Jews in the Regency
Posted by JW on March 17, 1998 at 01:59:37:
In response to Re: Jews in Regency, written by Leanne S on March 16, 1998 at 18:39:01
] ] ] Was there any ostracism of Jews in the Regency? Were they unwelcome in Austen's social circle (the landed gentry) or higher echelons? Did money or royal favour pave the way for any? Did any "make little" or hide their Jewishness?
] ] JW: The position of Jews in England was a contradictory one. On the one hand eminent families like the Rothschilds stood as high as any--they had financed the campaign against Napoleon in Spain and elsewhere in Europe. However, Jews were in practice excluded from many posts and functions. This was not due to anti-Semitism as such but to the fact that taking office,as an MP for example, involved taking a Christian oath, and observant Jews would not. There were also a group of Jews who had converted to the Church of England, of whom the most famous was Disraeli who became Prime Minister. There is little evidence of systematic anti-Jewish feeling in Britain at that time--indeed many European Jews immmigrated because of the lack of discrimination. But there was undoubtedly a good deal of informal prejudice.
] So socially, the Rothschilds and other Jewish banking families would be visible in genteel social circles? If not Almack's, then they would be present at other soirees held during the London Season?
] Thanks for the info, JW!
JW: Absolutely--as a sideline on social acceptance, there was actually a character in London society known as the Mosaic Dandy, one of the group of extraordinary gentelemen who prided themselves above all on the originality of their clothes. Beau Brummell was the first among these of course. Certainly the Rothschilds would be present at Court. Bear in mind that in most of the rest of Europe the Jews were still confined to the ghetrtoes or Judengasse, as the Rothschilds had been at Frankfort. I am not saying that the usual unpleasant stereotypes were not present, but there were some mitigating factors not present in other parts. There was a small but quite influential group called the British Israelites, who believed that, as Britain had been chosen (obviously) to be the leading nation, the British must be descended from the Israelites, as the Bible says. Some of their converts did not do them much credit. Lord George Gordon who instigated the Gordon Riots, converted to Judaism. But the strain of religious seriousness which began in the late 18th century did have an effect on attitudes to Jews.
- British Israelites Tilde 06:29:35 3/17/98 (0)
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.