On November 1, 1290, the Edict of Expulsion issued by King Edward I – ordering the departure of all Jews from the kingdom -- took effect. The choice faced by members of this small community was between conversion or exile. Most chose the latter.
Edward had become king in 1272, and very quickly showed his readiness to adopt anti-Jewish measures. These included a prohibition on money-lending by Jews, a genuine blow, since this was a principal form of livelihood for members of the community. By July 18, 1290, when the king ordered their departure, the Jews were not making a significant contribution to the royal treasury, on the one hand (Edward’s predecessor, Henry III, had already tried increasing their tax burden, with limited success), and were the objects of popular hatred, as well as ecclesiastical discrimination, so that banishing them was not a difficult decision.
The number of Jews who had to leave England has been estimated at about 2,000. Some went to France, which enacted its own act of banishment in 1306 some ended up further east, in Poland. The small number of Jews (under 100) who converted had to give up their possessions, so a Domus Conversion (House of the Converts) was established in London to house and support them. Although significant numbers of Spanish Jews made their way into the kingdom after the Expulsion from Spain in 1492, it was not until 1656 that Oliver Cromwell officially allowed for their return.
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