From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism? The Development of the Myth of Jewish Ritual Murder in England
Accusations of Jewish ritual murder have persisted into the modern era, but the medieval origins of the accusation reflect the society from which it emerged. Between 1066 and 1290 the perception and position of the Jewish population in England changed. This period also witnessed the origins of the ritual murder accusations. In 1144 the accusation was dismissed by a majority of the population; by 1255 it was accepted by the Christian community and the Jews were the first place they turned when the body of the child was found. By locating the changing position of the Jewish community, and then comparing the development of the ritual murder accusations between the case of William of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln, it allows the Jewish community to be viewed from a different vantage point. This dissertation will also critique Gavin Langmuir’s conception of medieval anti-Semitism, by exploring the alleged ‘irrational’ nature of the ritual murder accusation. The argument will be made, that they are also based in rational financial and societal concerns, and thus not the ‘irrational’ manifestations that Langmuir outlined. By the murder of Hugh in 1255, these accusations had passed into folk legend and taken on a more malevolent form but still had a rational financial underpinning. The accusation became part of the general perception of the Jews, and lasted long after the Jews were expelled. The development of the rituals, is key to understanding the way that the position of the Jews was changing in English society.
SubjectsField of Research::21 - History and Archaeology::2103 - Historical Studies::210305 - British History
- Arts: Reports