative and spokesman at the jubilee meeting held in the rooms of the Royal Society fifty years later, with the sound of gunfire rumbling in the background. Alas, that the address I gave then was published: for otherwise I could have extracted the text tacitly from my files, and you might have marvelled at my juvenile freshness of approach, notwithstanding my advanced years and im? paired delivery. Seventy-five years in the history of a learned body such as ours is not a negligible period. There are of course exceptions, such as the Academia Colombaria, of Florence, founded about 1580, which has done me the honour of electing me to corresponding membership. But in the realm of Jewish scholarship such longevity is rare. Indeed, I fancy, or rather fear, that ours is the oldest Jewish learned society now left in Europe, with the solitary exception of the Societe des Etudes Juives in Paris, our senior by 13 years. The interests of this body extend far beyond the exciting boundaries of French Jewish history (itself a vast and widely ramified subject) to every aspect of Hebraic learning. In my jubilee address 25 years ago I spoke of the responsibili? ties that had fallen on us through the tragic collapse of Jewish scholarship on the Continent of Europe, and the desirability of considering at least the extension of our scope to cover a wider field. Nothing tangible resulted: and indeed, with the qualified recovery of Jewish intellectual life in some parts of Europe, the stimulation of interest in Hebraic studies in academic circles in many countries, the burgeoning of Jewish learning in Israel and the United States, the foundation of Chairs or Lectureships in Judaica in several universities, * Presidential Address, delivered 17 September 1968. 21</page><page sequence="2">22 Cecil Roth the establishment here of the Institute of Jewish Studies, the Society for Jewish Study, and the Journal of Jewish Studies, the urgency for expanding our interests has receded. On the other hand, almost from the begin? ning of our activities, we have had critics who have criticised our self-limitations, who have told us that Anglo-Jewish history is in itself petty and unimportant, that after all that has been written on the subject there is nothing more to be said and nothing more to be discovered. Ostensibly indeed there is something to say for this point of view. 'Historic' Anglo-Jewry was minimal in size and unimpressive in achievement. The vast majority of the re? search for which we have been responsible has dealt with a community of less than, say, 10,000 souls, which constituted only a fraction of one per cent, of the Jewish community of the world. So, Why Anglo-Jewish history? It is this question that I will optimistically attempt to answer this evening. It must of course be borne in mind con? stantly that the importance of a field of histori? cal research is not necessarily commensurate with the greater or smaller area that it covers. The small society has the same features as the large; and has the advantage over the large that it is comprehensible (in the literal sense) and thereby lends itself to detailed analysis, in a fashion which is not true of the large. I well remember how at my father's suggestion I submitted my first essay in general Jewish history to the redoubtable Dr. B?chler, Principal of Jews' College, for his opinion. He said: 'People regard me as a Jewish histor? ian, but I can only speak with any degree of confidence on the history of the Jews in Pales? tine in the centuries immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian era'. At the time, I considered this to be an excess of modesty. Now, I am afraid, when people speak of me as a Jewish historian, I know in my heart of hearts that I can speak without fear of contradiction only on the history of the handful of Jews in Oxford (never, I suppose, exceeding if they approached 200) between approxi? mately 1150 and 1290. Some of you may perhaps know the volume I published on this profound subject: never, I think, has so much been written about so few, at least in the realm of Jewish history. But, though I can speak on the subject without fear of contradiction, I cannot say that I can speak on it with inner confidence. I wish that I knew?really knew? the details of a single day in the life of a single one of the Jews in Oxford at this period about whom I have written so volubly. In that case, I would know far more than I do about social history, legal history, religious history, consti? tutional history, administrative history. Indeed, I would know quite a lot, and I would perhaps qualify for some of the encomia I have received. But alas I do not. To drink an entire cask of wine in order to appreciate its bouquet is for supermen; ordinary mortals must content themselves with a mere bottle?or, if they are married, with somewhat less. The most remarkable exemplification that I know of the potential significance of the most detailed historical research in the wider field emanated from this Presidential chair. In 1887, at the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, an earnest, devoted, ambitious young man named Lucien Wolf delivered a lecture, subse? quently