chapter  14
The balance sheet
Pages 15

We might ask first of all how the conflict between Jews and non-Jews during this period compared with hostility towards Jews in Britain at other times. And in this respect it has to be said that in general, as far as discriminatory legislation and physical violence are concerned, Jews lived easier lives between 1876 and 1939 than they did in earlier years. Violence certainly manifested itself in the East End at the time of the great Jewish immigration, in south Wales in 19 1 1 , during the First World War and as Fascist Blackshirts marched through east London - but Jews did not have to contend with the perpetration of a centrally organized pogrom such as that which disfigured the medieval history of York.1 And nothing emerged in official policy which was as drastic as the expulsion order of 1290. The hopes entertained by some that Jews might be deported or encouraged to leave the country were never acted upon.2 In so far as legislation was passed which affected the mobility of Jews, it was designed to exclude undesirable immigrants. But even here it has to be stressed that such legislation was not aimed specifically at Jews, nor was it ever intended to keep out the able-bodied immigrants who might benefit the country.3 As for those Jews who were in Britain, no official action was undertaken to restrict their social and economic life. Medieval restrictions and the later problems of naturalization which sparked off the riots over the 1753 Jew Bill and the prolonged debate over emancipation in the nineteenth century were all reminders that Jews were not easily tolerated in Britain.4 But, nevertheless, emancipation was achieved and the process was not reversed.