Jewish Community Histories in London

With Layers of London, Vesna Curlic, the first of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community's paid interns, produced a collection, focusing on the histories of Jewish communities in London.

London’s Jewish community has long roots in the city, reaching back to the 12th century. Though these communities were largely self-contained, medieval Jewish communities faced antisemitism, including legislation that limited where they could live and ultimately expelled Jews from England in 1290. There was also unofficial antisemitism, which came in the form of rumours of bloodthirsty Jewish rituals and mob violence against local Jewish communities. In the 18th century, Jewish Londoners began to develop multiple distinct senses of culture and ethnicity, with the development of separate Sephardim and Ashkenazim synagogues and charities. Many of these early institutions have been catalogued in this collection. The Jewish population continued to grow, even in the face of continued antisemitism, and historians estimate that by 1800, the number of Jewish people in England likely totalled between 20,000 and 30,000, with the majority in London. 

About the collection:

This collection brings together a series of institutions that were central to London’s Jewish community in the past 300 years, encompassing synagogues, homes, schools, medical institutions, and charities, among others. Some of the records in this collection, especially those related to religious institutions, come from the Victoria County History collection. Founded in 1899 and housed at the Institute of Historical Research, the VCH aims to write a comprehensive, county-by-county history of England. The project is ongoing, with networks of historians, local communities and County Trusts working together. Though this collection is in no way exhaustive, it does provide a small insight into this underrepresented community history. The amount of information available for each of these locations vary wildly. Some of these locations are nearly lost to the historical record. Some just existed for a few years or were contested in their existence. Others spanned centuries and became longstanding social or cultural institutions for London’s Jewish population.