An Economic Function for the Crown? On Tallage, Taxation, and the Legal Status of the Jews
The image of Jews as a “royal milch cow” has been sustained by a web of interpretations linking Jewish taxation, the exchequer of the Jews, and Jewish legal status. In the most schematic accounts, tallage works to extort, and the exchequer of the Jews, to protect. The exchequer of the Jews and its subsidiary system of local loan chests are seen as protecting and privileging Jewish moneylending. By registering loans to Jews and providing them with a special court to collect their loans, the crown allowed Jewish moneylenders to swell with profit. The crown milked the Jews’ profits on moneylending by extorting arbitrary taxes, in other words, tallages. Several metaphors have been deployed by historical interpreters. Cecil Roth favored the domesticated cow swollen with milk after chewing the green grass of merry old England. Other less sympathetic imagery has drawn on the stereotype of the blood-sucking capitalist.