Alumnus publishes book on the Jews of Cornwall
Cornwall was the first of the Celtic regions of Britain and Ireland to be annexed by the English, and so the first to lose its native language. The linguistic and cultural confusion which resulted from the death of Cornish led to unsubstantiated but persistent traditions that Phoenicians, Saracens and Jews had been present in Cornwall from ancient times and that Jews had controlled and operated the tin industry in medieval times.
In this substantial and meticulously researched book, Keith Pearce, who was a graduate student at Exeter College in 1970, applies a critical and penetrating analysis to the place of Jews in Cornish folklore, and also distinguishes the Cornish Jews from the indigenous Cornish Gentiles who adopted Hebrew names, but who are not known to have been of Jewish descent.
In the main body of the text, the identities, occupations and commercial contribution of those Jews who lived in Cornwall in the 18th and 19th centuries and who settled in Cornwall’s southern ports of Falmouth, Penzance and Truro, as well as in Redruth and St Austell, are presented in remarkable detail. There are comprehensive family trees, biographies, information from public records, membership of civic organisations, such as Freemasonry, and complete translations of Hebrew headstones, which should be of great value to those tracing their own family history. All of the Rabbis known to have served in Falmouth and Penzance have also been identified, some, like Rabbi BA Simmons, living in the County for 50 years, and the religious life of the congregations and their struggle to survive is also given extensive coverage.
With many original illustrations, The Jews of Cornwall represents a major contribution to Cornish and Anglo-Jewish history, representing some 30 years of study and research.
The Jews of Cornwall is published by Halsgrove and is available to buy online here.