Anglo-Jewish trading connections with officers and seamen of the Royal Navy, 1740-1820*

‘Portsmouth is an English Seaport Town principally remarkable for mud, Jews and sailors’, wrote Charles Dickens in 1838.((The Letters of Charles Dickens, Ed. M. House and G. Storey, (Oxford 1965) vol. 1,423.)) Since most English towns were dirty, the mud would not have attracted particular attention. But discovering Jews and sailors together seems to demand fuller explanation. I hope to show in this unlikely association an overlooked aspect of the social life of British seamen: their relationship with tradesmen ashore during the classic age of the Royal Navy’s achievements. Its significance to the early economic development of the poor Ashkenazi Jews is that it was in the naval towns that they were first able in any recognizable numbers outside London to set up in business, however small.  Significantly, out of the eleven earliest Jewish provincial communities, eight were seaports of various size and importance, including the three main naval towns

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