When the history of the Jews of England before the Expulsion comes to be written, it will probably be found to derive its chief interest not, like that of the mediasval Jews of southern Europe, from the literary and philosophical importance of the period dealt with, nor, like that of the Jews of central Europe, from stories of the daring and suffering of martyrs who died for their faith, but rather from the comparative ful? ness and clearness with which the historian will be able to describe the relations of the members of the Jewish communities to the people around them and to one another. Mr. Joseph Jacobs and Mr. M. D. Davis have accomplished much work that will help our future historian to do justice to his subject, and I trust that the documents which I am now enabled to publish may serve, in some slight measure, towards the same end.
First of all it is necessary to explain how the lists of the debts and houses of the Jews of Hereford came into existence. When the Jews were expelled from England, all the property that they left be? hind them fell into the hands of the king. It was of two kinds, firstly, houses and tenements that they had held in fee or for a term of years, and secondly, bonds for money or kind that had been executed in their favour by Christians. Some of this property the king granted by way of gift to his friends ; some he expressed his intention of using for pious purposes; the greater part, no doubt, he intended to keep for himself.1 But, in order that he might know the exact amount at his disposal, he issued, a few months after the Expulsion, writs ordering the sheriffs of the counties in which Jews had been residing to send to the Treasurer and Barons of the Exchequer at Westminster the official chests in which counterparts of Jewish bonds had been preserved, and to
1 Tovey, Anglia Judaica, 235. Public Record Office, Exchequer, Q. JR. Miscellanea. Jews, 557. 9.
require the chirograph ers, or keepers of the chests, to attend at the Exchequer in person, bringing with them any bonds or deeds relating to the Jews which they might have in their custody, even though the counterparts of them were not contained in the official chests. The sheriffs were at the same time to inquire what houses and tenements were in the possession of the Jews of each county at the time of the Expulsion, under what tenure they were held, and what was the value of them to the king, now that the rights of the Jews in them had reverted to him. When they had collected all the informa? tion on the subject that they could get, they were on the king's behalf to seize the houses, to let them to new tenants on the most favourable conditions that could be obtained, and to send to the Exchequer a full report of their