There had been a Jewish presence in England since the days of William the Conqueror; however in 1290 King Edward I of England banished England’s Jewry from his possessions. From that date until 1655, when Oliver Cromwell encouraged them to return, there were officially no Jews in England. In Scotland there had been no similar legislation banning Jews, though few, if any, settled there in the medieval period.
During the 17th century the activities of the Spanish Inquisition encouraged Sephardic Jews to emigrate; some went north to the Netherlands while others moved to Brazil. Oliver Cromwell, recognizing the skills of these Jews, persuaded some of them to move to London and later to English American colonies such as Barbados and Jamaica. In due course some of their descendants settled in the North American colonies. Meanwhile, a colony of Marrano merchants was established in London and carried out substantial trade from there to the Netherlands, Iberia, Brazil, and the East and West Indies. There was an 18th-century influx of Jews from Germany, Poland, and Russia–a trend that became significant in the late 19th century. These Ashkenazi Jews arrived and initially settled in east coast ports from Dundee south to London. Later many Ashkenazi moved to industrial cities such as Glasgow, Leeds, and Liverpool, with some ultimately venturing abroad to North America, South Africa, and Australasia.
This sourcebook attempts to identify some of the Jewish references hidden in British records from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. In some 17th-century records there are specific references to people identified as being Jewish. In later records Hebrew forenames coupled with surnames sometimes in conjunction with an occupation or place of birth were used to identify people of Jewish origin. Dr. Dobson has exercised caution in selecting individuals via this latter method, lest non-Jewish persons who possessed Biblical forenames be chosen by mistake. Each of the roughly 2,000 entries in the volume identifies a Jewish man or women by name, date, location, and record source. In some cases we also learn about an individual’s vocation, education, relatives, place of origin, or more. The author extracted his findings from scores of primary sources (the Jewish Burial Ground in Edinburgh, the office of the Lord Mayor of London Depositions, etc.) whose references to Jewish persons would otherwise have remained buried for additional years to come.