Hyamson, Albert Montefiore

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HYAMSON, ALBERT MONTEFIORE

HYAMSON, ALBERT MONTEFIORE (1875–1954), English civil servant, historian, and official in Palestine under the British Mandate. He entered the Civil Service at the age of 20 and had a successful career in the Post Office administration. He was active in Anglo-Jewish intellectual life, publishing many books (mainly on historical subjects) and articles. He also engaged in Zionist work, editing the Zionist Review 1917–19. In consequence, in 1921 he was transferred to the Palestine administration, being appointed Chief Immigration Officer. Although he was an observant Jew, he found himself completely out of sympathy with the yishuv and interpreted the duties of his office in the narrowest sense. He was largely responsible for the pedantic restriction of Jewish immigration into the country, which made him extremely unpopular. He thus helped to establish the restrictive tradition which was continued thereafter by the non-Jewish officials who succeeded him in office. In 1934 he returned to England, now rigidly anti-Zionist, and resumed his literary activity, especially in connection with the activities of the Jewish Historical Society of England, of which he was president from 1945 to 1947. The most important of his many works, apart from popularizing volumes on Palestine and Zionism published in his less embittered period (Palestine: the Rebirth of an Ancient People, 1917; Palestine: Old and New, 1928) included a History of the Jews in England (1908, 19282); The British Consulate in Jerusalem (1939); The Sephardim in England (1951); and Jews' College (1955). He also edited a number of works of reference, the best known being his Dictionary of Universal Biography (1915, 19502). Hyamson was co-editor of Vallentine's Jewish Encyclopedia and compiled a useful "Plan of a Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish Biography," published in his Anglo-Jewish Notabilities (1949), which contains one-line entries, with bibliographical references, on more than 2,000 notable Jews of Britain and the Commonwealth deceased before January 1, 1949.

[Cecil Roth]