The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Scrutinizing a Scrutiny: Colchester 1275

On 24 November 1275, King Edward I (r. 1272-1307) issued orders that the archae, which held the record of debts to Jews (amongst other things), were to be sealed until their contents could be scrutinised (enrolled) by appointed officers. Seven of these rolls survive, with most having suffered varying levels of damage. The exception to this is the scrutiny roll detailing the contents of the Colchester archa, produced in the presence of the abbot of St. John’s and Walter of Essex on 29 December 1275. This roll is perfectly preserved and has suffered no damage. Consequently, it offers a unique opportunity to access the records of indebtedness at a provincial Jewry in 1275. Excitingly, eight of the forty-four debts recorded have survived as the original chirographs as well as enrolled summaries. This paper will explore the scale, extent and character of Jewish moneylending activities at the Colchester Jewry through a scrutiny roll (listing all of the debts, in summary, which were held in that chest) produced on 29 December 1275.