Published in the Daily Express today:
Researchers discovered that occupants of the towns, predominantly in the south and midlands, have much more positive feelings towards immigrants than others.
Jews began to arrive in England following the Norman conquest in 1066 and were allowed to settle in around 30 towns where they stayed until being expelled at the end of the 13th century.
Towns with a substantial medieval Jewish population were identified by the presence of a chest, or archa, where by law all local contracts between Jews and Christians had to be deposited.
The study by Professor David Fielding, an economist at New Zealand’s University of Otago, found that people surveyed in these towns showed less support for the anti-immigration UKIP and BNP political parties.
Writing in the British Journal of Political Science, Professor Fielding said: “The results consistently point to a significant difference between English towns with a Jewish heritage and those without.
“In the twenty-first century, towns that welcomed medieval Jews show less anti-immigrant sentiment and less support for far-right parties.
“The results here also suggest the persistence of an underlying cultural trait, of which attitudes towards a specific ethnic minority are just one expression, since the Jewish community was expelled from England in 1290 and there was no substantial foreign immigration until four centuries later.”
Explaining the historical background, he added: “In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, England was home to a large Jewish community that had emigrated from France in the years following the Norman Conquest of 1066.
“However, the distribution of Jewish communities was not uniform across the country: communities were established in about thirty English towns, and Jews were largely absent elsewhere.
“These communities survived to the end of the thirteenth century, when all Jews were expelled from England.
“This was the first event of this kind in Europe, 200 years before the expulsions from Spain and Portugal.
“England was officially barred to Jews until 1656, and although there were probably a few Jewish families living secretly in Tudor London, there was a period of nearly 400 years during which neither the Jews nor any other minority of overseas origin established a community in England.”
The research involved modelling responses to survey questions from the British Election Studies of 2005 and 2010 while taking respondents’ socioeconomic and constituency characteristics into account.
Professor Fielding says the findings imply that certain cities have an inherent ability to cope more easily with ethnic diversity and this could be used to boost trade.
He added: “Policies that persuade such cities to take advantage of this ability by encouraging immigration or investment in activities that require more racial tolerance, such as international trade and tourism, could promote economic growth at the local and national levels.”
The towns that accepted Jews were: