Sunday, 1 May 2016

‘[T]he Norwich tallage roll’ (TNA E/401/1565), a red herring

I was reading something today and came across a reference to the caricature of Isaac of Norwich and his family ‘at the head of a 1233 Norwich tallage roll’. This reference was in a piece of literature by a historian that I greatly respect and admire and perpetuates an assumption which is common in the literature: i.e. that TNA E/401/1565 relates to the Jews of medieval Norwich. To make such an important oversight which suggests that those who refer to the tallage roll thus only look at pictures of the caricature which are available in a plethora of locations and formats. The problem with these duplicates is that the text on the roll is not similarly reproduced. Though not especially substantive (especially in comparison with other Jewish tallage rolls), this text does include an important feature: there is no entry for Norwich (the entries relate to Gloucester, Lincoln, London and Middlesex, Northampton, Nottingham and Derby, Oxford, and Wiltshire). Moreover, I cannot see a reference to Isaac of Norwich listed in any of the columns. That being said, there are a couple of references to which could be to Mosse Mokke or Abigail but my photographs aren’t of high enough quality to be able to discern the ‘surname’. However, this does seem to suggest that far to much attention has been given by historians to the caricature at the top of the tallage roll to the detriment of the study of the roll itself, which is for me an important oversight and brings into question why the caricature was included on the roll in the first place. It also brings me back to the philosophy that I try to live by with my own research: always go back to the original documents for yourself rather than relying on an intermediary.

The caricature can be found here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/medieval-mystery/ 

For more on the Jewish caricatures see review #17.

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