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Jewish Moneyers in Medieval England


PLANTAGENET. Henry II. 1154-1189. AR Penny (21mm, 1.47 g, 4h). Short cross coinage, class Ib1. York mint; Isaac, moneyer. Struck 1180-circa 1182. Crowned facing bust, holding scepter / + ISΛC • ON • ЄVЄRWI, voided short cross; quatrefoils in angles. Friedenberg p. 9-11; SCBI 56 (Mass), 573 (same dies); North 963; SCBC 1344. Attractive old cabinet toning with traces of blue iridescence. VF. Rare example of a possible Jewish moneyer in medieval England.

Friedenberg, pp. 9-11, discusses the evidence for Jewish moneyers in England in the 12th and 13th centuries. There is no evidence of an organized Jewish community in England before the arrival of the Normans, although merchants may have partaken of trade opportunities since Roman times. The English Jews became a well-established community, allowed to own businesses and property, as well as practicing their traditional occupations as jewelers and money-lenders. Their activities in monetary transactions would have placed them in an excellent position to undertake the role of moneyer for the king. Friedenberg mentions one potential stumbling block, in that the moneyer had to swear a (Christian) oath of fealty to the king, but court records of the period indicate that testimony could be accepted from Jews who swore on the Torah, so this may not have been an insurmountable difficulty. In any case, moneyers named Abel, Daniel, Davi(d), Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, Saul and Solomon are known from the period, all of whom could be Jews, or perhaps merely Christians with Old Testament names. There is no definitive proof one way or the other. The medieval Jewish presence in England ended in 1290, when Edward I extorted a huge loan from the Jewish community, then expelled them from the island.