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Harold Pollins (1924-2018)



It is with regret that we report the death of Harold Pollins on 4 April 2018.

Harold was born in 1924 in Leytonstone, the son of a cabinet maker from what is now Belarus. He attended LSE, which in the wartime years had moved to Cambridge. He served in the armed forces reaching the rank of Sergeant; his father had also served in the British Army, during the First World War.

After demobilisation in 1947, he spent several years in research in social sciences, economic history and industrial history whilst employed by London Transport and the National Coal Board. He co-authored Newcomers, The West Indians in London, which appeared in 1960, and Capitalism (1978), and compiled and co-edited Trade Unions in Great Britain in 1973.

Several of his earliest publications related to railways. Britain’s Railways: an Industrial History appeared in 1971. A History of the Jewish Working Men’s Club and Institute 1874-1912 (1981) was followed by his most noted Anglo-Jewish work Economic History of the Jews in England (1982).

After a succession of various appointments, he moved to Oxford in 1964 where, as Senior Tutor in Industrial Relations, at Ruskin College, Oxford, he taught labour history, economic history and related subjects, until his retirement in 1989. He wrote The History of Ruskin College in 1984.

From then on, he focussed on Anglo-Jewish research, with Hopeful Travellers: Jewish Migrants and Settlers in Nineteenth Century Britain appearing in 1989, followed by a monograph which he co-authored, entitled Louis Kyezor: the King of Whitton c1796-1869, in 2002. Concentrating on the role of Jews in the British armed services, he updated and added considerably to the corpus of information on Jews in the armed forces during the First World War, originally accumulated in Rev. Michael Adler’s 1922 British Jewry Book of Honour.

He later collaborated with others in compiling data on Jewish civilian casualties during wartime Britain. During the last two decades he became the most prolific compiler and author of articles on minor Jewish provincial communities throughout the British Isles, writing about 100 such articles, many of which were originally published in Oxford Menorah. All are now published on the JCR-UK’s excellent website.  His article The Association for Providing Free Lectures to Jewish Working Men and Their Families, 1869-1879 was published in Jewish Historical Studies, volume 40.

Many researchers have collaborated with Harold and have been most appreciative of his ready and selfless assistance on any aspect of Anglo-Jewish history. He always shared his material and encouraged others to join in. Even in his tenth decade, he ploughed through acres of original material and corresponded by email briskly. In the April 2018 edition of Shemot, his Early History of the Jews of Stockton-on-Tees was published – in his ninety-fourth year.

He set an excellent example of using retirement constructively and actively, adding much valuable work to Anglo-Jewish history in the process. He had been a member of the Jewish Historical Society of England since 1942. In 2014 he told me that he remembered the day that Paul Emden’s Jews of Britain was published in 1944. Later in 2014 his name was entered on the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain’s Roll of Honour “for his assiduous writing on provincial Jewish communities, and for his work on many individual biographies and on fallen Jewish personnel”.  His phenomenal knowledge, experience and approachability will be very much missed. His wife, Lena, died in 1997, and he is survived by a son and two daughters. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.

Michael Jolles

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