Sephardi Jews and the early years of The Bank of England

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[The lists appended to this paper are being published in Miscellanies VI.]


In the chapter on the Proprietors of Bank Stock 1694-1797, in his history of the Bank of England, the late Sir John Clapham called attention to the high percentage of Spanish or Portuguese names of Jews of the Sephardim which appeared in the lists of the Proprietors in the Bank's early years. He noted that in 1701 these names constituted a full ninth of the group of 107 Proprietors who held the ?4,000 stock and upwards which was the qualification for the Governorship; and that among these holders were two Da Costas, a Fonseca, a Henriquez, a Mendes, a Nunes, a Rodrigues, a Salvador, a Teixeira de Mattos, and Solomon de Medina, the great army contractor to King William III. There was, he showed, a parallel here with the case of the Bank of Amsterdam; when this was founded there were 25 Jews among the 731 Proprietors.

The circumstances are evidently worthy of a fuller investigation than Sir John Clapham himself had time or occasion to conduct. At the suggestion of your Society, and with the approval of the Governor and Company of the Bank, to whom I am indebted for allowing me the time and facilities for conducting it, I embarked upon a more extensive investigation of the story in the summer of 1952, and this paper is the outcome of my researches.

A few words regarding the sources of information may be of interest. The main record is the series of Bank Stock Ledgers, complete from the initial subscriptions of June 1694, and the alphabets or indices, to these ledgers. The latter are of prime importance, for as well as guiding the searcher to the accounts in the ledgers they alone in the early years contain any indication of the addresses of the stockholders. There are the stock transfer books?a complete series?andf as well a number of the dividend books, lists compiled alphabetically of the stockholders entitled to the half-yearly dividends : both series of importance because in them the holders or their agents signed for the transfer and acceptance, of their stock, and for the receipt of their dividends. Other manuscript records include the books of the first and of subsequent subscriptions?the first is of out? standing importance, as Sir John Clapham's references to it show?and a series of Abstracts from the wills of deceased stockholders. It was the Bank's practice to extract from such wills all relevant particulars, and to note any specific reference to the disposal of the deceased's stock holding. The earliest of these extracts relating to a Jewish Proprietor may be cited as an example of their form.

423. Memorand. That Benjamin Levy, late of the Parish of St. Catherine Coleman London Broker Deceased Dying possessed of ?3,400 : 5 :?Stock in the Banjk of England, Did by his last Will and Testament dated the nineteenth day of June

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