Identity and equality : the Anglo-Jewish community in the post-emancipation era 1858-1887
This thesis examines the Anglo-Jewish community in the three decades following its so-called emancipation as legally equal citizens. Beginning with Lionel de Rothschild's entry into Parliament in 1858 and concluding with the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition's encomium to Jewish life of 1887, this era witnessed the reconceptualisation of Anglo-Jewish identity as the minority completely entered British society after centuries of marginalisation. This thesis focuses upon three interlinked case-studies of different strands of Jewish leadership as they experienced their new identity and numerous practical issues regarding everyday interaction: the first Jewish MPs; the representative Board of Deputies of British Jews; and the community's religious infrastructure. Through analysis and comparison of these elite groups this work explores questions of inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogue, minority-majority relationships, acculturation, and subculture formation in late nineteenth-century Britain. It argues that Anglo-Jewry's emancipation was ambiguous; British acceptance was not neutral but carried reciprocal expectations. The community thus felt the dichotomy of Diasporic Jewish existence - being particularist in a universalist society - acutely in these years. Moving in tandem with British society forced many concessions from Jews' sectarian identity, the form and extent of which remained indeterminate as a result. The expected acculturation was forthcoming and the community fashioned itself a distinctive British variant of Jewish existence. However, this thesis contends that this was not always a forced or unpleasant experience. Many Jews willingly embraced aspects of British identity they appreciated. There were also numerous instances of the community being able to preserve its exceptionality. The British state and wider society showed a remarkable willingness to accommodate cases of Jewish particularity. This thesis demonstrates the tolerant nature of Britain's civil society (and indicates some of the boundaries to this), whilst also revealing the remarkable level of confluence between Anglo-Jewish and British ideals at this time. Fundamentally, it suggests, with some reservations, that Anglo-Jewry be viewed as an example of successful integration.