Mosse Mokke in league with the Devil

A receipt roll for the heavy taxation (tallage) of Issac fil Jurnet in Norwich, 1233 • The National Archives

This grotesque cartoon from The National Archives is a detail from a 1233 receipt roll from Norwich. It depicts Mosse Mokke in league with the Devil and leaves little doubt about how the Jews of Norwich were viewed at the time (E 401/1565).

The receipt roll was for the heavy taxation (tallage) of Issac fil Jurnet in Norwich. Isaac is drawn as a three-faced devil at the top of the image. Another devil, named as Colbif touches Mosse Mokke, Isaac’s debt collector (in his identifying spiked hat), and Mosse’s wife Avegaye. All the Jews in the image were accused of charging excessive interest on loans. Mosse Mokke was executed for coin-clipping in 1240.

Once William I invited Jewish merchants into England after 1066, they became collective property of the crown. King John confirmed much earlier liberties for the Jews in 1207.

In return for such rights and protections, England’s rulers exploited the Jewish privilege to lend money at interest. Many early deeds suggest a largely productive business relationship between Jews and Christians. However, as the wealth of individual Jewish merchants grew, the crown targeted the entire community to fund warfare and to boost tax income. The wider population also followed this lead and agitated against the growing levels of debt owed to Jewish creditors. A deteriorating relationship between the two communities is suggested by the rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents from the 1230s onwards.

Read more about Medieval Jewish history seen through the prism of the National Archive’s collection in this fascinating blog by Dr Sean Cunningham.


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