On the day 18th july

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The 18th of July 1290

The occasional almost random outbreak of persecution of England's Jewish community in medieval times was at its height in the late 12th century, massacres in York and Bury St Edmunds the vilest examples. Yet the small community that had arrived with the Normans continued to be of value to the state, or at least the King.

Jews stood outside the normal feudal pyramid as direct subjects of the King, allowed to lend money in return for interest — something the Church forbade Christians to do — to grease the wheels of commerce, and also provide the monarch with a large cut of their revenue, the amount effectively at the whim and need of the King.

On July 18 1290 Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion giving Jews three months to leave England. The same King had passed the 1275 Statute of Jewry, outlawing usury and superficially intending to bring Jews into the general life of the nation. Some historians cite the less than solid accusations of ritual child murder by Jews as one of the reasons for the act; and coin-clipping is proffered as another. But behind the edict was Edward's desperate need for money. He had recently expelled Jews from his Gascon territories, relieving them of their goods too.

In England the expulsion was part of an unholy bargain with Parliament, which allowed Edward to levy a swingeing tax in return for forcing the small Jewish community out of England. It would not be until 1656, during Cromwell's rule , that the ban on Jewish settlement here was lifted, albeit informally.

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