Cover image for A people apart : the Jews in Europe, 1789-1939
A people apart : the Jews in Europe, 1789-1939
Vital, David.
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Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 944 pages ; 23 cm.
Reading Level:
1590 Lexile.
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Central Library DS135.E83 V58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The twentieth century has seen both the greatest triumph of Jewish history and its greatest tragedy: the birth of the nation of Israel, and the state-sponsored genocide of the Holocaust. A People Apart is the first study to examine the role played by the Jews themselves, across the whole ofEurope, during the century and a half leading up to these events. David Vital explores the Jews' troubled relationship with Europe, documenting the struggles of this 'nation without a territory' to establish a place for itself within an increasingly polarized and nationalist continent. He examines the clash within the Jewish community between politically neutraltraditionalists and a new group of activists, whose unprecedented demands for national and political self-determination were stimulated both by increasing civil emancipation and the mounting effort to drive the Jews out of Europe altogether. Controversially, Professor Vital concludes that thehistory of the Jewish people was indeed in crucial respects although certainly not all of their own making; at times by their own autonomous action and choice; at others by inaction and default. This powerful and stimulating new analysis represents a watershed in our understanding of the history of the Jews in Europe.

Author Notes

From 1977 to his retirement in 1995, David Vital was Nahum Goldmann Professor of Diplomacy at Tel-Aviv University. present: Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In an ambitious and comprehensive text, Vital (The Future of the Jews, etc.) tells the history of European Jewry from 1789, the year France became the first European nation to grant full citizenship to its Jews, to 1939, when Hitler sought brutally to answer the still unresolved question of how Jews were to live in Europe. Vital details all the upheavals experienced by Europe's different Jewish communities: the promises and perils of assimilation; the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, during which the previously insular Jewish world opened itself to the influence of the larger European culture; the mass emigration of Eastern European Jews to Western Europe and the United States; the formation of the Zionist movement. He rightly devotes much space to how Jews were attracted to radical ideologies, particularly socialism and Zionism, and to how Jewish leaders interacted with European decision makers. While Vital, who worked in the Israeli government before pursuing a distinguished academic career, is sympathetic toward his subjects, he doesn't shrink from unflattering portrayalsÄsuch as his description of the embarrassed snobbery that cosmopolitan French, German and British Jews displayed toward Eastern European Jewish immigrants. With barely restrained anger, he details how an emerging Jewish leadership was unable to combat growing anti-Semitism in the 1930s: Zionist leaders, he writes, "formed a wasting asset in German Jewry's hour of greatest need." This is a huge book, and Vital's prose is not likely to make a reader's passage through it any easier. Yet it is a distinguished work of history, notable for its determination to show how both Jews and non-Jews coped with the many issues that arose as a previously isolated people strove to joinÄor, in some communities, to remain separate fromÄthe emerging continental society of Europe. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this mammoth book, former diplomat Vital (diplomacy, emeritus, Tel Aviv Univ.) traces the political history of the Jews in EuropeÄdefined in its broadest sense as including RussiaÄfrom the French Revolution to the outbreak of World War II. Among the topics he covers are the many changes that affected the lives of unemancipated and unacculturated Old World Jews, not the least of which was the hostility that manifested itself in pogroms, as well as divisions over Zionism and Palestine. Vital, author of The Future of the Jews as well as a three-volume series on Zionism, shows a mastery of the literature, synthesizing a wide variety of secondary sources (drawn from most of the major Western languages, in addition to Hebrew and Yiddish) along with archival materials. Although written for a scholarly audience, his book is accessible to the interested lay reader. Recommended for European history collections.ÄJohn A. Drobnicki, York Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Vital has written extensively on the history of Zionism. In this book, he tackles a broader subject: the political experience of European Jewry in the 150 years following the French Revolution. Drawing on the major secondary works of modern European Jewish history, Vital thematically explores different aspects of the Jewish political situation in Europe after the French Revolution and Jewish emancipation. Most of the book deals with different Jewish responses to emancipation, ranging from assimilation to immigration to Zionism. In examining these issues, Vital assumes a general polarization between European Jews who sought membership in European society and those who sought to promote Jewish nationalism. The book ends on the eve of WW II with the suggestion that Jewish reliance on the goodwill of the nations of the world ultimately proved misplaced. Indeed, this conclusion colors much of Vital's analysis. Nevertheless, his synthesis of so much useful material will prove useful for those new to the study of Jewish political activity in the modern era, and for their teachers. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. Haus; Tulane University



