The History of the Medieval Jews of England

 

Before the Conquest

There is no real evidence of Jews settling England before the 1070s - the Doomsday book recorded a Manasser settled in rural Oxfordshire - however it is believed that this was only an incidence of a gentile with an unusual (for a gentile) Old Testament name.

 

The Tsarfat Jewish Community

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We do know that Jews from Rouen arrived at the invitation, if not the command, of William the Conqueror, to introduce an established network of credit and trading links between his new English lands and his French ones. The English and Northern French Jewish communities would remain connected by family ties, literature and rabbinical exchange throughout the period of English medieval Jewish settlement.

 

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Exclusion Period for Jews

The Middle Period 1290-1656 in England

During the so-called Middle Period, the period of Exclusion (1290-1655) Jews were, strictly speaking, not allowed in England.

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In 1305 the Domus Conversorum, or "House of Converts" in London still registered 51 residents who had converted at or before the Expulsion in 1290. The last one of these, "Clarissa of Exeter" died in the Domus in 1356. The problem with the records of English Jewish converts to Christianity from the pre-Expulsion period is that their "former" Jewish names were rarely, if ever, recorded. A census of Oxford Jewish converts from the year 1247 survives and, typically, records only their new "Christian" names without any reference to their previous lifelong Jewish identity.
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Earliest English use of Jew

Origins of ‘Jewry'

What the new dictionary says:

The earliest word for "Jewish" listed in the Historical Thesaurus is the Old English "judeisc", followed in around 1250 by "circumcis". The word "Jew" entered the English language in 1275, followed 25 years later by "jewhead" - a decade after Edward 1 had expelled Jews from England in 1290. Jews may have been absent, but "Jewry" was coined as a collective noun in 1330, and "men of the circumcision" in 1382. Even though Jews were not formally allowed back to England until 1655, the word "Judaism" entered the language in 1494, closely followed by "jewship" in 1535, "jewishness" in 1549 and "jewism" in 1579.

In the 17th century, people spoke of "synagogists" and "sabbatisers" followed by the 18th century "smouse" and "smouch". Not until 1816 did one hear the pejorative word "sheeny", and "heeb" was not coined until 1932. "Liberal" Judaism was spoken of in 1823, with "reformed" not emerging until 1844 and "Orthodox" in use in 1853. The word "unjewish", however, entered the language in 1822. English has described many things over the years as being in some way pertaining to Jews, including the language Jew Tongo, plants such as Jew bush, Jew plum, Jew's apple, Jew's mallow, Jew's frankincense and Jew's eye. There are also minerals - Jew's lime, Jew's slime, Jew's pitch and Jew's stone.

From the Jewish Chronicle August 20th 2009.