This is somewhat counter-intuitive -- often one reads of Jews being seen as competition or resented for their role as money lenders even though in fact the latter is also counter-intuitive since being able to borrow money is critical for many businesses.

So was there something unique in the role of Jews in England or was it simply, by the 19th century, seen as old fashioned to discriminate against Jews by many, including merchants who had dealings with the Jews?

EDIT: This is mentioned in the Wikipedia article Emancipation of the Jews

EDIT: Perhaps this merits another question entirely, but as I responded to a comment below, I wonder if there are other instances of groups supporting Jews, even in countries where they ended up being expelled? I know of Bishops and Popes who did try to speak against anti-Jewish factions but nowhere other than this instance in pre-20th century Europe do I hear of support. Interestingly, abolitionists (in at least one notable case) in the USA were sometimes openly anti-Jewish. (Wm. Llyod Garrison mentioned J. P. Benjamin's religion in a very negative way.) I am of course aware of the Turkish Sultan who was, out of enlightened self-interest, very helpful to the Jews after the 1492 expulsion from Spain.

  • 1
    Did the Jews have the support of merchants? Please provide evidence for the assertion.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 13:08
  • 2
    It's worth citing the sources for your assertions. I assume you're referring to William Huskisson's 1830 petition when you say that English merchants supported Jewish emancipation in the 19th century? Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 13:08
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    The Wikipedia article isn't quite accurate. The petition presented in support of the Jews Relief Bill was actually from the "Bankers, merchants, and other inhabitants of Liverpool". The emphasis on "merchants" is, perhaps, misleading. Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 13:20
  • Downvoted, appears to have no research.
    – John Dee
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 14:38
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    In the Seventeenth century, when Manassah ben Israel was trying to get Jews admitted to England without any civil rights, I think competition with the successful philo-Semetic Dutch was considered as a factor.
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


Toleration of Jews was renewed in England during the Cromwellite era, beginning in the 1650s, when a few Jews were allowed to slip back to England to live. That's not an accident. The rise of the Puritans basically represented the ascendancy of the urban, industrial interests over the rural (landlord and peasant) interests supporting the king. The industrialists saw Jewish moneylenders as being complementary or "enabling" to their functions, while the rural interests considered them stumbling blocks.

Because of the support of moneyed Jews of the Crown during the Jacobite Revolution of 1745, "ordinary" Jews were allowed back into England under the Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753. Basically, the progress of the Industrial Revolution made the Jews more and more "tolerated," especially by the growing industrial elite, to the point where a converted Jew (Disraeli) was elected Prime Minister.

This phenomenon extended to other parts of Europe. For instance, Jews were more tolerated in more industrialized Germany than in more agrarainRussia (or Russian Poland), in the 19th-early 20th centuries (before Hitler).

  • And yet were not Jews loaning money to and/or buying the crops of farmers? Did this reflect an unsophisticated grasp of the relationship between borrower and lender? Even in 20th century USA depression, bankers, who had after all facilitated the purchase of farms were seen as the bad guys when they foreclosed.
    – Jeff
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 22:42
  • @Jeff: That is a good question. In agriculture, the returns are called "rents," which are (quasi) monopoly returns that go to the large landowners (and their "agents".) In manufacturing, the returns are "profits" and "wages" which are shared in a non-monopolistic fashion. The "agents" of capitalism are (usually) less resented than the agents of agriculture, even if they are both "bankers."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 23:02
  • I have to say, although it sound elitist, that the lack of education among farmers has perhaps led them to misunderstand the need for the agents to make money and to resent those who do not have a direct hand in growing the crops sold. Whereas in manufacturing, the agents are not dealing directly with those involved in production of goods but rather factory owners and executives. This is probably a central factor in the relationships. The factory workers' resentment would never be towards agents but rather towards factory owners who pay their wages (although that is ironic somewhat.)
    – Jeff
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 0:31

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