THE TYPICAL CHARACTER OF ANGLO-JEWISH HISTORY

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When the Jewish Historical Society was first founded, it naturally had to run the gantlet of communal criticism. What institution indeed, however worthy, does not find carping critics among us ? But they have their function, these candid friends, and this above all, that they enable us to answer out aloud what many think to themselves or only speak among themselves. Now among the criticisms of our candid friends there were two which had a primd facie appeal to our sense of justice. One was that there was not sufficient material to afford scope for the energies of a society. To this one might point out that even the very incomplete bibliography of the sources of Anglo-Jewish history compiled by Mr. Lucien Wolf and myself runs to something like 250 pages. To master the works enumerated in those pages, and to draw out the conclusions which they suggest, might easily afford life-work for a whole college of investigators. It is not scarcity of materials that troubles us, it is rather paucity of workers. It is only Mr. Lucien Wolf and a few others, who may be described as the " old gang," who care to dive into the musty archives of the past, to find here and there a novel and interesting clue to fresh aspects of the history of the Hebrew race in the British Empire. If our critics would become workers, we can guarantee to surfeit them with work.

But the other objection is more insidious, and cannot be dismissed so cavalierly. "You may have," say our critics, "any number of

1 The Inaugural Address of the Jewish Historical Society of England for the session 1897-98, delivered at Birmingham, November 14, 1897.

facts to collect and connect, but when you have collected and con? nected them, what are they ? A number of insignificant details of personal ^lives. You chronicle small-beer, and sour stuff even then. Before the Expulsion you have only to record the dealings of a number of usurers; after the Return you have mainly to record the doings of a number of nonentities who only cease to be nonentities when they cease to be Jews." I put our opponents' case, you will observe, in the strongest possible form, and perhaps in the strongest possible language. I do so because I have every confidence I can answer the strongest objection of this kind to your satisfaction.

I might begin by granting for a moment the validity of this second objection. Suppose Anglo-Jewish history is a small thing. It is at any rate our own, our very own. It tells the story how we come to be what we are. It may deal with only one thread in the web of general English history, but without that one thread the web would be so far changed, and to tear it out would be to destroy the pattern. Indeed it depends very much on one's standpoint whether one is to regard things as small. Mr. Rudyard Kipling, with all his merits, is

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