Christian Philosemitism in England from Cromwell to the Jew Bill, 1656-1753. A Study in Jewish and Christian Identity.

  • Rodney Curtis

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


Christian philosemitism promotes a positive view of Jewish people, in contrast to the substantially antisemitic approach of the church until the mid-seventeenth century. The source is during the Puritan era, strongly promoted by Evangelicals within the Protestant church. They taught about Jewish Restorationism and Millennialism, emphasising the Jewish nation, but not the Jews as individuals. Cromwell responded to the petition from Manasseh ben Israel, an influential Rabbi from Amsterdam requesting the Readmission of the Jews to England, by convening the Whitehall Conference in December 1655. The Conference ended in chaos, but it stated there was no legal objection to a Jewish return. Existing Conversos in London were allowed a synagogue in 1657 and a Jewish cemetery. Why did Cromwell support the Jews; was he philosemitic or did economic prosperity influence him?

At the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, he supported the Jews, legally accepting them in 1684. Mainly Sephardic merchants and traders became established in London. In 1688, William III brought his philosemitic attitudes from Holland, because some Jews there had financed his return. Jews actively supported George II during the Jacobite rebellion, winning the King’s favour. Samson Gideon (1699-1762) was a wealthy and influential Jewish international banker, demonstrating Jewish integration into English society. When the Jewish Naturalisation Bill (Jew Bill) was passed in 1753, the response shockingly resulted in riots and it was immediately repealed, against a background of national antisemitism.

The early eighteenth century witnessed a resurgence of Evangelicalism, with the Evangelical Awakening, connected with the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield. This revived an active philosemitic interest in the Jews, dormant between 1660 and 1730. The theme of Jewish and Christian identity will inform this study, focussing on the Jews as individual people, and take a biographical trajectory. Recently Jewish studies has embraced English social history and Jewish conversion. The underlying question is: how philosemitic were the English people between 1656 and 1753, and subsequently?
Date of Award28 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKenneth R G Austin (Supervisor) & Jon Balserak (Supervisor)

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