The King's Jews
New Book recommended by the Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee

The King's Jews: Money, Massacre and Exodus in Medieval England, by Robin R Mundill, publ. by Continuum - 2010


Cecil Roth 1899 - 1970
roth 2

Celia Roth

Cecil Roth, the youngest of the four sons of Joseph and Etty Roth, was born in 1899. His father, who had emigrated to this country from Poland, was a well-read businessman of the type traditionally styled in Jewish parlance a maskir, i.e. one committed to an interest in Hebrew with an ability to handle it (and other Jewish texts) competently at an amateur level; his mother, whose family name was Jacobs, was English-born, and came from Sheffield. The choice of the name Bezalel as the Hebrew counterpart of Cecil was perhaps significant, since it does not figure in his paternal ancestry: the biblical Bezalel was the artificer of the objects of silver and gold for the tabernacle, suggesting that his parents may have entertained aspirations which, as an art-historian and collector, he would in due course in some sense fulfil.

Some Books for Further Reading

Martin Gilbert Jewish History Atlas Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1969

Jonathan A. Romain The Jews of England The Michael Goulston Education Foundation 1985

Cecil Roth The Jews of Medieval England Oxford Historical Society New Series Vol IX 1951

Cecil Roth Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History Jewish Publication Society of America 1962 (See chapter 4 A Day in the life of a medieval English Jew)

Alfred Rubens A History of Jewish Costume Vallentine MItchell 1967

Corpus Hebrew Manuscripts

A Mirror Reflecting the Early History of Jews in England

By Dr Peter Pormann, published in the Pelican Record

Reproduced here by kind permission of Dr Pormann

Corpus is well known as the college to study classics. Did not Bishop Fox, our Founder, set it up with the specific aim to enhance and promote the teaching of Latin and Greek? Far be it from me to dispute Corpus’ reputation in this domain, but such a vision of the College’s history is only part of truth. Both the Founder Fox and the first President John Claymund had an acute interest in Jewish learning and Hebrew, then called ‘the third language’. In the Renaissance and Reformation, scholars propagated a return to the sources which, for many, included the Hebrew Bible. Likewise, Jewish traditional learning seemed to hold the key to understanding the universe, and Pico de la Mirandola, among others, eagerly studied the Talmud and the Kabbala. It is in this climate that Corpus was founded, and it therefore comes as no surprise that Erasmus, himself a competent Hebraist, complimented the Founder for his foresight and extolled ‘the spectacle of this trilingual Library (trilinguis istius bibliothecae spectaculum)’1.


Peter Pormann Paper

Journal of Jewish Studies, VOL. LV, NO. 1, pp102-117 Spring 2004


Two New Starrs Relating to the History of Merton College, Oxford 
Peter E.Pormann Merton College, Oxford

The early history of the University of Oxford, and more particularly of Merton College, is intimately linked to the history of the Jews in England before their expulsion in 1290. This link is especially evident in the starrs, or deeds of conveyance, which date from this period. A. Neubauer has already published the Hebrew text of three of these documents relating to land purchases made by the Founder of Merton College, Walter de Merton. By a quirk of fate, I have come across two hitherto unknown starrs, or deeds of conveyance, relating to the early history of the college which I propose to edit and translate here. I originally found these starrs in an eighteenth century copy (with Latin translation) in a manuscript in St John’s College, Oxfordpp; they were made by J. Gagnier (1670?–1740) who became the Lord Almoner’s Professor of Arabic in Oxford in 1724. These documents, along with a Latin deed of conveyance relating to the same transaction, provide interesting evidence about the part the Jewish community of Oxford played in the earlier days of the oldest university in England.
Elisa Narin van Court Paper

“Invisible in Oxford: The ‘Public Face’ of Medieval Jewish History in Modern England”

Elisa Narin van Court

Colby College


In an essay published in 1992, Colin Richmond, sitting in the famed Botanical Gardens of Oxford, details the many ways in which Jews and Jewish history are almost entirely absent from the histories of England. Unless the scholarship is explicitly concerned with ‘the Jews of London,’ ‘the Jews of Medieval England,' or a similar title that indicates the narrow and focused range of study, the word Jew is rarely found in scholarly indexes or texts.