published, on The Middle Age of Anglo Jewish History, 1290-1656?necessary prole? gomena, as it were, to the researches on the Resettlement and the Mission of Menasseh ben Israel which had already begun to engage his attention, and on which he continued to write intermittently until about 1910. In 1928, goaded by the impertinent intrusion into his favoured field of the young whipper-snappers to whom I have alluded?Wilfred Samuel and myself?he determined to put us in our place. The result was his extraordinary Presidential Address delivered before a distinguished though not altogether appreciative audience in Man? chester on the Jews in Elizabethan England. In this, he established the fact that in the second half of the sixteenth century there was in England?not only in London but also in Bristol?a relatively numerous and relatively devoted Marrano group, who even played some little part in English life?not a mere handful of isolated individuals, as had hitherto been believed. Hence, Shakespeare had ample opportunity for studying certain aspects of</page><page sequence="3">Why Anglo-Jewish History? 23 Jewish life had he so desired. So much for our petty, restricted, decried 'four cubits' of Anglo Jewish history. But incidentally, almost casually, this mono? graph opened up a new chapter in Jewish history generally, by demonstrating for the first time (what had before been only dimly realised) that Northern Europe was covered at this time by a network of Marrano settle? ments which played a not insignificant role in world history. Portuguese rather than Spanish in origin, and resentful for obvious reasons against Spain, they threw themselves into anti Spanish political activities everywhere, from the Thames to the Bosphorus; they eagerly supported until they were disillusioned in him the claims of the Pretender to the Portuguese throne, Dom Antonio, Prior of Grato (whose mother was incidentally a New Christian); they worked to secure an Anglo-Turkish alliance in order to block the expansion of Spain, which in certain circumstances might have implied the end of European Jewry; with their political activities and their intelligence services they had some share even in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The key figure who emerged as a result of Wolf's researches, hitherto entirely unknown to historians, was Solomon Abenaes, alias Alvaro Mendes, who was raised by the Sultan to the rank of Duke of Mytilene, and whose career closely resembled that of the resplendent Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos?down even to the detail that Abenaes secured the renewal in his own favour of Nasi's grant of Tiberias and a surrounding area, which makes him also a significant figure in Palestinian Jewish history and a precursor of Zionism. Thus, Wolf's Presidential Address before our Society, dealing with minutiae of Anglo-Jewish history, has opened new frontiers and introduced new personalities to Jewish history generally. Let me add, though, that like all good pieces of research it is not complete and still leaves much to be rounded off; the latest biography of Dom Antonio suggests curious new perspectives in this story. The greatest compliment that a scholar can receive is that his work should form the jumping-off point for further research and inquiry long after his death. C In the course of this monograph, moreover, Lucien Wolf was able to establish incidentally the main lines of what was in fact a new chapter in Jewish history, which has by now become so accepted that no-one realises that half a cen? tury ago it was merely suspected. I have re? ferred to this briefly a moment ago. In the traditional Jewish historiography, the exile from Spain and Portugal was followed by a mild infiltration of Marrano elements among the Sephardi Diaspora in the Mediterranean area; at the very end of the sixteenth century, the Marrano settlement in Northern Europe began. Lucien Wolf at the outset of his historical researches found a number of Marrano names in Tudor England throughout the sixteenth century: and the number continued to increase as he continued his researches. The key slowly dawned on him. Almost from the moment of the Forced Conversion in Portugal in 1497, a Marrano Diaspora began to establish itself in northern Europe, particularly in the Low Countries and in England: the reason why it escaped the notice of historiographers pre? viously was simply that it remained crypto Jewish, whatever the intensity of its religious feelings. From this developed the remarkable story that he was the first to unfold?of the Marrano community in Antwerp which served as a stepping stone, by a devious route, between Lisbon on the one hand and Turkey and Italy on the other: of the deliberate transference of fugitives not by the dangerous and suspect road from the Peninsula eastwards through the Mediterranean, but from the Peninsula north? wards and thence later on southwards over the Alps to the Levant: of the further complication in due course of sailing first to Madeira in order to divert suspicion: of the elaborate interna? tional relief organisation that the Marrano leaders created among themselves: of