English royal policy towards the Jews' debtors, 1227-1290.
This thesis attempts to analyse the English Crown's
relations with the Jews' debtors between 1227 and 1290.
The thesis is divided into three parts. The first section
covers Crown/debtor relations between 1227 (the year in which
Henry III officially undertook governance of the realm) and
1258, when a constitutional crisis temporarily ousted him
from power. An attempt is made to delineate the components of
royal policy during these years both the criteria which
determined royal responses to debtors appealing to the Crown
for relief, and the nature of those responses. It will be
argued that royal attitudes toward debtors were informed primarily
by the Crown's perception of Jewish wealth as a valued resource.
Having delineated the pre-1258 pattern of response to
debtors, we shall examine the fate of the indebted between 1258
and 1265, the period of reform and rebellion which culminated in
the destruction of rebel forces under Simon de Montfort and the
return to power of Henry III. In particular this section seeks to
ascertain whether or not the civil war experience marked a watershed
in Crown/debtor relations. Did treatment of debtors by the
baronial and Montfortian regimes diverge from that of its royal
predecessors? Did debtors perceive adherence to the opposition
as a means of expunging debts? In this section we try to ascertain
on a statistical basis the level of indebtedness among the
opposition, in order to determine whether debtors constituted a
sizeable force in the opposition to Henry, a force with which Henry
would have to come to terms.
The third section traces developments after the civil war until
the expulsion of the Jews in 1290. Particular attention is given
to the immediate post civil war period in order to demonstrate the
continuity of royal policy. We shall argue that far from trying
to conciliate debtors in the opposition, Henry attempted selectively
to undermine their status in deference to his own supporters.Nor did Henry III or Edward I alter their relations with
debtors after the civil war despite the introduction of
legislation in 1269 and 1271 purportedly designed to assist
debtors. We shall argue that the improved fortunes of
debtors coincided not with efforts to pacify the countryside
after the civil war but with the failure of the Crown's
attempts to profit from Jewish taxation after 1275.