Marcus Roberts


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   > 

The community was one of the few in the country to acquire a cemetery, once Jews outside of London were allowed them. The location of this is currently unknown, though it survived long after the demise of the medieval community itself. Purely on the basis of known sites elsewhere, such as at Jewbury, York, the most likely location would have been in a small enclosure, in a low lying area, near the river outside the south gate of the City.

Apart from servicing the financial needs of the town and county and evidently following a life of scholarship (at least in part), the Jews had an active relationship with the Cathedral. A number of cathedrals needed loans for various purposes and would therefore do business with the Jewish community. Lincoln Cathedral was no exception but the closeness of the relationship varied according to the particular bishop. At times it was cordial, even warm, especially during the episcopacy of Hugh of Avalon. The Cathedral did occasionally protect the property of Jews during periods of unrest, though there were moves in 1205 to prevent this happening, during the time of William of Blois, who succeeded Bishop Hugh. At other times the relationship could be tense, or indeed, hostile.

An outstanding figure of the Lincoln Jewry in the first phase of Jewish life in the City was the merchant-banker-financier, Aaron of Lincoln (1125-1186), who rivaled the leading figures of the London Jewry. Aaron was for many years the richest Jew in England and the richest man in the country after the King and such were his obligations as tenant to the king, he was even administratively classified as a Knight as he paid the Knight's fee to the king, though of course he rendered no military service, though he was clearly identified with the knightly grouping and shared their right to free movement across the realm. It is likely that some of his assets reflected communal wealth in that he may have been investing money on behalf of other Anglo-Jews and indeed when he died and his accounts were examined it was clear that his dealings were enmeshed with many other Jews and it was difficult to establish who the debts belonged to. Aaron conducted financial business, with his sons, across England in 25 counties and was represented in 19 of those by his own agents. One of the most important of these was Josce of York who was murdered, with the other York martyrs, in the pogrom of 1190.

His business included loans to the king, a business conducted by a mixture of leading Christian and Jewish lenders, with William Cade being one of the most important Christian lenders. He was a property developer, a corn dealer, he brought other Jews' debts, secured rent charges and was a pawn-broker. It would appear also, that a core element of his business, which enabled the generation of his personal wealth, was trading in specie (coin) for silver, where he and Christian moneyer-exchangers, would exchange silver for coin, for example silver vessels in pawn, or exchanging ingots and foreign coin for English pennies. The importance of these dealings were such, that many Jewish communities were in towns containing mint-exchanges.

Leading local Jewish financiers operated much like the later county banks -- offering a vital facility ensuring an adequate supply of coin. It has been estimated that around 1/3 of the medieval coinage was circulated through the Jewish community in an era when 'specie' or hard cash could be difficult to obtain. Archeological finds in medieval Jewish properties of caches of largely pure and un-doctored coinage in the types of containers used in treasuries containing precise measures of coin, give evidence that the Jews provided high quality coin and that they dealt with specie in a professional fashion.

Much has been written on Jewish money lending, but it suffices to say that Jews were required to lend at interest by the king. At that time Canon Law was against Christian lending to Christian, though there were in fact a good many Christians lending at interest or using disguised interest; and Jews were operating in a competitive market, though they were much more highly regulated (and financially exploited) than their Christian counter-parts by the king who regularly took large amounts of their money thorough taxes, fines and out-right expropriation. Jewish law forbade Jews to lend to Jews, but there was no clear prohibition on lending to Christians, so the king took advantage of this fact and required some of his Jews to provide this service so that he himself could benefit from the profits of usury.

The business of finance and money-lending was turned by anti-Semitism into one of the most potent, persistent and pernicious of all Jewish stereotypes, that of the Jewish money lender and financier. These images that have remained current and potent right up to the present day, being used by the Communists and Nazis in the 20th century and may be seen in present-day political cartoons in the Middle East.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail