Jewish Immigration to Britain


Arrival Of Jews In Britain

Approx. 1066

After the Norman Conquest of Britain, Jews started to migrate from Normandy to Britain, being encouraged to support the new government by offering financial services. This was especially during the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100)

Charter of Liberties


Jews were issued the "Charter of Liberties" by Henry III, which included the rights to move freely throughout the country, to have access to royal justice, and a special provision to ensure fair trial. In return for these privileges – which also made clear that the Jews were a separate group from their neighbours – the Jews were expected to exist to serve the King: they were answerable to him alone and were protected by his officials who also supervised and taxed Jewish property and income.

Attacks on Jews in London & York

1189 - 1190

When Jews fled to a Clifford's Tower in York for protection, they were instead burnt to death by local knights.

Conversion Houses


There was constant tension between the Crown and the Church over the treatment of the Jews: the Church wanted to force the Jews to pay tithes (taxes owed to the Church), to restrict the Jews’ finances (which they saw as a sin, ‘usury’), and, increasingly, church leaders sought to convert Jewish people. Under King Henry III (1207-1272) the church’s wishes were promoted vigorously, and houses for converted Jews in London and Oxford were founded. This long reign saw a transformation in attitudes to Jews, with greater impositions and heavier limitation on Jews’ work.

Expulsion of Jews


The Jews were formally expelled from British soil after Edward I and the Archbishop of Canterbury organised their expulsion

Readmission of Jews to Britain


Oliver Cromwell formally readmitted the Jews during his rule during the 1650s with many Sephardi and Spanish Jews. They were still forbidden from owning land or participating in guild crafts, resulting in many of them going into trading and banking.

Founding of The Jews' Free School

Approx. 1732

Founded to help prepare Jewish children for assimilation into British life. Children were taught Hebrew and Religious Studies, however the language spoken and learned was English. By 1900 there were over 4000 children on its roll.

Naturalisation of Jews


The movement of wealthy merchants to Britain was an attractive prospect to Whig politicians who wanted to capitalise on their trading links and access to capital in an expanding Atlantic economy. To make the most of the arrival of these migrants, the Whigs proposed a Bill which would enable property-owning foreign-born Jews to petition Parliament to become naturalised by a Private Act. Naturalisation would allow new migrants to become full British subjects, and to purchase, bequeath, and inherit property freely. Unlike denization, which was granted by Royal Patent, not by Parliament, naturalisation afforded more extensive rights regarding property inheritance. Under denization, property could not be passed on to one’s children. Denization had earlier been available to a handful of Jews, but naturalisation was seen as a larger concession. As with denization, however, the expense of applying for naturalisation meant it would prevent all but the wealthiest from attempting it (see: ‘Becoming English’).

Repeal of the Naturalisation Act


The Tory party successfully campaigned for a repeal of the Naturalisation Act, meaning Jews no longer had full political status in Britain.

Aliens Act


In response to the mass immigration of 3 million mostly poor Jews from Eastern Europe to Western Europe and the USA. Poor Jews were said to bring crime, bad labour conditions, anarchism, dirt and disease into the country.