Saturday, March 24, 2012

Retro rabbits

Though I am not a chocolate eater, this window display speaks to me. It conjures up a dimly remembered world run by rather distant but benevolent adults in which there was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

A world where movement was reassuringly constrained.

A pre-digital, pre-New Age world where machines were machines and people were people. Where parents were parents and children were children.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

English Jewish surnames revisited

[This page remains active with the names list being periodically updated and comments welcome.]

As I have mentioned previously, some of the names of my (English) forebears would seem to indicate Jewish origins, and I would like to make a few general comments on the topic of Jewish immigration and surnames in the English-speaking world.

It's difficult to find good information on the history of Jewish assimilation in England. Jewish leaders naturally see the preservation of their religious and cultural heritage as paramount and often speak disparagingly of those who, over the centuries, intermarried with Christians and adopted Christianity or drifted away from religion altogether. And many who write on Jewish history take a similar line: Jewish culture and tradition are what they are interested in.

The stigma associated with assimilation is understandable, as it was only a strong sense of community that kept Jewish beliefs and customs alive in a world which lacked a Jewish homeland. But, as a consequence of the focus on synagogues and communities which maintained their religious heritage, I suspect that the standard histories of Jews in England underestimate the real number of immigrants with Jewish origins, in particular those descended from Jews from the Iberian peninsula. There were particularly significant migrations during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Many people are interested not so much in Jewish religion and culture as in their own family histories, or, for that matter, in the ethnic history of their country. They see assimilated Jews not in terms of their ancestral religion or culture but rather as individuals who contributed to the broader culture of the country in which they chose to live.

New methods of genetic analysis* are revolutionizing the way we trace our ancestors. For the present, however, most of us rely on traditional records and, where records do not exist, on names and the clues that names can give of ethnic or geographic origins.

Unfortunately, Jewish naming practices make it very difficult for researchers. In many parts of Europe, Jews maintained their traditional practice of assigning patronymics and were slow to adopt the practice of giving permanent family names. For this and other reasons (such as the lack of a homeland, persecution and discrimination), Jews have been more inclined to adopt new or modified surnames than most other peoples.

Of course, in English-speaking countries, certain surnames - often German or Hebraic – are well-known as indicating Jewish origins. [A fairly good list is here. And here is a good explanatory article on the origins of Ashkenazic last names.] But Jewish immigrants often modified foreign-sounding names or chose English surnames, and some names were favored over others.

I have compiled a list of surnames based on my own (limited) knowledge and research. I emphasize that these names do not necessarily indicate Jewish origins, and some are more strongly indicative than others. I have excluded almost all Biblical (Hebrew), Polish and most German and other obviously non-English names and intend to refine the list over time, deleting names with only tenuous claims to be here and adding others. Comments and suggestions, either via this site or to my email address**, are welcome.

