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Welsh History Review


Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 1996-97

The anti-Jewish riots of 1911 in South Wales: a re-examination.

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On the night of 19 August 1911, a gang of two hundred 'young
fellows', allegedly singing Welsh hymn tunes, attacked Jewish shops in
Tredegar. Over the next few nights, Jewish shops were attacked in ten
other mining towns in south Wales. The police and infantry were called
in and 'running fights' between the authorities and rioters occurred.
Damage to Jewish property was put at £ 16,000, although no Jew was
injured. After a week, the rioting ceased as mysteriously as it had
begun. 1 This, in shorthand, is the accepted story of the anti-Jewish riots
in south Wales in 1911, events which have attracted a surprisingly large
literature, especially among historians concerned with British anti-
semitism.2 For historians of the Anglo-Jewish community the Welsh
1 Geoffrey Alderman, 'The Anti-Jewish Riots of August 1911 in South Wales',
Welsh History Review, VI (1972), esp. pp. 191-3.
2 Other scholarly writings on this topic include Geoffrey Alderman, 'The Jew as
Scapegoat? The Settlement and Reception of Jews in South Wales Before 1914',
Jewish Historical Society of England Transactions, XXVI (1979), and idem, 'Into the
Vortex: South Wales Jewry Before 1914', in Aubrey Newman (ed.), Provincial Jewry
in Victorian Britain (London, 1975); Colin Holmes, 'The Tredegar Riots of 1911:
Anti-Jewish Disturbances in South Wales', Welsh History Review, XI (1982); Ursula
Henriques, 'Introduction', and Anthony Glaser, 'The Tredegar Riots of August
1911', in Ursula R. Q. Henriques (ed.), The Jews of South Wales: Historical Studies
(Cardiff, 1993); and the following discussions in three recent histories of the Anglo-
Jewish community, Geoffrey Alderman, Modern British Jewry (Oxford, 1992), p.
127;V. D. Lipman, History of the Jews in Britain Since 1858 (New York, 1990), p. 87,
and W. D. Rubinstein, A History of the Jews in the English-Speaking World: Great
Britain (London, 1996), pp. 151-2. In this last book, no fresh evidence was
presented on the 1911 riots and the research for this article has been carried out
since the book's publication. I am most grateful to the University of Wales,
Aberystwyth, for a grant to facilitate translations frpm the Welsh concerning the
1911 riots, to my colleague Professor Aled Jones for his encouragement and helpful
discussions, and to Dr Ursula Henriques, Anthony Glaser, and Colin Thomas
(Teliesyn Ltd., Cardiff) for information and references.
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