the amazing 'underground railway' that was evolved to smuggle potential Inquisitional victims from Portugal to the haven of freedom in Turkey, not unlike the mechanism for the smuggling of Jewish refugees from Europe in and after the Nazi period of domination. The story has not yet been fully told nor have the details been exhaustively investigated. Here we have a most significant as well as romantic</page><page sequence="4">24 Cecil Roth chapter of our history which we would never have known but for the fact that a young man named Lucien Wolf, a little short of a hundred years ago, began to investigate the possibilities of a factual background of Shakespeare's Shylock. There are many other points in which the industrious cultivation of our own modest cabbage patch can prove an important contribution to Jewish history in its wider sense. I will cite here only one further example, carrying on from the point we have just left. We all know the accepted pattern of the development of the new Jewish communities that were set up in Northern Europe from the seventeenth century. First there came surrep? titious Marrano settlers from Spain and Portu? gal (in particular, as a matter of fact, the latter country); later they slowly threw off the veil of secrecy, and thereafter these places became the centres for an ever-increasing immigration of refugees from the Inquisition, to be reinforced in due course from other segments of Jewry. My untiring search for picturesque scallywags has recently made me realise that this picture is only partially true. Almost from the begin? ning, these new Sephardi communities?in particular perhaps that of London?were swollen by Sephardi settlers from Northern Africa, more precisely from Morocco. My attention was engaged particularly by the Buzaglo family, who settled in London in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, one brother being a merchant, one a Cabbalist, one a medical inventor (let us be charitable), one an adventurer who dabbled in politics and enjoyed the distinction at one time of being confined in the Bastille. I do not desire for the moment to discuss the respectability of this family, but only to point out how at this relatively early period they began to cut some? thing of a figure in London life, not as pictur? esque Orientals, but as members of occidental society (with the exception perhaps of the Cabbalist). Taking this as my point of departure, and working back, I have been amazed to find how many families of Moroccan origin, or with Moroccan connections, can be traced in the records of the London community almost as far back as the first generation after the Resettlement. It is noteworthy how they became absorbed not only into Anglo-Jewish but even into English life; it is surely not beside the point to remark that the descendants of these North African families include English men of letters of the calibre of Philip Guedalla, S. L. Bensusan, and the entire Farjeon clan. If elements such as these come to reinforce the new Jewish amalgam which makes up the population of Israel, there is no need for anxiety for the future! Incidentally, some of the information about my Buzaglo family may be derived from the remarkable and fully indexed records of the Patent Office, which is replete with material of Jewish interest going back to the seventeenth century; there is no need for us to worry about the exhaustion of the raw material in which we can carry out research! Our valued member Mr. Arthur Arnold, in his index to the wills at Somerset House, has provided us with the instrument in which this enormous store of material too can be quarried with a minimum of effort; but the actual work will occupy a generation of students. Since by common assent modesty is out of place in a septuagenarian Presidential Address, I may be forgiven if I mention also my own earliest paper before this Society, on that mendacious fifteenth-century adventurer Sir Edward Brampton, who became Governor of Guernsey. It was my first adventure into historical research, as an undergraduate recently returned from what we then naively considered the Great War. My temerity, in claiming to have discovered something that my elders and betters had overlooked, was properly chastised at the time. I suspect, though I was never informed, that the reason why my paper was admitted to the august series of our Transactions was because my father paid a number of Sunday morning visits armed with his cheque book. But the New Christian Duarte Brand?o (Brampton) is now an accepted figure of Portuguese as well as British history. In what is now the standard book on the period, he is taken as the exemplification of the opening of careers to talent under the late Lancastrians. His coat of arms, recovered from</page><page sequence="5">Why Anglo-Jewish History ? 25 the grave of his son in the Church of the Carmo in Lisbon, is emblazoned in Castle Cornet at St. Peter Port, Guernsey. And since he spon? sored Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the Duke of York murdered by Richard Crook back, his name is now somewhat associated by many with the mystery of the Princes in the Tower; with the result that before I left England I was invited to participate in the deliberations (though I hasten to add not in the banqueting) of the Society of the White Boar, founded to restore the unfairly tarnished reputation of King Richard III. Indeed, one has seen time after time how the inconspicuous inlet of Anglo-Jewish historical research can sometimes branch out into majestic and sometimes unexplored rivers. Wilfred Samuel, as a direct result of his interest in the economic background of the Jews of seventeenth-century London, became recog? nised as one of the most knowledgeable experts on English business records. Our ex-President Alfred Rubens has extended his juvenile curiosity in Anglo-Jewish portraiture into an encyclopedic knowledge of prints, caricatures, coats of arms, ex-libris, and, in his recent magnificent volume, Jewish costume through? out the ages. And now, owing to my wife's natural enthusiasm for the Baal Shem of London, her reputed ancestor?the only reputable thing about him, I fear?we have been able very recently to add significantly to the study of the portraits by that distinguished American artist of Revolutionary days, John Singleton Copley; at the end of a long chase in which I have been engaged, I may say, for a quarter of a century, and which within the last week was brought by devious ways to a triumphant conclusion. You will doubtless recall how the diary of the Baal Shem's valet has revealed a new chapter in the biography of his fellow-adventurer, 'King' Theodor of Corsica, as I recounted in a lecture before this Society some years since. Of course, it is with regard to the Middle Ages that the British records are so remarkably rich and complete; and this gives the student of Anglo-Jewish history an advantage over those who may be interested in other geographi? cal areas, ostensibly more important. When I published my monograph on Rabbi Elijah of London, 'the most eminent English Jew of the Middle Ages', Professor Baer, the doyen of Jewish historians of our day, wrote to me that it is impossible to reconstruct the biography of any other medieval Jewish scholar so intimately and in such detail. This is due above all to the preservation here not only of the superb series of Pipe Rolls, Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, and so on?largely available in print?but also because of the wealth of information contained in the records of the medieval Exchequer of the Jews, preserved in a majestic (though unfortunately incomplete) series from the beginning of the thirteenth century down to the Expulsion of 1290. It is a source which is invaluable not only for Anglo-Jewish history but even for many aspects of English history in its wider sense?constitutional, adminis? trative, legal, genealogical, economic. You are all, I know, familiar with, though I cannot expect that you have studied in detail, the three volumes of this invaluable source that we have already published. For many years we have planned to complete the series, and now, thanks to the devotion of that redoubtable medievalist Mr. H. G. Richardson (whose Jews under the Angevin Kings is without question the most important contribution to medieval Anglo-Jewish history since the pioneering work of Joseph Jacobs), a fourth volume is really and truly in the press: as a proof of my veracity I am happy to display before you today a set of galley-proofs which I have been privileged to see. Let me say that, before pronouncing that in my book to which I have referred I said everything that could be said about the Jews of medieval Oxford, you must wait until you have received and perused this new publication of ours, which even corrects and supplements my detailed, and as I fondly imagined in? fallible, map of the Oxford Jewry. Mr. Richardson has his own method of work, and this new volume will not be in every respect similar to those that have preceded it. He has therefore included two remarkable documents which have only indirect connection with it, but which are among the most valuable for the study of medieval Jewish history generally that I know. These are, first, the roll of re</page><page sequence="6">26 Cecil Roth ceipts from the Jews of Canterbury by Reginald of Cobham, Sheriff of Kent, in 35-38 Henry III (i.e., 1260-1263), written in Norman French; and second, and more important, the account of receipts from the Jews by the Constable of the Tower of London over this same period down to 1277. In these invaluable documents we have a glimpse of the minutiae of private life of medieval Jews such as is probably available for no other area and no other time. We already knew, from the researches into the history of Canterbury Jewry of my predecessor the Rev. Michael Adler, of some of the vicis? situdes of that somewhat disreputable charac? ter, Salle the son of Josce of Leicester; now we have materials almost for a full biography? how, alas, he set men on his own father and brother, who received help from the Sheriff which cost them five marks: how (as it seems) his son was made a Christian (i.e., clandestinely baptised?) by William, the parson of Ware horn, who forfeited twelve spoons for the offence: how he bribed the Sheriff 20s. so that his son-in-law might be made keeper of the Chirograph chest, one of the results apparently being that, for a payment of five marks, he was released from his share of the tallage when the King passed through Canterbury; how it cost him 40s. for appointing a date for the marriage of his daughter; how when he flitted overseas his wife Abigail paid 30s. for assistance, apart from one mark a day when she lay in childbed: and how seemingly she was now allowed to have a Christian nurse, who was given leave to 'eat our lamb at Easter' (what? ever that may mean) at a cost again of 40s. Yet more intimate still are the Tower records, which present us with a detailed picture of a great segment of London Jewry, especially its less reputable element; for every misde? meanour in which they were discovered, however trivial, entailed a fine, and every fine, however petty, had to be duly registered. There seems to have been plenty of fighting in the London Jewry, between Jew and Jew as well as between Jew and Christian. Abraham de la Gelosye was fined because he was alleged to have paid a light halfpenny in the fishmarket. Jacob Ballard had to pay 5J marks only for being a suspicious character. Detention in the Tower seems to have been in normal times free and easy?we should not have the im? pression of noisome dungeons. Not infre? quently Jews would pay to have porta, or Gates ?which I gather to mean, not the privilege of opening the doors of the Ark, as it does still among the Sephardim, but leaving the Towei for their private business for a short while. Constantly, we find Jews or groups of Jews paying so that they could keep a Festival, or specifically for 'Josana et Enna que Purim', by which I suppose is meant New Year and the Day of Atonement. True, there were exceptions to this relaxed condition. Divers Jews paid handsomely for the privilege of being fettered singly, and not infrequently there was a pay? ment for having some respite of their incarcera? tion. On the other hand, we find 14 Jews making a payment together so that they might serve as servants to other Jews in prison. There seems to have been plenty of gambling in the Jewish quarter, and a corresponding frequency of fines. There was a person named Capion who was constantly getting into trouble on this account and being fined amounts which make it pretty certain that he cannot have been a poor man; incidentally, I have been unable as yet to trace his name in any other source, and one of the important features of this roll is that it introduces us to a segment of the popu? lation that does not seem to figure elsewhere and therefore never to have had significant business dealings?a fact which is not without its importance for medieval Jewish history generally. The most curious entries in this record relate to fines of very high sums for 'spitting' ('Pro crakeria')?once as much as 110s. As it is improbable that this was the result of a sanitary regulation, one has to attempt to find another explanation. Is this a euphemism or circumlocution for discussions with non-Jews on matters of faith? Or were Jews so tactless as to expectorate when the Host was being borne through the streets? Or did some of them regard it as a positive religious obligation to expectorate when they passed a church, whatever it might cost them ? These are matters that must be left for future inquiry; all that I wish to do here is to draw attention to this rich new vein of research, and</page><page sequence="7">Why Anglo-Jewish History? 27 to its importance, not for the history of London or English Jewry in the Middle Ages, but for reconstructing the full and faithful picture of a Jewish proletariat of the period in Northern Europe, with a wealth of detail I think unexampled elsewhere. One of the persons mentioned in this Tower record is Moses Scrip tor, who forfeited 3? marks for having aid and respite of imprison? ment. The name opens up exciting possibilities; who was he?a Rabbi (for a moment I thought of R. Moses haNakdan, father of Elijah of London, who was, however, already dead), or a Sopher, or a business clerk? There are cer? tainly many scholars mentioned in the record, some of them hitherto unknown to us or unidentifiable?Master Samuel (who may be identical with Samuel the Chaplain, who also receives mention) and Elis Mire (possibly to be identified with the scholar-physician Elijah Menahem of London). In any case, a careful study of this material will help us to reconstruct somewhat the 'secular' background of medieval Anglo-Jewish scholarship; a shadowy subject a generation ago, but now acquiring bones and sinew. This is in no small measure due to the exertions of the Chief Rabbi Emeritus, Dr. Israel Brodie, who has succeeded in bringing to a triumphant conclusion the enterprise which had remained in the misty world of good intentions for the past three-quarters of a century?the integral publication of the Ets Hayim of Jacob Hazan of London, the most ambitious literary achievement of medieval English Jewry. It is indeed far from being a notably original composition, leaning as it does heavily on the Code of Maimonides (except that it introduces some degree of con? fusion into the