Edict of Expulsion

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Jews wearing Jewish badges and being beaten by English people as they are forced to leave.
A contemporary illustration showing the expulsion of the Jews. Image shows the white double tabula that Jews in England were mandated to wear by law.

The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by Edward I on 18 July 1290 expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England, the first time a European state is known to have permanently banned their presence.[a] The date was most likely chosen as it was a Jewish holy day, the ninth of Ab, commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem and other disasters that the Jewish people have experienced. Edward told the sheriffs of all counties that he wanted all Jews expelled before All Saints' Day (1 November) that year.

Jews were allowed to leave with cash and personal possessions, but outstanding debts, homes, and other buildings including synagogues and cemeteries were forfeit to the King. While there are no recorded attacks on Jews during the departure on land, there were acts of piracy in which Jews lost their lives, while others were drowned as a result of being forced to cross the English Channel at an extremely dangerous, stormy time of year. There is evidence from personal names of Jewish refugees settling in Paris and other parts of France, as well as Italy, Spain and Germany. Documents taken abroad by the Anglo-Jewish diaspora have been found as far away as Cairo. Jewish properties were sold to the benefit of the Crown, Queen Eleanor and selected individuals who were given grants of property.

The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of increasing antisemitism in England. During the reigns of Henry III and Edward I, anti-Jewish prejudice was used as a political tool first by opponents of the Crown, and then by Edward and the state itself. Edward took measures afterwards to claim credit for the expulsion, and to define himself as the protector of Christians against Jews, and was remembered and praised at his death for it. The expulsion had a lasting impact by embedding antisemitism into English culture. The expulsion edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was eventually overturned more than 365 years later, during the Protectorate, when Oliver Cromwell informally permitted the resettlement of the Jews in England in 1656.


The first Jewish communities are recorded in England some time after the Norman Conquest in 1066, moving from William's towns in northern France.[2] Jews were viewed as being under the direct jurisdiction and property of the king,[3] making them subject to his whims, who could tax or imprison them as he wished, without reference to anyone else.[4][b] A very small number of Jews were wealthy, as Jews were allowed to lend money at interest, while the Church forbade Christians from doing so, as this was regarded as the sin of usury.[6] Capital was in short supply and necessary for development, including investment in monastic construction and facilitating aristocrats to pay heavy taxes to the crown, so Jewish loans played an important economic role,[7] although they were also used to finance consumption, particularly among the overstretched landholding Knights.[8]

The Church's highest authority, the Holy See, had placed restrictions on Jews mixing with Christians, and mandated the wearing of distinctive clothing such as tabula, or Jewish badges, at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.[9] These measures were adopted in England at the Synod of Oxford in 1222. Church leaders made the first allegations of ritual child sacrifice, such as crucifixions at Easter in mockery of Christ, and the accusations began to develop themes of conspiracy and occult practices. King Henry III backed allegations made against Jews of Lincoln after the death of a boy named Hugh, soon known as Little Saint Hugh.[10] Such stories coincided with the rise of hostility within the Church to the Jews.[11]

Discontent was further fuelled as the Crown destabilised the loans and debt market. Loans were typically secured through bonds entitling the lender to the debtor's land holdings. Interest rates were relatively high, and debtors tended to be in arrears. Repayments and actual interest paid however were a matter for negotiation and it was not usual for a Jewish lender to foreclose debts.[12] As Jews were overtaxed by the Crown, they were forced to sell their debt bonds at cut down prices to raise cash quickly. The cut price bonds would be bought by rich courtiers, who could then call in the loans and demand the lands that had secured the loans.[8] This caused the transfer of the land wealth of indebted knights and others especially from the 1240s onwards, as the taxation placed on the Jews became unsustainably high.[13] Leaders like Simon de Montfort then used anger at the dispossession of middle ranking landowners to fuel antisemitic violence, at London (where 500 Jews died), Worcester, Canterbury, and many other towns.[14] In the 1270s and 80s, Queen Eleanor amassed vast lands and properties through this process, causing widespread resentment and conflict with the church, who viewed her acquisitions as profiting from usury.[15] By 1275, as the result of punitive taxation, the crown had eroded the Jewish community's wealth to the extent that taxes produced little return.[16][c]

