Roth was born in Dalston, London, on 5 March 1899. His parents were Etty and Joseph Roth, and Cecil was the youngest of their four sons. In childhood, Cecil received a traditional Jewish religious education, including studying Hebrew, with Jacob Mann. He went to school at City of London School. He fought in the First World War, seeing active duty in France in 1918.
At University, Roth studied history at Merton College, Oxford. He took a first-class BA in modern history in 1922, and a D.Phil. in 1924. His first published work, based on his thesis, was The Last Florentine Republic (1527-1530), published in 1925. Roth was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the same year and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1941.
The couple were enthusiastic collectors of Judaism-related manuscripts and objets d'art, selling substantial collections of the former to the Brotherton Library of the University of Leeds in 1961, and of the latter to the Beth Tzedec Synagogue Museum in Toronto.
On his retirement from Oxford in 1964, at the invitation of Joseph H. Lookstein, Roth became a visiting professor at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, moving to Jerusalem. However, within a month of his arrival he was attacked in a publication by one Rabbi Bromberg for allegedly arguing that Moses never existed — when in fact he had noted others' scepticism about Moses' existence and argued that Moses had in fact lived. The accusation prompted a scandal, and Roth suffered a heart attack in November 1964. Roth's wife Irene attributed the heart attack partly to stress of migrating, and partly to the stress of the accusations. Roth stood down from his position at the University early in 1965, citing ill health. He went on to hold a position at the City University of New York (1966–1969) while working as general editor of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, dying in post shortly after the first edition of the encyclopaedia was completed.
Roth died, aged 71, on 21 June 1970 in Jerusalem.
His works number over 600 items, including:
- The Last Florentine Republic (1527-1530) (London, 1925)
- Roth, Cecil (1974) . A History of the Marranos (5th ed.). New York, USA: Sepher-Hermon Press. ISBN 0872031381.
- Life of Menasseh Ben Israel (Philadelphia, 1934)
- Roth Haggadah (1934)
- Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: a Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History (London, 1937)
- The Spanish Inquisition (Robert Hale Limited 1937)
- Anglo-Jewish Letters, 1158-1917 (London, 1938)
- History of the Great Synagogue (of London), available online, as part of the at the Susser Archive of JCR-UK
- The Jewish Contribution to Civilization (New York 1941)
- History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 1941)
- History of the Jews in Italy (Philadelphia, 1946)
- The Rise of Provincial Jewry (Oxford, 1950), available online, as part of the Susser Archive of JCR-UK
- History of the Jews (initially published as A Bird's-Eye View of Jewish History) (1954)
- The Jews in the Renaissance (Philadelphia, 1959)
- Jewish Art (1961)
- The Dead Sea Scrolls (1965)
- Irene Roth, Cecil Roth: Historian without Tears. A Memoir (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1982), ISBN 9780872031036
- "ROTH, Cecil". Who Was Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- 'Provisional handlist of manuscripts in the Roth Collection', Handlist 164 (Leeds University Library).
- Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 120.
- "DR. CECIL ROTH, 71, HISTORIAN, IS DEAD". New York Times (June 22, 1970 pg. 37). New York Times. June 22, 1970.
- "Dr Cecil Roth". The Times. 22 June 1970. p. 12. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- Irene Roth, Cecil Roth: Historian without Tears. A Memoir (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1982), pp. 207-10; ISBN 9780872031036.
- Irene Roth, Cecil Roth: Historian without Tears. A Memoir (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1982), pp. 214-17; ISBN 9780872031036.
- Lipman, Vivian David. "Roth, Cecil." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 17. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 479-480. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
- "History of the Great Synagogue". JCR-UK. jewishgen.org. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
- Roth, Cecil. "A History Of The Jews In England". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "The Rise of Provincial Jewry". JCR-UK. jewishgen.org. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Cecil Roth|
|This article related to Jewish history is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.|
|This article about a British historian or genealogist is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.|