River Jews: medieval Jews along the Thames as a microcosm of Anglo-Jewry

History can be as much about frustration as information. That certainly applies to the early records of the Jews of England. We do not know, and probably never shall, who was the first Jew ever to set foot on English soil. It is likely that individual Jews arrived as far back as Roman times, whether will? ingly as traders or by force as slaves. Some may have been here only tem? porarily, others for longer. However, it is impossible to talk of a settled Jewish community until the late eleventh century, when William of Normandy, who became William I of England in 1066, brought Jews from his French terri? tory to help colonize his new kingdom.

William encouraged Jewish migration here for two reasons. First, it was useful having people here who were both French-speakers and loyal to him. On the Continent, Jews tended to be an urban population, not

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