Chapter One Proposals I It can be said of the Jews of Europe that as late as the final decades of the eighteenth century they all displayed substantially similar political, social, and economic features. For this reason among others, the question of their admission to civil society appeared to lend itself to being cast--and at any rate debated--in terms of universal application. Where it was so conceived, there, as we shall see, it appeared to admit of correspondingly clear and unambiguous answers. Initially, such were the terms on which the Jews themselves tended to approach the question and the relatively simple operative conclusions they were apt to draw depended on whether they judged the prospect of emancipation a blessing or a curse. However, what the Jews thought of the matter counted for very little. At least a century would pass before Jews of any standing anywhere in Europe were in a position to play a role of some import in those political arenas, large or small, in which their fate, and the matter of their emancipation in particular, was the subject of debate. Even then the influence they were able to bring to bear in their own cause would prove to be exceedingly limited. The power to bestow the gift (if gift it was) of emancipation or, contrariwise, to withhold it lay exclusively with others--with the governments of the day in the first instance, of course, but no less fundamentally, if less directly, with those elements of society to which those who held formal power were inclined to lend an ear. In general, the approach to the matter of the emancipation of the Jews tended to correspond to the favoured approach to other major aspects of political and constitutional policy. Where the balance of opinion (and eventual policy) tended towards decisions being founded on principled, a priori, moral, and therefore, in a loose sense, philosophical considerations, the question of the Jews was likely to be taken up in a similar spirit. Where social and political debate leaned towards the pragmatic, the specific, the local, and the historical--and therefore the idiosyncratic--there the approach to the Jews was likely to be of a similar nature. In all cases it was a question of balance. No state or society dealt with the matter of the Jews in one exclusive mode. All tended very strongly to mix considerations of interest with what were at any rate thought of as matters of principle. Only the proportions varied.     From the end of the eighteenth century, the tendency in all the major continental states of Europe was to aspire to a powerfully centralizing, rationalized, internal ordering of society. One largely incidental consequence was to encourage government to take a fresh look at its country's Jewish population. The purpose, typically, was to formulate an attitude, even a policy, towards the Jews that was in keeping with whatever were considered to be the broad and binding principles on which government and the social order as a whole ought properly to be based. While the specific rules and considerations thought applicable in each case varied, the central, underlying intention was everywhere much the same. All strove for coherence. The one social value none were prepared to eschew was order. The difficulty about the Jews was that, over and above all the old objections to their presence, they seemed to present an insuperable obstacle to the establishment of just such a coherent, smoothly operating, centrally directed social order as was striven for. Here and there the question whether they were likely, in significant numbers and in some foreseeable future, to abandon their faith and convert without equivocation to Christianity would be posed. But underlying the old insistence on the truth of Christianity and the corresponding errors of Judaism was the secular, socio-political conviction that the Jews could no longer be allowed--for their own good, but more especially for the good of society at large--to continue in their set and ancient manner. To be sure, there was nothing new in the notion that they were a profoundly anomalous people. What was new, what would now gather force and lie close to the heart of the matter of their eventual emancipation, was the view that an anomaly of the kind they represented, and continued so very wilfully to perpetuate, needed finally to be done away with. This alien, apparently indigestible element in society was always and everywhere in society and in the state, but never properly of either one or the other. The problem it presented must therefore be addressed first and foremost in political terms as one of the aspects of society that needed to be tidied up. For some of the statesmen and for many administrators concerned, tidiness was indeed all.     