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Session 5 – ‘The Anti-Jewish Riots of 1911 in South Wales: A Re-Examination’ W.D Rubinstein

This blog post will focus on the main aspects of the re-examination of the riots in 1911 which took place in South Wales provided by W.D Rubinstein.


Overall, this article is lengthy due to the amount of detail it includes and shows a different perspective into the 1911 riots of South Wales. Rubinstein clearly highlights the aim of this articles in the introductory session which is to question all the popular assumptions about the riots. He does this by arguing that: philo-Semitism* was an important part of Welsh culture and identity, claims of premeditation were false and the anti-Jewish climate and anti-Semitic aspects assumed during these riots were greatly exaggerated.


To illustrate the first argument, Rubinstein points out that during the late 19th century when Jews were being persecuted in Russia, the Welsh were especially vocal in support of the victims which is evident through the rallies held in Wales against the persecution, first of which was held in February 1882 – 10 months after the first pogrom.


Additionally, the article argues that due to the lack of an organised group in South Wales at the given time, historians tend to exaggerate the importance of minor events around 1911 in order to emphasise a false belief of anti-semitism intensifying in the area. Rubinstein uses an example the ‘blood libel’ which allegedly took place in Pontypridd in 1903 and argues that the allegations were false and in fact were not based on any real evidence. As a matter of fact, the news of this was only published in one source where the information came from an unnamed correspondent.


Rubinstein next counter-argues the theory of the riots being fuelled by anti-Antisemitism, particularly ‘rich Jews’ anti-semitism. The article states that although there is evidence of left-wing sources targeting wealth individuals – primarily Jews – there is no evidence that could link such sources to the riots of 1911. Rubinstein also argues that although the riots began by targeting Jewish properties their dynamic changed over the following week as non-Jewish shops were also damaged – which was largely omitted by the press. The initial attacks of the riots – as argued by Rubinstein – were not fuelled by anti-Semitism but indeed rooted in economic reasons. The Jewish shopkeepers and landlords were accused of raising prices of necessities which angered to general public.


This articles in thorough and very informative – providing arguments that are not popular with other historians. The author uses a number of sources to form his counter-arguments which majorly focus on the work of Professor Alderman.


*philo-Semitism is described as an interest in, respect for and an appreciation of Jewish people.

One thought on “Session 5 – ‘The Anti-Jewish Riots of 1911 in South Wales: A Re-Examination’ W.D Rubinstein

  1. This blog post is a detailed and well-structured account of the Rubenstein article. The post explains the main arguments of Rubenstein, as well as highlighting the length and originality of the article. By giving a definition of a word the article uses that we may not be familiar with increases our overall understanding of the article at hand. Overall, the post explains the issues Rubenstein deals with, and gives examples to further our knowledge.

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