The 1753 Jewish naturalization bill and the polemic over credit

Avinoam Yuval-Naeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The polemic surrounding the 1753 Jewish Naturalization Bill was one of the major public opinion campaigns in Britain in the eighteenth century' as well as the most significant event in the history of Britain's Jews between their seventeenth-century admission and nineteenth-century emancipation. The bill proposed to offer Jews a private act of naturalization without the sacramental test. A costly and cumbersome process' the measure could have had only minor practical impact. Due to its symbolic significance' however' the bill ignited public clamor in hundreds of newspaper columns' pamphlets' and prints. What made it so resonant' and why was the opposition so successful in propagating opposition to the motion? It has been commonly argued that the entire affair was an instance of partisan conflict in which the Jews themselves played an incidental role. This paper throws light on the episode from an alternative perspective' arguing that a central reason for its resonance was that the discussion on the Jews evoked concerns with the expanding financial market and its sociopolitical implications. As Jews had by that time become emblematic of modern finance' they embodied contemporary anxieties about the economy' national identity' and their interrelations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-492
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of British Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


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