On December 22, 1901, Mr. F. D. Mocatta delivered his Presidential Address before the Jewish Historical Society of England. The follow? ing is a summary of his remarks:-
Mr. Mocatta, who took the wanderings of the Jews as the subject of his address, began by referring to the diffusion of the Jews prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. At that early date they had already scattered into the lands watered by the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as Persia and Arabia; large numbers had settled in Alexandria and other regions of Northern Africa; and others, following the track of Phoenician navigation and commerce, had taken up their abodes on the shores and islands of the Mediterranean, wandering as far from their home as Spain. In the Iberian Peninsular in later days, many congre? gations defended themselves from the onslaughts of the early Christians by asserting that their ancestors could by no means be accused of the death of Christ, since they had already been settled in Iberia before the era of the Crucifixion. The Jews very early abandoned the use of the Hebrew language as a vernacular. Its place was taken by Aramaic and other Semitic dialects in the Eastern Countries, by Greek, and in Italy by Latin. The neglect of Hebrew was, however, atoned for by a brilliant period of " renaissance," which lasted from the tenth to the fifteenth century, and which produced many classical compositions of the highest order. The tendency to assimilate the language of the surrounding populations continued through many centuries. After the Mohammedan conquest of North Africa and of Spain, Arabic became a very widespread idiom among the Jews. After Spain freed herself from the yoke of Islam, the Castilian was adopted. At the present day Arabic of the Barbary dialect is spoken by the Jews in a large part of Northern Africa, while along the coasts, both of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Spanish is the usual Jewish language. Among the Greek islands modern Greek is the general idiom, except in Corfu, where Italian is the general vehicle.
Turning to France, Mr. Mocatta pointed out that in the early middle ages the influence of the Jews of that country spread far beyond its limits, and in consequence French was the language spoken by the Jews equally on the banks of the Thames and the Rhine as on those of the Loire or the Seine. The bulk of the Jewish population, how? ever, drifted after a time into Central Europe. At the end of the eleventh century arose the remarkable movement of the Crusades. During the two centuries through which it lasted, the whole population of Central Europe was plunged into a state of intense religious excite? ment, which arrested the progress of civilisation and heightened the flames of religious persecution to fever-heat. In consequence the Jews suffered severely. The Jewish quarters were invaded, the inhabitants slaughtered, all debts due to them cancelled, and all papers relating to them destroyed. The tragedy of Clifford's Tower at