Jewish Country Homes

North Front Waddesdon Manor. Photo by Chris Lacey National Trust Waddesdon ManorProfessor Abigail Green, history tutor at Brasenose, is leading an exciting research project on Jewish Country Houses in Britain, which include Waddesdon Manor, Strawberry Hill, Upton House and Hughendon Manor. The work is part of a wider research agenda exploring the history of Jewish liberals in constituting liberal political culture, with a particular focus on transnational family networks, social worlds and cultural transfer.

Jewish country houses have so far escaped systematic study because they do not fit existing paradigms either in modern Jewish history or country house studies. The historiography of European Jewish elites has tended to focus on the grande bourgeoisie in its urban setting and does not consider the role powerful Jewish families assumed through their rural estates, nor the role of Jewish country houses in the self-fashioning of many leading Jewish figures such as Benjamin Disraeli, Ferdinand de Rothschild and Philip Sassoon in the UK. Conversely, the literature on country houses, which typically focuses on the landed aristocracy, has paid little or no attention to the existence of country houses and rural estates in Jewish hands, or to the particular challenges this posed in a rural landscape and social context shaped by Christianity.

In March 2018, a conference was held at the University of Oxford, with the second day taking place at Waddesdon Manor, the only surviving Rothschild house with its collections and interiors intact. It brought scholars together scholars working on Jewish country houses across Europe, together with curators, museum and heritage professionals working either in ‘Jewish country houses’ themselves or in the area of European Jewish heritage more broadly.

The project was made possible through a seed-funding grant from the Jeffrey Bequest (which exists to promote publications in English local history), which enabled Professor Green to conduct an initial survey, which identified over 100 Jewish country houses in the UK and Europe. Since this initial work the research has gathered momentum and has received funding from the University of Oxford itself, the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, a partnership with the National Trust and Historic England, and Strawberry Hill House.

Read more about the research and conference

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