THE JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND.

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Letter of Alvaro Mendez to Queen Elizabeth, with autograph signature

 

Jews in Elizabethan England.

Presidential Address delivered at Manchester on Sunday, November21,1926.

Between the years 1880 and 1888 the late Sir Sidney Lee inaugurated the renascence of Anglo-Jewish historical study by his researches into the middle period of Anglo-Jewish history?that is, the obscure period between the expulsion of the Jews by Edward I. in 1290, and their readmission by Oliver Cromwell in 1655. He gave special attention to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and he argued, not unreasonably, that there must have been a considerable number of Jews in England at that period. The evidence on which he relied was, in the first place, the great expansion of foreign trade and the large immigration of foreign merchants and other aliens which took place during the second half of the sixteenth century, and, in the second place, the popular interest in Jews, their character and their activities, which is indicated by the frequent and sometimes very prominent references to them in the popular drama of the time. Unfortunately the number of Jews or persons of Hebrew race identified in proof of this argument was very few. For the whole forty-five years of Elizabeth's reign Sir Sidney Lee was not able to give us more than ten Jews, and of these, six?Arthur Antoe, Philip Ferdinando, Elizabeth Ferdinando, Fortunatus Massa, Judah Menda and James Wolfgang?were more or less obscure inmates of theDomus Conversorum who proved nothing, seeing that as Christians they were free to live in the country. Of the other four, Maria Nunes, a Portuguese Jewess who is alleged to have been captured under romantic circumstances on the high seas and brought to London, was probably a legendary personage. The remaining three were Rodrigo

Lopez, the Queen's ill-fated physician, Joachim Gannz, a mining chemist who came to England in 1581 in search of copper, and one Amis (sic), who, according to Thomas Coryat, who met him in Constantinople in 1612, was an English Jew born in Crutched Friars, London, in 1552. During the forty years which have passed since Sir Sidney Lee published his last paper on this subject?" Elizabethan England and the Jews," 3?scarcely any additions have been made to his slender census. I can only call to mind two of any note?John Tremellius, the baptised friend of Cranmer, who was in England in 1552 and was endenizened, and a Marrano or crypto-Jew, Alonzo de Herrera, who was seized by the Earl of Essex at the sack of Cadiz in 1596 and brought to England as a prisoner of war.2

Nevertheless, Sir Sidney Lee's conjecture was shrewdly founded, and it has been abundantly justified. My purpose to-night is to show you that there was quite a goodly company of Jews in England throughout the reign of Elizabeth, and that they played a not un? important part in the commerce and public affairs of those spacious days. They

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