England’s Jews: Finance, Violence, and the Crown in the Thirteenth Century. Author John Tolan in conversation with UWM’s Alan Singer (Honors College).

Tuesday, September 12 2023 7:00pm

Golda Meir 4th floor conference center and via Zoom (register at bit.ly/Tolan)

September 12, 2023, 7:00pm
Golda Meir 4th floor conference center and via Zoom (register at bit.ly/Tolan)
Hybrid event, in person and also streaming via Zoom

In 1290, Jews were expelled from England and subsequently largely expunged from English historical memory. Yet for two centuries they occupied important roles in medieval English society. England’s Jews revisits this neglected chapter of English history—one whose remembrance is more important than ever today, as antisemitism and other forms of racism are on the rise.

Historian John Tolan tells the story of the thousands of Jews who lived in medieval England. Protected by the Crown and granted the exclusive right to loan money with interest, Jews financed building projects, provided loans to students, and bought and rented out housing. Historical texts show that they shared meals and beer, celebrated at weddings, and sometimes even ended up in bed with Christians.

Yet Church authorities feared the consequences of Jewish contact with Christians and tried to limit it, though to little avail. Royal protection also proved to be a double-edged sword: when revolts broke out against the unpopular king Henry III, some of the rebels, in debt to Jewish creditors, killed Jews and destroyed loan records. Vicious rumors circulated that Jews secretly plotted against Christians and crucified Christian children. All of these factors led Edward I to expel the Jews from England in 1290. Paradoxically, Tolan shows, thirteenth-century England was both the theatre of fruitful interreligious exchange and a crucible of European antisemitism. (2023, University of Pennsylvania Press)

John Tolan works on the history of religious and cultural relations between the Arab and Latin worlds in the Middle Ages and on the history of religious interaction and conflict between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He has taught in various universities in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and is currently professor of History at the University of Nantes and member of the Academia Europæa and the Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona. His prizes and distinctions include two major grants from the European Research Council and the Prix Diane Potier-Boès from the Académie Française (2008). His books include Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Sons of Ishmael, Saint Francis and the Sultan, and Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today.

Alan Singer teaches multiple courses that focus on social, intellectual, and political history, including “Transatlantic Revolutions: Resistance, Rebellion and Social Conflict, 1650-1800” and “The Oldest Hatred: The Jewish People as the Perpetual Other.” Singer’s research focuses on how cultural representations of Jews were used in political and social conflict. He is working on a book-length project with the working title Jew Bill: British Political Economy, Immigration and Nationalism in the Eighteenth Century.

Cosponsored by Boswell Book Company, and by UWM’s Honors College, Department of History, and Religious Studies Program.

Books available for purchase at the event.

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