Abrams, Adams, Albert, Allen, Alexander, Alpert, Ames, Angel, Ansell, Archer, Arnold, Asher, Asherson, Astley, Avery, Baker, Ball, Banks, Barber, Barkin, Barnard, Barnett, Baron, Barr, Barret, Barrett, Barron, Barrow (sometimes from Baruch), Bart, Barton, Bass, Batt, Beck, Becker, Beer, Belcher, Bell, Bellman, Belman, Belmont, Benedict, Bennet, Bennett, Benson, Bentley, Bernard, Berry, Bickel, Bickell, Bickle, Bird, Blond, Bloomfield, Black, Blacker, Blackman, Blackwell, Blank, Block, Blue, Bolton, Booker, Bookman, Brand, Brice, Brill, Brilliant, Briscoe, Brock, Brody, Brooks, Broomfield, Brower, Brown, Buckley, Burstin, Bush, Byrd, Cain, Cap, Cape, Capp, Carpenter, Carter, Chandler, Chaplin, Chester, Chetwynd (an old English name without any apparent links to commonly Jewish names, but I have come across a couple of instances of Jewish families adopting it), Cline, Cobb, Cole, Coleman, Cook, Cooke, Cooper, Cope, Copeland, Copland, Cove, Cripps, Crossman, Crouch, Cutler, Darley, David, Davidson, Davies, Davis, Diamond, Dove, Draper, Durant, Eastman, Ellis, Ellman, Elman, Elton, Fain (from Feinstein?), Faine (from Feinstein?), Falk, Feldman, Finch, Fine (from Feinstein?), Finniston (from Feinstein), Firestone, Fish, Fisher, Forster, Foster, Fox, Frank, Franks, Fredman, Freedman, Freeman, Froman, Gardner, Garfield, Garland, Gilbert, Glass, Gold, Golden, Golding, Goldsmith, Good, Goodman, Goodwin, Gordon (from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin (townsman)), Gould, Gray, Green, Greenfield, Greenwood, Grey, Gross, Hacker, Hale (as variant spelling of Ashkenazic Halle), Halperin (from Heilbronn, Germany), Halpern (see Halperin), Hancock, Harding, Harman, Harris***, Harrison, Hart, Hartman, Harvey, Harwood, Hayman, Heller (from Halle, Germany), Helman, Hendler, Henry, Hering, Herring, Hickman, Hill, Hiller, Hilton, Holden, Holder, Hollander (from a town in Lithuania settled by the Dutch?), Holman, Holt, Holton, Hook, Horn, Horne, Horton, Horwich (from the town Horovice in Bohemia?), Hurwich (see Horwich), Hyams, Hyatt, Hyman, Ivory, Jarvis (sometimes from the Eastern European Javitz, as in the case of the family of the American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson), Jewel, Jewell, Jones (from Jonas or Jonah), Kane, Kay, Kaye, Kennard, King (from Koenig), Kline, Lambert, Landon, Landis, Lane, Lang, Langer, Langerman, Langley, Langman, Lawrence, Lawson, Leavit, Leavitt, Lee, Leigh, Leonard, Leslie, Lester, Levin, Levine, Levett, Levitt, Lewis, Libson (eastern Ashkenazic metronymic), Lincoln, Lipson (eastern Ashkenazic patronymic or in some cases variation of Lipschitz (Polish town)), Lipton, Little, London, Long, Lott, Low, Lowe, Lowy, Lucas, Lyon, Lyons, Lytton, Mack, Mander, Manders, Mann, Marchant, Marcus, Marks, Marshall, Mason, Maurice, Maxwell, May, Mayman, Merchant, Michael, Michell, Miller, Millman, Milman, Mitchell, Montague, Morris, Moss, Moyse, Myer, Myers, Nelson, New, Newman, Newmark, Nichol, Nicholl, Nicholls, Nichols, Nobel, Norman, Oliver, Paley, Palmer, Park, Parker, Parrish, Parsons, Pavey, Pearl, Pearlman, Peavey, Peavy, Peck, Perkins, Perry (from Pereira), Pepper, Phillip, Phillips, Pine, Pinner, Pittman, Platt, Polk, Pollard, Pollock, Pool, Poole, Porter, Portman, Posner, Powers, Price, Priest, Prince, Rae, Raine, Randall, Ray, Raye, Raymond, Reed, Rees, Reid, Rendel, Rest, Rice, Rich, Robbins, Robert, Roberts, Robertson, Robin, Robins, Robinson, Ronson, Rose, Rosefield, Ross, Roth, Rothman, Rothwell, Ruby, Sacks, Salmon, Salman, Sams, Sand, Sanders, Sandler, Sands, Sassoon, Saunders, Saville, Saxon, Selwyn, Sharman, Sharp (from German Scharf (=sharp-witted); or perhaps Shapiro), Sharpe (see Sharp), Shaw, Shayne, Sher (Ashkenazic, from word for scissors or shears as used by tailors), Sherman, Sherwood, Shields, Shinwell, Shore (from Schorr), Short, Silk, Sills, Silver, Silverstone, Simmonds****, Simmons, Simon, Simons, Sims, Sinclair, Singer, Singleton, Sless, Sloman, Smith, Snell (from the German name Schnell), Snider (from word for tailor), Snyder (from word for tailor), Somers, Sommer, Sommers, Speed (from the German name Schnell), Spelling, Sperling, Spurling, Stainer (from Steiner?), Stanley, Stark (from Yiddish Shtark=strong), Starr, Sterling, Stone, Strong (translation of Yiddish Shtark?), Sugar, Summers, Sumner, Swan, Swann, Swanson, Syme, Symes, Symonds, Taft (from Tugendhaft), Tate, Taylor, Temple, Trilling, Turner, Uren, Vale, Waddell, Walker, Wall, Waller, Walt, Walter, Walters, Ward, Wardle, Waterman (from Wascherman or Wasserman(n)), Watt, Webber, Weller, Whaley, White, Whiteman, Whitman, Wideman, Wiley, Winner, Winston, Winters, Winton, Wise, Wolf, Wolfson, Woolf, Worley, Yates, Young, Younger.