There was therefore something in this approach that was simplistic, brutal, and proto-totalitarian. And, in general, it was certainly the case that the light in which the matter of the Jews was chiefly seen was defined much less by considerations of their welfare than by raison d'état . Expediency, efficacy of administration, economic and, as it were, military mercantilism, and, above all, social control--these were the decisive criteria. The spirit in which the Jews' affairs were discussed, when discussed at all, by those who were in a position to decide upon them was étatist and rationalist. The dominant considerations were the welfare and efficiency of the state itself: the state as structure and as machine, the state as one of a number of competing states. Pragmatism boiled down therefore to rulers and administrators reluctantly conceding that awkward and regrettable though it might be to have Jews present among them, it was neither possible nor, in fact, desirable not to bear them in mind. On the contrary, a defined, fixed, and intelligible place had to be found for them. They too had to render the state the services that were its due. They had to be allowed--rather, they had to be encouraged and if necessary compelled--to move towards social uniformity with all the other subjects of the realm. In a word, the Jews needed to be brought at long last within the orbit of central administration. Social (and of course fiscal and military) control of the Jews themselves would be enhanced thereby; but so would the general structure of society and its overall amenability to rational and efficacious government.     But if an ostensibly rational, value-free, étatist approach informed the governing circles of the major European states in their approach to the matter of the Jews from the middle of the eighteenth century until the dying days of all three surviving continental empires early in the twentieth century, it will be found to have been shot through and through with certain set convictions about them. Again and again in the reports of district governors and policemen, in discussion papers, in the comments superior officials noted on the margins of documents submitted by their inferiors, in travellers' accounts, in the literary delineation of Jewish characters, and in the course of general conversation on those not too frequent occasions when the Jews and their affairs cropped up, Jews tended overwhelmingly to be regarded--and, in effect, dismissed--as an incorrigibly inferior lot. Nothing was rarer than for those who for one reason or another addressed themselves, however briefly, to the matter of the Jews than to begin, at least implicitly--and as often as not explicitly--with the proposition that they were not only hopelessly stubborn and difficult to deal with, but in many ways depraved, ignorant, and unclean. Their religious convictions and conduct were held to be vitiated by hideous error. Their Talmud was regarded as a rag-bag of obscurities and sophisms. Whether there was more to be said for their rabbis none could rightly know, but there was little doubt that they did batten on a credulous and superstitious people and that these, in turn, taken as a whole, were sickly, unproductive, in large measure parasitical, and therefore as undesirable socially as they were culturally and intellectually and, of course, morally and spiritually. They might conceivably have had other, meritorious features in the past. It was admitted by the well informed that towards the end of the tenth century there had been great numbers of Jewish physicians in Europe and that, as the director of the faculty of medicine in Vienna, Gerhart van Swieten, put it authoritatively to the Empress Maria Theresa in 1753, `there were even popes who availed themselves of their services.' Although that, he then went on to explain, was in the age of barbarism and ignorance, when Greek and Roman medicine had been forgotten, and Arab medicine was in vogue, and the Jews, knowing oriental languages, had had a linguistic advantage which they proceeded to misuse by presenting themselves as more knowledgeable than they were in fact. Now, in practice, except where `rabbinic and cabbalistic superstition' worked on the credulous and the vulgar, they could no longer sustain the façade. Even in Holland, where their synagogues were regrettably `public' and they were in certain circumstances treated more favourably than Catholics, they had never been allowed to enter any of the medical professions. And that, so van Swieten explained to the empress, was because Jewish surgeons were known to be incompetent and because no Dutch surgeon would take a Jew as his apprentice. Nor did he think it right to let Jews practise as mere apothecaries. `A nation that seeks constantly to deceive' would take advantage of the opportunity `to commit innumerable and most likely undetectable acts of fraud and duplicity'.     