Steps towards expulsion[edit]

The first major step towards expulsion took place in 1275, with the Statute of the Jewry. The statute outlawed all lending at interest, and allowed Jews to lease land, which had previously been forbidden. This right was granted for the following 15 years, supposedly giving Jews a period to readjust;[18] this was an unrealistic expectation, not least as entry to other trades was generally restricted.[19] Edward I also attempted to convert the Jews by compelling them to listen to Christian preachers.[20]

Text of a statute in Latin
Extract of the Statute of the Jewry, c. 1275

The church took further action, for example John Peckham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pushed to suppress seven London synagogues in 1282.[21] In late 1286, Pope Honorius IV addressed a special letter or "rescript" to the Archbishops of York and Canterbury claiming that the Jews had an evil effect on religious life in England through free interaction with Christians, and calling for action to be taken to prevent it. His demands were restated at the Synod of Exeter.[22]

Jews were targeted in the coin clipping crisis of the late 1270s, where over 300 Jews were sentenced to death for alleged interference with the currency, representing over 10% of England's Jewish population at the time.[23] The Crown profited from seized assets, and payments of fines by those who were not executed, raising at least £16,500.[24][d] While it is unclear exactly how impoverished the Jewish community was in these last years, historian Henry Richardson notes that Edward did not impose any further taxation from 1278 until the end of the 1280s.[26] It appears that some Jewish moneylenders continued to lend money against future delivery of goods, as a workaround means to avoid usury restrictions, a practice that was wholly known to the Crown, as debts had to be recorded in a government archa or 'chest' where debts were recorded.[e] Others managed to find ways to continue trading, and it is likely that others left the country.[28]

Expulsion of the Jews from Gascony[edit]

Local or temporary expulsions of Jews were not new. They had taken place in other parts of Europe,[f] and regularly in England. For example, Simon de Montfort expelled the Jews of Leicester in 1231,[30] and in 1275, Edward had permitted the Queen mother Eleanor to expel Jews from her lands and towns.[31][g]

In 1287, Edward I was in his French provinces in the Duchy of Gascony while trying to negotiate the release of his cousin Charles of Salerno, who was being held captive in Aragon.[33] On Easter Sunday, Edward broke his collarbone in an 80-foot fall, and was confined to bed for several months.[34] Soon after his recovery, he ordered the local Jews to be expelled from Gascony.[35] His immediate motivation may have been the need to generate funds for Charles' release,[36] but many historians including Richard Huscroft point out that the money raised by seizures from exiled Jews was negligible and that it was given away to mendicant orders (ie monks), and therefore see the expulsion as a "thank-offering" for Edward's recovery from his injury.[37]

After his release, Charles of Salerno expelled the Jews from his territories in Maine and Anjou in 1289, accusing them of "dwelling randomly" with the Christian population and cohabiting with Christian women. He linked the expulsion to general taxation of the population as "recompense" for lost income. It appears that Edward and Charles learnt from each other's experience.[38]


By the time he returned to England from Gascony in 1289, King Edward was deeply in debt.[39] At the same time, his experiment to convert the Jews to Christianity and remove their dependence on lending at interest could be seen to have failed; the fifteen years period allowing Jews to lease farms had ended. Moreover, it was increasingly impossible to raise significant sums of money from the Jewish population; they had been repeatedly overtaxed.[40]

