Pride versus Prejudice

Jewish Doctors and Lawyers in England, 1890-1990

By John Cooper

Now available in paperback, this pioneering study is a treasure trove of new information, illustrating the lives and professional experiences of the people involved in such a way as to demonstrate clearly both the obstacles they faced and the status they achieved. Its wealth of detail - in many cases, fleshing out the careers of leading Jewish professional figures for the first time - makes engaging reading. The narrative proceeds with careful attention to social context, starting with England's Victorian and Edwardian eras. For the medical profession, the account of subsequent changes begins with the influx of Jews into medical schools after 1914. The book describes the problems encountered by these Jewish medical students, most of whom were from immigrant families. Finding employment even as general practitioners was problematic, and almost insurmountable barriers confronted aspirants to consultant status. In the 1930s, fear of antisemitism caused the leaders of Anglo-Jewry to try to persuade young Jews from becoming doctors at all. The establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 resulted in fundamental changes in the medical profession, permitting Jews to enter specialties from which they had previously been excluded and to climb to the highest rungs within the medical hierarchy. The book summarizes the careers of many prominent Jewish doctors. The experience of Jews in the legal profession is examined in similar detail, setting the context with a discussion of the treatment of Jewish litigants in the early years of the 20th century in the Whitechapel County Court and the criminal courts. The book shows how the persistence of an anti-Jewish bias in the interwar period limited opportunities for Jews and dissuaded them from entering the law. After the war, major changes in the economy and legal system allowed Jewish law firms to expand rapidly. Many of these firms consequently began to admit Jewish partners for the first time. Jewish barristers were likewise able to enter the more lucrative pastures of company and tax law. From the late 1960s, Jews were also promoted in increasing numbers to position on the High Court Bench. As well as giving a detailed picture of these mainstream developments, the book also looks at the careers of Jewish communist, socialist, and maverick lawyers. The story will appeal not only to readers with a general interest in the subject but also to social historians. It is based on a wide range of sources, including newspapers and professional journals, archival material, law reports, and interviews conducted by the author, and there is a detailed index of names and subjects. As well as providing an illuminating account of recent Jewish social history, the book makes a valuable contribution to the history of the medical and legal professions, and to the scholarly debate as to whether or not antisemitism was of peripheral or central importance in Anglo-Jewish history.

462 pages

Publication Date: 11/1/2012
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781906764425