The Archive after Cecil Roth: Jewish studies, cultural history and the Cecil Roth Collection

Cecil Roth papers

photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou

Series Conveners

Eva Frojmovic

Jay Prosser  

This series is also supported by a Post-Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Colella 

Aims of the Series 

This seminar series and research project in collaboration with Special Collections seeks to investigate and disseminate the Cecil Roth Collection held by the Brotherton Library. The seminar series and other research meetings will explore the Roth Collection with a view to further research and research funding.

Research Context 

The Cecil Roth Collection held by the Brotherton Library represents one of the most significant -- yet under-researched -- international archives involving (but not restricted to) Jewish history. Roth (1899-1970) was a prolific historian and the editor-in-chief of the first edition (1970) of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. He was also co-founder (in 1932) of the Jewish Museum in London and a significant collector in his own right. Roth’s disciplinary range, his attention to cultural materiality and cultural memory, and crucially his adoption of areas of enquiry in Jewish studies beyond Semitic languages and biblical/rabbinic study, make Roth a pioneer in (early modern) Jewish cultural studies and material culture, and an important thinker of the archive. He is seriously underestimated, with no studies of his intellectual contribution (beyond an early festschrift: Remember the Days, ed. Shaftesley, 1966). The Archive after Cecil Roth represents the first substantial research on Roth’s archive and his influence. As well as advancing the work of Special Collections, and being interdisciplinary and collaborative within and beyond the Faculty, this project is designed with a view to stimulating further research funding, international research, and international impact activity.

The Roth Collection at Leeds, which is the depository of Roth’s books and manuscripts, is in keeping with Roth’s own immense historical and geographical purview. Including over 900 pre-1850 printed books, 750 manuscripts, and some 3000 pamphlets, the collection consists of an array of items in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew Judeo-Arabic/French, etc.), which cover many subjects and periods, and which engage many disciplinary interests (art history, literature, history, liturgy/music, photography, for example). Collection strengths tend to fall into less-studied subjects: Jews in India; Sephardim (Mediterranean Jewry), and sects such as the Karaites and Samaritans. The collection also contains material related to the Holocaust. That the Collection’s own catalogue has yet to be completed shows how under-researched the Roth Collection is; although in preparation for this seminar series, the Library secured funding for a short internship to undertake an initial inventory of the collection.


Events in the Series

The Cecil Roth collection: Preaching and conversion in early modern Italy  (6 February 2019)

The Cecil Roth papers at Southampton (13 March 2019)

Kathrin Pieren (8 May 2019)

Art and Jewishness: Cecil Roth's Judaic Artifacts in Toronto (5 June 2019)

Eva Frojmovic and Jay Prosser, Memory objects in our libraries and in our attics: why Cecil Roth collected things that few others were interested in, Leeds Limmud (15 September 2019).

Activities related to the Seminar Series

The co-conveners of this Sadler Seminar, in conjunction with the Library's Special Collections have been awarded a grant from the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe. The funded project that has arisen from the work taking place on this Sadler Seminar Series aims to give greater exposure to the Leeds Roth Collection by placing much of the catalogue online. An enhanced web presence will make it more visible both locally and internationally, records will be enriched, and treasures dating back to the 13th century will be digitised and made freely accessible to all.

Further information can be found on the article 'opening up pioneering Jewish Historians Treasured Collection'.

Shalom Sabar, Professor of Jewish Art and Folklore at Hebrew University, visit to examine the Roth Collection and particularly the scrolls (August 2019)


For more information or to express interest in collaborating further on Cecil Roth and/or the Roth Collection, please contact Eva Frojmovic  and/or Jay Prosser.