In 14 June 1290, Edward summoned representatives of the knights of the shires, the middling landowners, to attend Parliament by 15 July. These were also the group most hostile to Jews and usury. On 18 June, Edward sent secret orders to the sheriffs of cities with Jewish residents that the archae containing records of Jewish debts be sealed. The reason for this is disputed: it could represent preparation for a further tallage to be paid by the Jewish population, or it could represent a preparatory step for expulsion.[41] Parliament met on 15 July. There is no record of the Parliamentary debates, so it is uncertain whether the expulsion of the Jews was offered by the Crown in return for a vote of taxation, or whether Parliament asked for it as a concession. Both views are argued. However the link between these seems certain, given the evidence of contemporary chronicles and the speed by which orders to expel the Jews of England were made, presumably after an agreement was reached.[42] The taxation granted by Parliament to Edward was very high, at £116,000, probably the highest of the Middle Ages.[43] Additionally, the Church later voluntarily agreed to pay tax of a tenth of their revenue, in gratitude.[44]

Original text of a letter from Edward I
Letter from King Edward I to the Sheriff of Gloucester, dated 18 July 1290

On 18 July, the Edict of Expulsion was issued, some three days after Parliament had gathered.[45] The text of the edict is lost.[46] On the Hebrew calendar, this date was 9 Av (Tisha B'Av) 5050, commemorating the fall of the Temple at Jerusalem; it is unlikely to be a coincidence.[47] Roth reports that it was noted "with awe" by Jewish chroniclers.[48] Writs were sent to sheriffs on the same day, explaining that all Jews were to leave by All Saints' Day, 1 November 1290, and outlining their duties in the matter.[49] The Edict was implemented with some attempt to present fairness. Proclamations were made ordering the population not to "injure, harm, damage or grieve" the departing Jews. Wardens at the Cinque Ports were told to make arrangements for their safe passage and cheap fares for the poor, while safe conduct was arranged for dignitaries.[40][h] There were limits on the property that Jews could take with them. Although a few favoured persons were allowed to sell their homes before they left,[51] the vast majority had to forfeit any outstanding debts, homes or immobile property, including synagogues and cemeteries.[40]

Image of a letter from Edward I
Letter from King Edward I to the Treasurer and Barons of the Exchequer, dated 5 November 1290

Edward wrote to the Barons of his Exchequer on 5 November, giving us the clearest official explanation of his actions available. In it, he claimed that the Jews had broken trust with him by continuing to find ways to charge interest on loans. He labelled them as criminals and traitors, and said they had been expelled "in honour of the Crucified". Interest to be paid on debts seized by the Crown was to be cancelled.[52]

The Jewish refugees[edit]

The Jewish population in England at the time of the expulsion was relatively small, perhaps as few as 2,000 people, although estimates vary.[53] Decades of privations had caused many to emigrate or convert.[54] Although it is believed that most of the Jews leaving England were able to do so free from harm, there are some records of piracy leading to the death of some of the people forced to leave. On 10 October, a ship that was chartered by poorer London Jews, described by a chronicler as "bearing their scrolls of the law",[i] sailed toward the mouth of the Thames, near Queenborough, en route to France. While the tide was low, the captain convinced the Jews to walk with him on a sandbank. As the tide rose, he returned to the ship, telling the Jews to call upon Moses for help. It appears that those involved were punished.[56] This was not the only incident, another is mentioned in Portsmouth, where sailors received a pardon in 1294,[57] and a ship is recorded as drifting ashore near Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, the Jewish passengers having been robbed and murdered.[58] Perhaps more dangerous than the risk of piracy was the condition of the sea in autumn, as around 1300 poorer Jewish passengers crossed the Channel to Wissant near Calais for 4d each.[j] Some ships were lost at sea, and others arrived with their passengers destitute.[60]

It is unclear where most of the migrants went. Those arriving in France were initially allowed to stay in Amiens and Carcassonne, but permission was soon revoked. Given that most of the Anglo-Jewry still spoke French, historian Cecil Roth speculates that most would have found refuge within France. Evidence from personal names in records show some Jews with the appellation "L'Englesche" or "L'Englois" (ie, the English) in Paris, Savoy and elsewhere. Similar names can be found among the Spanish Jewry, and the Venetian Clerli family claimed descent from Anglo-Jewish refugees. The locations where Anglo-Jewish texts have been found is also evidence for the possible destination of migrants, including places in Germany, Italy and Spain; and finally the title deeds to an English monastery have been found in the wood store of a synagogue in Cairo, which Roth believes were deposited there by a refugee from England.[61]

Disposal of Jewish property[edit]

Interior of a building with a vaulted roof
167 and 169 King Street, The Music House, Norwich: one of two surviving Jewish houses dating from before the expulsion. Such properties were forfeit and sold or gifted by the Crown.

