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The Growth and Decline of North-East Jewish Communities, 1881-2000


  • Durham University
  • Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum (TWAM)

Person reading Torah

The industrial growth of the late Victorian period coincided with Jewish diasporic migration globally. While the influx of Jews from Eastern Europe was not as large in Britain as elsewhere, the diaspora nonetheless changed the British urban landscape from London to Glasgow. Some of the most dramatic growth – in terms of population percentages if not absolute numbers - occurred in the North East of England, where immigrants were attracted by developing industrial environments. This project explores why the Jewish communities of the North East, which grew rapidly in the period after 1881, decline dramatically in the latter half of the twentieth century. Newcastle, Sunderland and other smaller urban centres once were home not only to synagogues but to Jewish sports clubs, literary and dramatic societies, newspapers and charities. What caused this world to flourish and to fade? What impacts did its loss have in these urban centres?

The project employs a network analysis approach to trace the growth and decline of these communities. It will draw on the collection of archival documents housed at the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum (TWAM) in Newcastle - a collection largely untouched by scholars. It will also employ oral history to move beyond the demographics of decline to analyse the personal, familial and communal lived experience of this loss. This approach will allow us not only to map out who stayed in the North East and who did not, but to examine the intersections of social class, kinship networks, business partnerships and/or places of origin, and to analyse how group identities were constructed, and which identities, if any, outlasted the decline.

This project will run as a collaboration between Durham University’s History Department and the TWAM. It will offer a unique opportunity for the PhD student to learn how public-facing heritage projects develop from the inside, and to gain direct experience of research impact and knowledge transfer.

The supervisors for the project are Prof. Rebecca Clifford, Dr Tom Stammers, Prof. Richard Huzzey and Lizzy Baker (Archives Lead at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums).