Jewish Tax Document
Document 6988, photograph courtesy of the Westminster Abbey Muniments
'Royal precipe to the Chirographers of Bristoll (Co. Som[erset]) to extract from their chest at the request of the Constable of Bristol Castle all the chattels [possessions] of Jews or Jewesses defaulter in payment of arrears of talliage [tax on Jews]. Prince Edward whom the same Constable shall name to them: and to produce then before the Justices of the Jews at Westminster on the Octave of Michaelmass to levy there--from said arrears...Witn[ess] R (obert) de Fulehem
Dat. At Westminster 10 Jully 55 H[enry III A.D. 1271)
The Jews came to England with the Normans, though some traders might have predated the invasion. Jews were excluded from craft guilds which required a Christian oath on admittance, and so were restricted in the range of jobs they could pursue. However there is evidence that Jews in medieval England worked as vintners (wine traders) , , cheesemongers, fishmongers, corn traders, soldiers and physicians as well as. pawnbrokers, jewellers, goldsmiths and rabbis.
It is the figure of the Jewish moneylender which looms largest in the representation of medieval Jews in England. Christians were not officially supposed to lend money to other Christians at interest (a practice called usury), though many found ways of doing so informally. Jews, by contrast, were allowed to act as money lenders, and though not all Jews admitted to England were moneylenders, a number were and thereby supplied a needed source of cash and coinage to the economy.
The king of the day would then periodically tax the Jews (as Jews), thereby enjoying the profits of money lending without incurring direct responsibility for it.
(Thanks to Marcus Roberts Director of director the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail for his comments on this piece)