The Crown seized Jewish property. Debts with a value of £20,000 were collated from the archae from each town with a Jewish settlement. In December, Hugh of Kendall was appointed to dispose of the property seized from the Jewish refugees, the most valuable of which consisted of houses in London. Some of the property was given away to courtiers, the church and the royal family's circle, in a total of 85 grants. William Burnell received property in Oxford which he later gave to Balliol College, for example, while Queen Eleanor's tailor was granted the synagogue in Canterbury. Sales were mostly completed by spring 1291, and around £2,000 was raised, £100 of which was used to glaze windows and decorate the tomb of Henry III in Westminster Abbey.[62] It appears that there was no systematic attempt to collect the £20,000 worth of debts seized. The reasons for this are unclear, but could include the death of Queen Eleanor in November 1290, concerns over a possible war with Scotland, or perhaps an attempt to win political favour by providing benefit to those previously indebted.[63]

After the Expulsion[edit]

Jewish presence in England after the Expulsion[edit]

It is likely that the few Jews remaining in England were converts. At the time of the Expulsion, there were around 100 converted Jews in the Domus Conversorum, which provided accommodation to Jews that had converted to Christianity.[64] The last of the converts from before 1290, Claricia, the daughter of Jacob Copin, died in 1356, having spent the early part of the 1300s in Exeter where she raised a family.[65] Between the expulsion of Jews in 1290 and their informal return in 1655, there continue to be records of Jews in the Domus Conversorum up to 1551 and even later. In any case, the expulsion is unlikely to have been wholly enforceable.[66] Four complaints were made to the king in 1376 that some of those trading as Lombards were actually Jews.[64]

Propagandising the Expulsion[edit]

A drawing of a shrine with a very high, narrow design
The Shrine of Little Saint Hugh, commemorating a blood libel, at Lincoln Cathedral

After the Expulsion, Edward I sought to position himself as the defender of Christians against the supposed criminality of Jews. Most prominently, he continued personal veneration of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, a child who whose death had been falsely attributed to ritual murder by Jews.[67] After his wife Queen Eleanor's death in late 1290, Edward reconstructed the shrine, incorporating the Royal Coat of Arms, in the same style as the Eleanor crosses.[68] It appears to have been a deliberate attempt to associate himself and Eleanor with the cult. Historian Joe Hillaby credits this "progaganda coup" with boosting the circulation of the Saint Hugh myth, the most famous of the English blood libels, repeated in literature and the Sir Hugh folk songs into the twentieth century.[69] Other efforts to justify the expulsion can be found in the Church, for instance in the canonisation evidence submitted for Thomas de Cantilupe,[70] and also on the Hereford Mappa Mundi.[71]


The permanent expulsion of Jews from England and tactics employed before it, such as attempts at forced conversion, are widely seen as setting a significant precedent, setting an example for the 1492 expulsion in Spain, for instance.[72] While more traditional narratives of Edward I have sought to downplay the event, emphasising the peacefulness of the expulsion, or placing its roots in Edward's pragmatic need to extract money from Parliament,[73] more recent work on the Anglo-Jewish community's experience have framed it as the culmination of a policy of state-sponsored antisemitism.[74] These studies place the expulsion in the context of the coin clipping executions targeting Jews, and the first royally-sponsored attempts to force conversions, emphasising that this was the first time a state had made such an expulsion permanent.[75]

A painting of Edward I of England
Edward I used antisemitism as an instrument of state policy.

