York 1190: Jews and Others in the Wake of Massacre was organised by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson of the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of History.

The conference was supported by the British Academy, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Royal Historical Society. The Borthwick Institute republished the essays of Barrie Dobson on anglo-jewish history for the occasion: The Jewish Communities of Medieval England . We are publishing a collection of essays relating to the theme of the conference and developing further related research projects.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Stones, Houses, Jews, Myths

Are there more myths associated with medieval Jewish history than other kinds? Probably not. But one of them is that all medieval jews lived in stone houses and that all stone houses belonged to medieval jews. (I exaggerate but only a very little).
Not true! Either way around.

The map shows the spread of stone houses recorded in documents across the city of York in the twelfth, thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Yep - they were to be found in all the major streets and in both the city centre and its suburbs. Only two fragments of such houses survive. One -in Stonegate -was occupied by a canon of York Minster, who I guess was probably a Christian ;-). I recently saw somebody write that because it was stone it must have been Jewish - ach! The other we don't know for sure - but from the records we can say that most of these houses were not owned or occupied by Jews - but by all kinds of successful artisans and merchants, clerics, officials, farmers. For more discussion of why, how etc see an article by yours truly in Medieval Domesticity ed Kowaleski and Goldberg.

For more on Jews and stones see Here and I am sure elsewhere at In The Middle. Really - our persistent association of stones and Jews speaks to me of retrospective judgements we want to make about medieval Jews and their place in society.

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