Attempts at a strict and systematic formulation of what, in the course of time, would be thought of as `the problem' of the Jews were still rare in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Attitudes were loose and as often as not flippant, as much among men of influence and power as among mere observers--and their emotive content might still count for more than the empirical. Rejection, charity, revulsion, and what happened to be thought of by the people in question as right and proper and in the public spirit were all intermingled. The one common point of departure for those who claimed to know a thing or two about the Jews and sought--or were duty bound--to deal with them, was that they were a backward, unproductive, and (this was especially telling) militarily useless people. The one thread running through all such attitudes as chanced to be struck by the truly literate and/or the truly powerful was condescension. The conventional wisdom on the Jews even at the governmental level being negative, critical, restrictive, and minatory, it was natural that a collective, blanket, and free admission of the Jewish segment of the population into whatever it was that passed for civil society was unthinkable.     For all these reasons, what the periodic flurries of official interest in the matter tended to produce was a series of awkward compromises between what seemed to rulers and officials to be dictated by new wave étatist and pragmatic notions of government and what had been carried over from older times: between ancient but still powerful, often implacably hostile sentiments and judgements on the Jews and the new tendency to look at them in a clinical light and to therapeutic purpose. The difference in tone, terminology, and content between Empress Maria Theresa's Judenordnung of 5 May 1764 and her son and successor's Toleranzpatent of 2 January 1782 will serve to mark the transition.     The Judenordnung was concerned in all its forty-five clauses to instruct those few Jews who had been permitted to reside in Vienna on the terms on which they might earn their living, maintain a family, run a household, marry their children, and employ servants; when they were to refrain from being seen in the street (on Sundays and holidays before noon) and what they were to do if they chanced to be outside their homes when the Host was carried past. The tone was threatening, the terminology uncompromising. The `privileged Jew' ( privilegirter Jud ) was insistently distinguished from the `foreign Jew' ( fremder Jud ). What was `authorized' ( befugt ) was distinguished from what was `unauthorized' ( unbefugt ). What forms of conduct were `indictable' ( belangend ), what misdeeds would be `punished' ( gestrafet ), and whether by fines or by expulsion, were laid down. Throughout the text of the Ordnung , the commonest word was the negative kein . In its bureaucratic thoroughness and as an articulation of the martinet policeman's mind it remains a very modern document. In its inner concept of what was desirable in society it was of a piece with--and did indeed anticipate--Pope Pius VI's still more degrading edict on the Jews of Rome ( Editto sopra gli ebrei ) of 1775.     What Emperor Joseph II's own rescript on toleration had in common with his mother's ordinance was that it too had been most meticulously formulated in the course of extended, close discussion within the Vienna bureaucracy and that many drafts were prepared before the definitive version was reached. Otherwise, albeit in a limited and unadventurous way, it was much more plainly the first fruit of the European Enlightenment: an act of government intended inter alia to demonstrate what a calm, rational, mildly benevolent examination of the real structure and the real needs of society led one to recognize as its, i.e. society's, requirements. The spirit and the tone of the whole is set out in the preamble which speaks of `Our pre-eminent attention [ Unser vorzüglichsten Augenmerke ]' being directed to the end that all Our subjects without distinction of nationality and religion, once they have been admitted and tolerated in our States, shall participate in common in public welfares ... shall enjoy legal freedom, and encounter no obstacles to any honest way of gaining their livelihood and of increasing general industriousness.     The new departure, it was asserted, followed from the fact that `existing laws pertaining to the Jewish nation [ die jüdische Nazion ] ... are not always compatible with these Our most gracious intentions'. In future, the government would be guided by the goal of making the Jews 'useful and serviceable to the State [ dem Staate nützlicher und brauchbarer zu machen ], mainly through better education and enlightenment of its youth and by directing them to the sciences, the arts and the crafts.' 'Tolerated Jews' [tolerirten Juden] would therefore be allowed under certain circumstances to send their children to Christian schools; free entry to universities was confirmed. 'All kinds of crafts or trades' could henceforth be learned from Christian masters. The Jewish nation as a whole would be granted 'a general licence to carry on all kinds of trade' and its individual members would be free to apply for the right to engage in wholesale trade on the same basis as Christians. 