Hessayon, Ariel (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Cromohs, 16 (2011): 1-26
There are many narratives, some old, some relatively recent, covering the presence of crypto-Jews and Jews in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I have tried, specifically with non-specialists and general readers in mind, to give an overview of that story here. Given this essay ’s origin as a public lecture commemorating the 350th anniversary of the tacit readmission of Jews to England in 1656, my account has a particular focus on developments during the English Revolution of 1641–60, though it is also positioned within a more ambitious grand narrative recounting the Jewish, crypto-Jewish and Jewish apostate experience in England from the Norman Conquest to the Restoration. While I have drawn on my own research – notably on Judaizing, readers familiar with the material will see that my text is also greatly indebted to a number of important scholars in the field of Anglo-Jewish history; something fully acknowledged in the endnotes. Indeed, there is another story to tell, namely how from the mid-nineteenth century scholars of Anglo-Jewry, desiring acceptance within British society and the legitimation of their distinctive history, collectively constructed a narrative of gradual social assimilation and communal unity. But that these histories were themselves written against a background of religious and racial prejudice, exclusion, marginalisation, tensions and conflict, as well as the disturbing continuity of antisemitic tropes, is itself revealing. Intended as a companion piece to this article, my discussion of the evolution of Anglo-Jewish historiography will appear elsewhere shortly.