materials so superbly organised in that work). More important from our point of view, however, is where it differs, for herein we have a glimpse of the specific practices and characteristics of our medieval predecessors in this country. This part of the work must henceforth be the subject of intense study, and from it will emerge, I hope, a truer picture of the outlook and intellectual horizons of the Jews of medieval England. (There is one slight detail, not, to be sure, wholly unparalleled, which I would like to mention. In the long series of special petitions in the Grace after Meals as recorded here, there is one not to be found in the standard versions: 'May the all merciful extend our borders with pupils'? which for a university teacher like myself is by no means a bad private petition.) Apart from scholars already familiar to us, our know? ledge of some of whom is now considerably extended, we here have a few fresh or virtually fresh names, notably that of R. Isaac ben Perez of Northampton, who now appears as a towering scholar of wide influence in later generations; immediately, the history of this small and little-studied provincial community acquires a new importance, not for Jewish history alone. A most important supplement to this new store of material has been provided by Prof. E. Urbach, of Jerusalem, who in the recent collection of essays in Dr. Brodie's honour has published an article containing yet further detail on the medieval Anglo-Jewish scholars, culled from the annotations of a manuscript of the popular code, Sepher Mitzvoth Katan, by Isaac of Gorbeil. This provides us with much new information regarding sages of whom we already knew (no one of Oxford, I regret to say, though Rabbi Benjamin of Cambridge is now, alas, beginning to acquire fresh impor? tance). One of the new figures is Aaron of Northampton?please note the place once again?half a dozen of whose opinions in matters of ritual law are quoted; I had already conjectured that there was a Rabbinic scholar of this name from the casual mention of Magister Aaron, father of Peytevin of North? ampton, in the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews and elsewhere. And the list is still increasing: a hitherto unrecorded R. Abraham of Angleterre is mentioned in another recent publication (cf. Bialer in Genazim, p. 32). What seems to be emerging is that England, like Northern France, was a hive of productive Rabbinical scholarship in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and that the few works that are actually extant constitute the small remainder of what must once have been a relatively important literature. It is certain that the circumstances of the expulsion from England and the persecutions that led up to</page><page sequence="8">28 Cecil Roth this event resulted in the destruction of a large number of books: it is now seen to be possible that it was responsible for the destruction of an entire native literature. I am now beginning to wonder whether I was in error in interpreting the phrase of Bartholomew Coton in his description of the exile of the Jews from England, that they departed una cum libris suis, as referring to the Scrolls of the Law; possibly the English observers were impressed by the fact that they took with them, as their most precious possessions, their extensive libraries. Unfortunately, the tragic death in the Mount Scopus convoy in 1947 of that remarkable scholar Moses Klar prevented the completion of the publication under his editorship of the grammatical work by Moses haNessiah, Sepher haShoham, which he had begun with our Society's collaboration. This, however, to? gether with the poems of Meir of Norwich, a new and fuller edition of which is appended to Dr. Lipman's memorable book on Norwich Jewry, which we have just issued, seems to show that the Jews of England had a humanis? tic as well as a Talmudic tradition, rare if not unique among the Jews of Northern Europe at this period. I do not want to bore you by entering into details, but only to suggest to the more rabbinically minded among you that the study of the literature of the Jews of England in the Middle Ages is not merely a matter of collecting antiquarian curiosities, but is to some extent a contribution of some significance to medieval Jewish literature?even Rabbinic literature?in its wider sense. Let us come now to a very different aspect of study. History is after all the history of individuals as well as of groups, and the history of the individual, and of the family, is the very essence of the history of a group or of a people as such. Here once again the relatively small size of the Anglo-Jewish community through? out the ages, and the admirable preservation of the English records, give us opportunities for a minute analysis such as is possible in few other areas. There is the legend of the large medieval Jewish family. Was it in fact the rule ? I am not quite sure: my examination of the families with which I am most familiar in the Middle Ages, borne out by Dr. Lipman's, suggests that this is not the case. But we have the material for a minute and exhaustive examination, which would be a most signifi? cant contribution