ARCHA (Lat. "chest"), name given to the chest or coffer for the deposit of the records ("chirographs") of Jewish financial transactions, set up in England as a result of the regulations concerning the Jews issued in 1194. Their object was to ensure the preservation of the records of Jewish assets for the benefit of the Exchequer, in case of a recurrence of anti-Jewish outbreaks such as those of 1189–90. Loans were required to be registered before two Christians and two Jews, and the record cut down the center with a wavy line. Later tally sticks were used. Originally it was intended that there should be only six or seven centers for the purpose, but ultimately the number rose to over 20. In consequence, the Exchequer became minutely informed of the economic status of every Jew in England, and when extraordinary taxation was levied the archae were sent up to Westminster for inspection. The corresponding term used in Norman French was huche, in Hebrew tevah. The *Exchequer of the Jews coordinated the activities of the local archae. The system was reformed in 1239.
Roth, England, index; K. Scott, in: Cambridge Law Journal, 10 (1948–50), 446–55; H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), index. add. bibliography: H. Rothwell (ed.), English Historical Documents, 3 (1975), 305–6; J.M. Rigg, Select Pleas…, Selden Society, 15 (1902), index, "chirogaphers."
[Cecil Roth /
Joe Hillaby (2nd ed.)]