- Statute of the Jewry
The Statute of the Jewry was a
statuteissued by Edward I of Englandin 1275. It placed a number of restrictions on Jewsof England, most notably outlawing the practice of usury.Prestwich, Michael. Edward I p 345 (1997) Yale University Press. ISBN 0-3000715-7-4.]
Since the time of the
Norman Conquest, Jews had been filling a small but vital role in the English economy. Usuryby Christians was banned by the church at the time, but Jews were permitted to act as moneylendersand bankers. That position enabled some Jews to amass tremendous wealth, but also earned them the enmity of the English populace [ Rubenstein, W.D. A History of the Jews p 36 (1996) Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-3335583-3-2.] , which added to the increasing antisemiticsentiments of the time, due to widespread indebtedness and financial ruin among the Gentile population.
When Edward returned from the
Crusadesin 1274, two years after his accession as King of England, he found that land had become a commodity, and that many of his subjects had become dispossessed and were in danger of destitution. Jews traded land for money, and land was often mortgaged to Jewish moneylenders.
As special direct subjects of the monarch, Jews could be taxed indiscriminately by the King. Some have described the situation as indirect usury: the monarch permitting and encouraging Jews to practice usury and then "taxing" or expropriating some of the profit. In the years leading up to the Statute, Edward taxed them heavily to help finance his forthcoming military campaigns in
Wales, which commenced in 1277. One theory holds that he had exhausted the financial resources of the Jewish community when the Statute was passed in 1275.
Usurywas outlawed in every form.
*Creditors of Jews were no longer liable for certain debts.
*Jews were not allowed to live outside certain cities and towns.
*Any Jew above the age of seven had to wear a yellow badge of felt on his or her outer clothing, six inches by three inches.
*All Jews from the age of 12 on had to pay a special tax of three pence annually.
*Christians were forbidden to live among Jews.
*Jews were licensed to buy farmland to make their living for the next 15 years.
*Jews could thenceforth make a living in England only as merchants, farmers, craftsmen or soldiers.
The license to buy land was included so that farming, along with trading, could give Jews an opportunity to earn a living with the
abolitionof usury. Unfortunately, other provisions along with widespread prejudice made this difficult for many. [ Glassman, David. Anti-Semitic Stereotypes p 17 (1975) Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143154-5-3.]
When the 15 years passed, and it was widely discovered that their practice of usury had been secretly continued, Jews were finally presented with the
Edict of Expulsionof 1290. [Parkes, James. The Jew in the Medieval Community p 394 (1976) Hermon Press. ISBN 0-8720305-9-8.]
*cite book | last = Glassman | first = David | title = Anti-Semitic Stereotypes Without Jews: Images of the Jews in England 1290-1700 | year = 1975 | publisher = Wayne State University Press | id = ISBN 0-8143154-5-3
*cite book | last = Parkes | first = James | title = The Jew in the Medieval Community | year = 1976 | publisher = Hermon Press | id = ISBN 0-8720305-9-8
*cite book | last = Prestwich | first = Michael | title = Edward I | year = 1997 | publisher = Yale University Press | id = ISBN 0-3000715-7-4
*cite book | last = Rubenstein | first = W.D. | title = A History of the Jews in the English-Speaking World: Great Britain | year = 1996 | publisher = Macmillan Press | id = ISBN 0-3335583-3-2
Edict of Expulsion
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/sceptred_isle/page/27.shtml?question=27 BBC article on the statute]
* [http://www.heretical.com/British/jews1275.html The Statute of Jewry] , an online version of the Statute.
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