19th Century Jewish Life aims to collect, organize and make widely available historical documents that reveal the rich history of Jewish life and culture. Its current focus is on nineteenth-century Britain—a central time and place in the history of Jewish migrations around the world.
Jewish enfranchisement was a central topic in the Victorian pubic imagination. Liverpool was a major departure point for Jews migrating from western and eastern Europe to North America, while London and other major British cities had growing and vibrant Jewish communities throughout the century. Although it is true that the stereotype of the tight-fisted Jewish money lender overshadowed some people’s perceptions of Jewish culture, in Britain alone, Jews experienced increasing legal rights, religious freedoms, voting and property rights. The British government was headed by a Jewish Prime Minister (Benjamin Disraeli) in 1868 and again from 1874-1880. And The Jewish Chronicle, the longest-running Anglo-Jewish daily newspaper (in print continuously since 1845) had tremendous influence on the politics and culture of the day.
This site was developed to bring together in one place the many types of historical documents that are increasingly available online. Ultimately, our aim is also to create partnerships with museums, libraries, historical societies, or private collections that hold related documents currently available only in print. Through such partnerships, we would look forward to building a valuable digital archive. Long-term plans call for expanding to include information and documents about continental European and North American Jewish life as well.
It is our hope that together, these materials will prove a resource of interest to scholars, teachers, students, and history buffs whose personal family stories may be enhanced by browsing these pages. If you have suggestions for further development of the site, or would like to partner with us, please contact us.
19th Century Jewish Life is maintained by the Jewish Studies program at Eastern Michigan University. Its work is made possible through the generous contributions of organizations and individuals who support its mission.