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Thesis title: From “the Pharisee” to “the Zionist Menace”: Myths, Stereotypes and Constructions of the Jew in English Catholic Discourse (1896-1929)

  • Funded with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Successful viva (external examiner: Professor Tony Kushner; internal examiner: Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus)
  • Supervisor: Professor Daniel Langton

Supported by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, my PhD project examined how Jews and Judaism were represented in English Catholic discourses from 1896 to 1929. After my PhD, and with the help of two research grants from the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, I extended my original PhD investigation to include a more complete picture of how Jews were represented in English Catholic discourses during the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

As little has been written about English Catholic representations of “the Jew” during this time frame, my primary aim was to excavate layers of discourse which, with the exception of the published works of a few prominent individuals, had hitherto remained largely unexamined. I examined a wide range of sources, including:

  • Published works (books, booklets and pamphlets) of prominent and obscure authors
  • Pastoral letters and sermons of cardinals, bishops and priests
  • Articles and editorials in English Catholic newspapers and magazines (such as the Catholic Herald, the Catholic Times and the Tablet)
  • Personal correspondence
  • Letters to the editors of newspapers
  • Unpublished documents
  • Oral testimonies

In these discourses, Jews were often stereotyped as greedy, cowardly, unpatriotic, secretive, anti-social and revolutionary villains, and assigned roles derived from biblical and medieval myths. Jews were cast in the role of the intransigent Pharisee, the Christ-killer, the ritual murderer, the sorcerer, and the Jewish Antichrist. Jews were frequently portrayed in conjunction with Freemasons and Bolsheviks, and together vilified as secretive anti-Christian revolutionaries and conspirators, or diabolized as Satanists and Luciferians. In some cases the language used suggested an apocalyptic battle between a phalanx of righteous Catholic forces and a dark network of secret societies and conspiracies supposedly organised by Jews, Freemasons and Bolsheviks.

Conversely, Jews and Judaism were sometimes defended or praised. For example, in the 1930s the Catholic Worker was consistently critical of fascism, rejected hostile myths and stereotypes about Jews, and condemned antisemitism. Similarly, from 1912 to 1917, the Universe, an English Catholic newspaper under the editorship of William Dunbar McConnell, a convert to Catholicism with sympathies for socialism, was often positive about Jews and critical of antisemitism. Furthermore, whilst hostile myths and stereotypes about Jews were a prominent feature of English Catholic newspapers and intellectual discourse during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ordinary working-class Catholics of England often rejected or ignored such anti-Jewish narratives.

I am currently preparing a book about the persistence of the “mythic Jew” in English Catholic discourses during the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. For articles and essays based on my PhD research, please see:

‘The “Roman Catholic Question” in the Anglo-Jewish Press, 1890-1925’, Melilah 7 (2010).

‘From the Christ-Killer to the Luciferian: The Mythologized Jew and Freemason in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century English Catholic Discourse’, Melilah 8 (2011).

‘Zionism and Anti-Zionism in the Catholic Guild of Israel: Bede Jarrett, Arthur Day and Hans Herzl’, Melilah 10 (2013).

Anti-Masonry and the Myth of the Jewish-Masonic Alliance in English Catholic Discourse, 1894–1935‘, Heredom 22 (2014).