Arthur Cohen (politician)

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Arthur Cohen, KC, FBA (18 November 1830 – 3 November 1914) was an English barrister and Liberal Party politician.

He was born in Wyndham Place, Bryanston Square, London, the youngest son of Benjamin Cohen (1789–1867), a prosperous bill broker. His grandfather, Levy Barent Cohen (1740–1808), had moved from Holland. His mother, Justina (1800–1873), was the sister of Sir Moses Montefiore.

After three years' study at the gymnasium in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, he entered as a student at University College London. He proceeded to Cambridge University at a time when it was almost impossible for a Jew to gain admission into the colleges. In 1849, he was received into Magdalene College, Cambridge to read Mathematics.[1] In 1853 he was president of the Cambridge Union Society. At Cambridge Cohen had a successful career, coming out fifth wrangler in the Mathematical tripos. As a Jew he could not take his degree until after the passing of the Cambridge Reform Act of 1856, which abolished the obligatory Christian oath which had preceded graduation. In 1858 Cohen became the first professing Jew to graduate at Cambridge, taking his MA in 1860.[2]

Cohen then read law and was called to the bar in 1857. He established for himself a reputation in shipping and insurance cases. Among several important appointments was his selection to represent the interests of England in the famous arbitration case (Alabama Claims) connected with the CSS Alabama at Geneva in 1872. He was for many years after 1876 standing counsel for his university. He often represented foreign governments in disputes before the English law courts, as, for example, the Japanese government in an important case against the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

Cohen in 1874 unsuccessfully contested Lewes in the Liberal interest. In 1880, he was elected for the Southwark division, and shortly afterward in February 1881, was offered a judgeship, which he declined, though later he became a judge of the Cinque Ports. In 1905, he became a member of the Privy Counsel.[3]

Cohen held various important positions in the London Jewish community. For many years he was president of the Board of Deputies, succeeding his uncle, Sir Moses Montefiore; but he resigned the position in 1894. He was a vice-president of Jews' College, and for many years president of the borough Jewish schools.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
By Joseph Jacobs, Goodman Lipkind[4]


  1. ^ "Cohen, Arthur (CHN849A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Cohen, Arthur. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  3. ^ "No. 27856". The London Gazette. 21 November 1905. p. 7807.
  4. ^ – COHEN, ARTHUR: at

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Clarke
Marcus Beresford
Member of Parliament for Southwark
With: Thorold Rogers
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Southwark West
Succeeded by
Richard Causton