to Jewish demographic history. Incidentally, as against the universally accepted picture of the tenuousness of the Jewish purchase of life in the Middle Ages, it is worth while noting that in the family of which we are most intimately informed?that of Moses of London over several generations? though they lived through a particularly troubled period and had some unhappy experiences, it seems that every member died a natural death. Coming to modern times, we are confronted with the problem of the Jewish family in a different sense. We are interested in the history of the Jews in England in recent generations. But is the history in which we are interested that of the community to which we belong, or of another group which no longer exists ? In other words, what has happened to the Jewish families of Great Britain (and indeed of Western Europe) of the eighteenth century? That they do not form the backbone of the Jewish community of today is obvious. But why? Have they merely been outnumbered by the more recently arrived elements? Or have they become assimilated to the surrounding population? Or have they died out? Our society owns the genealogical collections of the late Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson, whose passion this was, of that underestimated scholar the Rev. Morris Rosenbaum, and of my predecessor in this chair Mr. Albert Hyamson. But this unrivalled material has been used hitherto only for research into the history of some individual families. What is wanted is a comprehensive project which would give us a comprehensive picture. My impression is that the results would show that it is not assimilation, but self extinction, that is responsible for the process more than any other factor. But impressions are not sufficient. The research must be done carefully and, I hope, comprehensively?in these days of computerisation it should not be too difficult. The implications for Jewish history generally are obvious. I have said enough, I hope, to illustrate my point. We as a Society have been tilling our</page><page sequence="9">Why Anglo-Jewish History ? 29 chosen field now for three-quarters of a century. At the time of our foundation, some cynics proclaimed that the subject that we had set ourselves had no importance, and that even so it could be exhausted in a very short time. We enter the last quarter of our first century in the happy confidence that the field is not exhausted, that much remains to do, and that even the most minute aspects of our research forms an integral part of the wide picture? of Jewish history, of British history, even in some measure of the history of humanity. Our main task is to carry on with our work, and to stimulate interest in it by developing a sense of excitement ourselves in the new horizons that are constantly opening up before us. As you know, I now live remote from your councils, remote from the sources that are open to you, remote to some extent from your occupations though not from your interests. But it has been a superb pleasure for me to have been invited to launch you on the last quarter of your fruitful century. If I now return to my proper obscurity it is with the firm intention of being available to help you with my advice and other inexpensive commodities whenever they may be needed; and I will venture to hold myself ready to re-emerge from the shadows once again in however ethereal a form for my tenth term of office on the occasion of your cen? tenary. For the work that you are doing is in itself a service to scholarship. But I do not want to appear self-righteous. When I look back, I cannot persuade myself that it was the love of my fellow-man or the desire to benefit posterity that has been the motive force in my pursuit of Anglo-Jewish or of any other sort of history during the past fifty years. It is, frankly, the pleasure of the thing. Isaac Disraeli once said, improbable though it may appear, that the pursuit of knowledge has in it an excitement not unlike that of wrestling with a fine woman. I may nostalgically confess, even to this distinguished audience, that in my present enfeebled state I at last fancy that I understand what he meant. The pure detective work; the discovery and pursuit of new scraps of evidence, more frequently than not mis? leading; the discovery of historical byways hitherto unexpected or unexplored; the re? vealing of unknown characters and personali? ties?heroes, scholars, saints, charlatans, adven? turers, scoundrels; the gradual revelation before your eyes of a formerly unsuspected structure?a poor thing perhaps, but your own: all this is part of the historical virtue that brings its own reward. And if at the end you find that your years of research have resulted in the correction of a minor fact in a standard work, or the mention of your name in an obscure footnote?that is not the ultimate reward, but the chase itself. The title of my address has asked the question, and contrary to precedent I propose to end by answering it. 'Why Anglo-Jewish History?' I commend to the young in heart among you my ultimate answer: 'Because it is fun'.</page></plain_text>

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