The Pogroms of 1189 and 1190

Pogroms (1189-1190):

The catalyst for the anti-Jewish violence in 1189 and 1190 was the coronation of King Richard I on 3rd September 1189. In addition to Richard’s Christian’s subjects, many prominent English Jews arrived at Westminster Abbey to pay homage to their new king. However, many Christian Englishmen harboured superstitions against Jews being present at such a holy occasion, and the Jewish attendees were flogged and thrown out of the banquet following the coronation. After the incident at Westminster Abbey, a rumour spread that Richard had ordered the English to kill the Jews. Christians attacked the predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Old Jewry, setting the Jews’ stone houses on fire at night and killing those who tried to escape. When news of the slaughter reached King Richard, he was outraged, but only managed to punish a few of the assailants because of their large numbers.

On March 7th, 1190, attacks in Stamford, Lincolnshire killed many Jews, and on March 18th 57 Jews were massacred in Bury St. Edmonds.

York’s remaining Jews sought refuge in the town’s castle to escape the mob and convinced the castle’s warden to let them inside. However, when the warden requested to re-enter the castle, the frightened Jews refused, and local militiamen and noblemen besieged the castle. 

The trapped Jews were distraught and knew that they would either die at the hands of the Christians, starve to death, or save themselves by converting to Christianity. Josce began by killing his wife Anna and their two children. The father of every family followed this pattern, killing his wife and children before himself. The castle was set on fire to prevent Jewish bodies from being mutilated by the Christians, and many Jews perished in the flames. Those who did not follow Yom Tov’s orders surrendered to the Christians the following morning and were promptly massacred. After the massacre, Malebisse and the other nobles burned the debt records held in York’s Minister, ensuring that they would never pay back their Jewish financiers. 

At the end of the pogrom, 150 Jews were killed, and York’s entire Jewish community was eradicated.

The pogroms of 1189 and 1190 were catastrophic for England’s Jewish community. The zeal of the Crusades stirred up a fanatical religiosity among the English populace, a sensation that drove people to commit atrocities in the name of Christ.

Taxation of Jews:

During Richard's absence in the Holy Land and during his captivity, the Jews of England were harassed by William de Longchamp. The Jewish community was forced to contribute 5,000 marks toward the king's ransom. More than three times as much as the contribution of the City of London. 

Richard accordingly decided, in 1194, that records should be kept by royal officials of all the transactions of the Jews, without which such transactions would not be legal. 

Every debt was to be entered upon a chirograph, one part of which was to be kept by the Jewish creditor, and the other preserved in a chest to which only special officials should have access. By this means, the king could at any time ascertain the property of any Jew in the land, and no destruction of the bond held by the Jew could release the creditor from his indebtedness. 

“Ordinance of the Jewry" was the beginning of the office of Exchequer of the Jews (which made all the transactions of the English Jewry liable to taxation by the King of England). Who thus became a sleeping partner in all the transactions of Jewish money lending. The king besides demanded two bezants in the pound, that is, 10 per cent, of all sums recovered by the Jews with the aid of his courts. 


Under John (1205-1216): 

As early as 1198 Pope Innocent III had written to all Christian princes, including Richard of England, calling upon them to compel the remission of all usury demanded by Jews from Christians. This would render the Jewish community's very existence impossible. 

On 15 July 1205, the pope laid down the principle that Jews were doomed to perpetual servitude because they had crucified Jesus. In England, the secular power soon followed the initiative of the Church. John, having become indebted to the Jewish community while in Ireland, at first treated Jews with a show of forbearance. He confirmed the charter of Rabbi Josce and his sons, and made it apply to all the Jews of England; he wrote a sharp remonstrance to the mayor of London against the attacks that were continually being made upon the Jews of that city, alone of all the cities of England. He reappointed one Jacob archpriest of all the English Jews (12 July 1199) 

But with the loss of Normandy in 1205 a new spirit seems to have come over the attitude of John to his Jews. At the height of his triumph over the pope, he demanded the sum of no less than £100,000 from the religious houses of England and 66,000 marks from the Jews (1210). One of the latter, Abraham of Bristol, who refused to pay his quota of 10,000 marks, had, by order of the king, seven of his teeth extracted, one a day, until he was willing to disgorge. 

Though John squeezed as much as he could out of the Jewish community, they were an important element on his side in the triangular struggle between the king, barons, and municipalities which makes up the constitutional history of England during his reign and that of his son. Even in the Magna Carta, clauses were inserted preventing the king or his Jewish subjects from obtaining interest during the minority of an heir.


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