[And here is a list of names I am currently considering, some of which will be transfered to the main list in due course: Benson, Bland, Bonnett, Bowman, Brack, Bracks, Bray, Brayer, Briar, Brier, Buckle, Burns, Cantwell, Carr, Clifton, Coe, Colman, Corbin, Corbyn, Couch, Couchman, Crane, Crawford, Davenport, Dillon, Douglas, Eliot, Elliot, Epps, Evans, Fay, Faye, Ford, Foreman, Forman, Gates, Harlow, Harrod, Harrold, Hodges, Honeyman, Hooker, Hubbard, Jackson, Jane, Jamison, Judd, Kerr, Knight (? from Sephardic Cabalero/Caballero/Cabaliero = knight or horseman), Lewin, Lipset, Mack, Marlow, Martel, Martell, Martin, Merton, Morrison, Mosely, Newcomb, Paul, Paulson, Pember (from Pemper?), Peters, Pinter, Quin, Quinn, Raynor, Roderick, Rodgers, Rogers, Rogerson, Russell, Sailor, Sayer, Sayers, Saylor, Sefton, Sheldon, Simkin, Simpkins, Sturgeon, Tolkin, Tucker, Watson, Welch, Wheeler, Watts, Wyatt.

I am also looking at names based on place names: towns, cities, regions, countries, etc. (e.g. Amsterdam or Holland). Or on nationalities (like German or French).]

* I suspect that DNA analysis is going to present an unwelcome and challenging picture for those who wish to maintain a simple concept of Jewish ethnicity. Of course, it is well known that the population groups which have formed the Jewish people over the centuries have been geographically divided and genetically diverse, so it will come as no surprise if there are no clear genetic markers for Jewish ethnicity. What DNA analysis will do, however, is to indicate how particular populations have maintained continuity or merged with neighbouring populations.

** engmar3 at gmail dot com.

*** It is difficult to know whether to include here such common English names as 'Harris' which in the majority of cases is not Jewish, but which has been adopted by Jews. Preliminary Y-DNA results may be of interest. Y-DNA results for Harris (based on 465 samples) reflect standard Western European/Scandinavian patterns (haplogroups R1b1 and I1), though there are also instances of haplotypes characteristic of Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and African populations. But even names which are more identifiably Jewish (e.g. Silver) are often associated with the R1b1 haplogroup.

**** Note an interesting surname change in the late nineteenth century from Raby to Simmonds.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Right-wing alternatives to free-market capitalism

Most critiques of capitalism are inspired by leftist ideas, but not all approaches accept the Marxist emphasis on class struggle and some have little interest in egalitarian ideals.

Chinese radicalism, for example, is first and foremost nationalistic and focuses now on the need for social harmony. Strong Confucian values - which have proved more resilient than the early revolutionaries foresaw - are incompatible not only with class conflict but also with strict egalitarianism.

In Europe, there has been a revival of right-wing radicalism, driven largely by economic upheavals and the perceived problems of mass immigration. In fact, I suspect the radical right will become more significant in the years to come as the economic situation worsens.

In France, the theorists and activists of the far right draw on a tradition of French and European thought expounded amongst others by Maurice Bardèche in the post World War II period. Bardèche wrote an essay* on 'fascist socialism', reprising a theme previously taken up in France by the novelist Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Bardèche freely admits it's an idea which has never really been tested or implemented and his whole approach is romantic and revolutionary rather than pragmatic and conservative. He is essentially a literary figure, having written highly regarded works on French writers (notably on Proust) and on the history of cinema.

Bardèche believed that every new vision of social relations which rejects Marxism rests on a number of postulates. Only an authoritarian regime, he thought, can protect the national interest against the power of global capital. It is a key function of the state to protect the nation's economy which is such a crucial part of the social fabric.

In fact, modern nations are politico-economic enterprises and power lies just as much with those who control the economy as with those who make political decisions. Bardèche recognized, however, that the instruments appropriate to the exercise of such integrated power were yet to be invented.

He thought there should be loyal collaboration between different groups and classes rather than class struggle. The latter leads to the sabotage of the nation's economy and to a bureaucratic dictatorship. It is a function of the state to encourage and promote labor-capital collaboration.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on nationalism on the part of the radical right is inevitably associated with racism and the tendency to blame foreigners (whether they be non-European immigrants or the supposed - and inevitably 'Jewish' - agents of international capital) for the nation's problems.

My personal view is that European neo-fascism is little more than a quasi-literary fantasy, albeit a dangerous one (because it can give a cloak of sophistication and respectability to thuggish groups and causes). Chinese state capitalism will have a far greater global impact, but to what extent it will adapt to the current global economic system and to what extent it will change it remains to be seen.

* Socialisme fasciste. Waterloo: Editions de Javelot, 1991.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Walking home last evening, deep in a city park, I passed a couple smooching on a park bench. I heard just a few words.

"He's working," she said. "All night. On night shift."

Poor chap.

And then I wondered, why did she not invite her boyfriend to her home and cuddle in comfort?

Of course, the neighbours.

And the risk, as in countless movies, of leaving clues, two wine glasses on the table instead of one, his umbrella in the corner, that kind of thing.