For contemporaries, there is evidence that the expulsion was seen as one of Edward's most prominent achievements. It was named alongside his wars of conquest in Scotland and Wales in the Commendatio that was widely circulated after his death, claiming he outshone the Pharoahs by exiling the Jews.[76]

The expulsion had a lasting impact on medieval and early modern English culture. Rather than making antisemitic narratives less prominent, they became embedded in the idea of England as unique precisely because it had no Jews. Jews became an easy target within literature and plays, and tropes such as child sacrifice and host desecration persisted.[77] Jews began to settle in England after 1656,[78] and formal equality was achieved by 1858.[79] According to medieval historian Colin Richmond, English antisemitism left a legacy of neglect of this topic in English historical research as late as the 1990s.[80] The story of Little Saint Hugh was repeated as fact in local guidebooks in Lincoln in the 1920s, and a private school was named after him around the same time. The logo of the school, which referred to the story, was altered in 2020.[81]


A Church of England service was held in May 2022, described by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby as a formal "act of repentance", on the 800th anniversary of the Synod of Oxford in 1222. The Synod passed a set of laws that restricted Jews' rights to engage with Christians in England which contributed directly to the expulsion of 1290.[82]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Modern historian Cecil Roth notes that the significance of the expulsion as a permanent act was "fully appreciated" by Jewish writers.[1]
  2. ^ The Church held that Jews were condemned to servitude for the crime of crucifying Christ, while they did not convert. This carried over into legal formulations.[5] As Jews were treated as the sole property and jurisdiction of the Crown,[3] they were placed in an ambivalent legal position. They were not tied to any particular lord but were subject to the whims of the king, which could be either advantageous or disadvantageous. Every successive king formally reviewed a royal charter, granting Jews the right to remain in England, and Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of Magna Carta of 1215.[4]
  3. ^ Taxation by the King of 20,000 marks in 1241, £40,000 in 1244, £50,000 twice in 1250, meant taxation in 1240-55 amounted to triple the taxation raised in 1221-39. Bonds were seized for a fraction of their value when cash payments could not be met, resulting in land wealth being transferred to courtiers. Further large sums were demanded in the 1270s, but receipts declined sharply.[17]
  4. ^ The total raised includes fines from Christians, but it is believed the vast majority of this sum was raised from Jews.[24] National Archives estimates £16,500 as being equivalent to around £11.5m in modern terms.[25]
  5. ^ An archa, or "chest" was kept by the sheriff in each town with an official Jewry to record debts held by the Jews of that town. Jews were only allowed to live in a town with an archa. In this way, the Crown could easily assess the wealth and taxability of Jews across the country. Archae had been seized and destroyed during pogroms organised by Simon de Montfort and his supporters in the 1260s.[27]
  6. ^ In France and Brittany, for example, but usually Jews were able to return after a few years[29]
  7. ^ Eleanor's dower towns included Marlborough, Gloucester, Worcester and Cambridge. Other expulsions took place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Warwick, Wycombe (1234), Northamptonshire (1237), Newbury (1243), Derby (1261), Romsey (1266), Winchelsea (1273), Bridgnorth (1274), Windsor (1283). Jews were banned from entering any of the new north Welsh boroughs created by Edward I under their town charters.[32]
  8. ^ Such as the wealthy financier Bonamy of York, who later met one of his English clients on a visit to Paris in 1292[50]
  9. ^ una cum libris suis, in Bartholomaeus de Cotton's Historia Anglicana[55]
  10. ^ A labourer's wage for a day's work[59]


  1. ^ Roth 1964, p. 90, and footnote 2
  2. ^ Roth 1964, p. 4.
  3. ^ a b Glassman 1975, p. 14
  4. ^ a b Rubinstein 1996, p. 36.
  5. ^ Langmuir 1990, pp. 294–5, Hyams 1974, pp. 287–8
  6. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, p. 374-8, Huscroft 2006, pp. 76–7
  7. ^ Mundill 2010, pp. 25, 42, Stacey 1994, p. 101, Singer 1964, p. 118
  8. ^ a b Hyams 1974, p. 291.
  9. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 364–365.
  10. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 46–7.
  11. ^ Langmuir 1990, p. 298.
  12. ^ Tolan 2023, p. 140, Hyams 1974, p. 289
  13. ^ Parsons 1995, pp. 123, 149–51, Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 13, 364, Morris 2009, p. 86, Tolan 2023, pp. 140, 170, Hyams 1974, p. 291
  14. ^ Mundill 2002, pp. 41–42.
  15. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, p. 13.
  16. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 364–5, Huscroft 2006, pp. 90–91
  17. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 364–5
  18. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 345.
  19. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 118–20.
  20. ^ Tolan 2023, p. 172.
  21. ^ Tolan 2023, pp. 172–3.
  22. ^ Tolan 2023, pp. 177–8.
  23. ^ Rokéah 1988, p. 98.
  24. ^ a b Rokéah 1988, pp. 91–92.
  25. ^ National Archives 2024.
  26. ^ Richardson 1960, p. 216.
  27. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 95–7.
  28. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 140–42.
  29. ^ Morris 2009, p. 226
  30. ^ Mundill 2002, p. 60.
  31. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 146–7.
  32. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, pp. 141–43.
  33. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 145.
  34. ^ Tolan 2023, p. 180.
  35. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 306.
  36. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 346, Richardson 1960, pp. 225–7
  37. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 145–6, Tolan 2023, pp. 180–81, Morris 2009, p. 226
  38. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 146–149, Tolan 2023, pp. 181–82, Morris 2009, p. 227
  39. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 307.
  40. ^ a b c Roth 1964, p. 85.
  41. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 150–151, Richardson 1960, p. 228
  42. ^ Stacey 1997, pp. 78, 100–101.
  43. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 343, Stacey 1997, p. 93
  44. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 151–153, Leonard 1891, p. 103
  45. ^ Prestwich 1997, p. 343.
  46. ^ Roth 1964, p. 85, note 1.
  47. ^ Richmond 1992, pp. 44–45, Roth 1962, p. 67
  48. ^ Quotation in Roth 1964, p. 85
  49. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 151.
  50. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, p. 434.
  51. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 156.
  52. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, p. 138.
  53. ^ Mundill 2002, p. 27.
  54. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 86–87, 140–41.
  55. ^ Quoted by Roth 1964, p. 87.
  56. ^ Roth 1964, pp. 86–87, Prestwich 1997, p. 346
  57. ^ Roth 1964, p. 87, see footnote 1.
  58. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 157.
  59. ^ National Archives 2024
  60. ^ Roth 1964, p. 87.
  61. ^ Roth 1964, pp. 87–88.
  62. ^ Huscroft 2006, pp. 157–9.
  63. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 160.
  64. ^ a b Roth 1964, p. 133.
  65. ^ Huscroft 2006, p. 161.
  66. ^ Roth 1964, p. 132.
  67. ^ Stacey 2001, pp. 176–7.
  68. ^ Stocker 1986, pp. 114–6.
  69. ^ Hillaby 1994, p. 94—98.
  70. ^ Strickland 2018, p. 463.
  71. ^ Strickland 2018, pp. 429–31.
  72. ^ Richmond 1992, pp. 44–45, Roth 1964, p. 90, Huscroft 2006, p. 164
  73. ^ Richmond 1992, pp. 44–45.
  74. ^ Stacey 2001, p. 177.
  75. ^ Roth 1964, p. 90, Stacey 2001, Skinner 2003, p. 1, Huscroft 2006, p. 12
  76. ^ Strickland 2018, pp. 455–6
  77. ^ Richmond 1992, Strickland 2018, Shapiro 1996, p. 42, Tomasch 2002, pp. 69–70, Glassman 1975
  78. ^ Roth 1964, pp. 164–6.
  79. ^ Roth 1964, p. 266.
  80. ^ Richmond 1992, p. 45.
  81. ^ Martineau 1975, p. 2, Tolan 2023, p. 188
  82. ^ TOA Staff 2022, Gal 2021


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