The Jewish Contribution to English Law: Through 1858 to Modern Times

Book description

The story of Jewish emancipation is not well-known, nor how Jews made such an important contribution to law and democracy in England. In The Jewish Contribution to English Law, Barrington Black explains how Jews first came to the UK, were expelled, returned, and eventually took their place in Parliament and on the bench.

He tells of the first Jewish lawyers as well as those who rose to be judges, President of the Supreme Court, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls and Attorney-General. The turning point was a Statute of 1858 which allowed Jews to take an oath compatible with their religious beliefs (extending comparable benefits conferred on Catholics almost 70 years before). This opened the doors for the first unconverted Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild, after which the judiciary beckoned.

The book surveys Jewish heritage from ancient times to the days when modern governments turned to Jewish lawyers in troubling times — and it records lawyers famous and less well-known: the pioneers, the trailblazers, the experts and the mavericks who helped build the system we have today.

The Jewish Contribution to English Law is full of insights into Jewish life. Based on a lifetime of research and reflection, the book tells why Jews were drawn to the law, charts history to and since 1858, and contains pen portraits of many Jewish judges, barristers, solicitors and lawyer politicians.


‘A superb book and owing to Barrington Black’s rather cheery style most readable.’– Brian P Block JP.

‘An interesting, well-researched, erudite and often humorous account… well-written, and clearly a labour of love.’– Jacqueline Levene LLB (Hons), Honorary Secretary, UK Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (Read full review).


Barrington Black was for many years one of the UK’s best-known criminal solicitors and founder of a Leeds practice known as Black’s. Next a Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate (district judge) then Circuit Judge he rounded-off his long judicial career as a Supreme Court Justice in Gibraltar. As a lawyer he appeared in high-profile cases including representing Donald Nielsen (‘The Black Panther’). A frequent writer to The Times, Telegraph and Jewish Chronicle he also contributed to Yorkshire TV’s Calendar and BBC’s Look North. A long-time resident of Harrogate, council member and Parliamentary candidate he now lives in North London. His autobiography was published by Waterside Press in 2015.