“Rich as a Jew”? Wealth and Lending among Anglo-Jews
Nowhere in medieval Europe are Jews thought to have been more wholly sunk in moneylending than in Anglo-Norman England.2 Rapid growth of royal administration in England generated copious records of Jewish loans and Jewish litigation over loans, Jewish tallages, and fines. An entire department of the Royal Exchequer was devoted to Jewish matters.3 These records seem to confirm the assumptions that Jews were rich, that their riches were gained from illicit usury, and that medieval kings used them as a sponge to sop up the surplus wealth of the country and squeeze it into the royal coffers. This is the interpretive framework used to make sense of the difficult and fragmentary medieval sources. But the legitimacy of this interpretive frame can be questioned from the English sources, as it can for the less-well-documented communities of Capetian France and central Europe.