'Tolerated' Jews would be entitled to employ as many servants, Jewish or Christian, as they might require. Restrictions on housing would be allowed to lapse. The capitation tax on foreign Jews entering Vienna would be abolished, as were certain other tiresome or demeaning impositions. Jews of a certain commercial standing would be allowed to carry swords, as would their sons. The rescript concludes, however, with an admonition. Since by these favours We almost [beynahe] place the Jewish nation on an equal level with adherents of other alien religious associations [and ern fremden Religionsverwandten] in respect of trade and enjoyment of civil and domestic facilities, We earnestly advise them to observe scrupulously all political, civil, and judicial laws of the country to which they are bound in the manner incumbent on all other inhabitants)     All this was far removed from the spirit and the letter of the olderJudenordnung. But it was not emancipation. The emperor's rescript specifically laid down that the right of admission to certain occupations and institutions did not carry with it the right of citizenship and craft mastership. From these the Jews 'remained excluded' [wovon sie ausgeschlossen bleiben] '. Tucked away in clause fifteen was the requirement that the Jews themselves, in the interests of 'maintaining common confidence [flit die Aufrechthaltung desgemeinschafilichen Zutrauens] ', cease to employ Hebrew and Yiddish. And while the central idea on which the rescript turned, toleration, signified broadmindedness, its corollary, the distinction repeatedly drawn between the Jews who were to be tolerated and improved and those of their alien and unimprovable brethren, did not. Finally, running through it all, was the patronizing idea of improvement, the notion that what the imperial government in Vienna would now be about was an effort to bring the Jews up to scratch in the light of some never very clearly defined model of ethnic German, but especially Chris, tian, goodness and civic worth. It was characteristic of the governing spirit in which the enterprise had been approached that a later decree that dealt specifically with the employment of young Jewish people by Christian master craftsmen, and was designed to encourage such linkages, was frankly entitled Verbesserung derJudenmoral --the 'Improvement of Jewish Morals'.     How much of this was cant? Jewry and Judaism in their complexity would continue to be rejected out of hand: not so ruthlessly and mindlessly as before, somewhat more thoughtfully, somewhat less irritably, and ostensibly to better purpose. But if the social and cultural features of the Jews continued to puzzle their masters, there was no evidence of any interest in exploring them beyond what was reckoned to be strictly relevant to the good order and prosperity of the empire. The thought that they might be dealing with an authentic, living, unquestionably anomalous and tormented, but in the final analysis legitimately discrete social organism with profoundly rooted views, sentiments, and purposes of its own did not much enter the minds or calculations of the officials concerned. It had been settled, on imperial authority, that the Jews needed to be reformed. And that being the case, and things being what they were in the lands of the Habsburgs, plainly they would indeed have to be reformed. But from above. It followed, therefore, once again in quite striking contrast to what had obtained under the older regime, that the general thrust of the new approach was towards the future . A later edict issued in 1797 (in the wake of the French Revolution, therefore, rather than in any sense in conscious or unconscious anticipation of it) went so far as to concede explicitly.that if all went well the general legal inequality of the Jews might eventually be entirely abolished--in Bohemia at any rate, not, so far as anyone could see, elsewhere. Even so, it was clear that if that were to happen it would be in consequence, first and foremost, of what the Jews themselves had made of the great new effort to bring them into line with the rest of the emperor's subjects. II The imperial Austrian approach embodied a distinct effort to accommodate the teachings of the Enlightenment to an unwavering insistence on absolutist government. In one form or another, wittingly or otherwise, its example would be followed throughout central and eastern Europe, with, as we shall see, far-reaching consequences for much the greater part of Jewry. Crucially, however, in determining the way in which European Jewry as a whole evolved, matters were otherwise in western Europe. The methods and principles by which Great Britain, France, and the Low Countries were governed brought about, in the course of time, changes in the condition and outlook of the Jewish inhabitants of those countries of a kind that were unprecedented in themselves and would long be unknown in any of the lands that lay east of the Rhine.     The salient characteristic of the British approach to the matter of the Jews was that there was little or no interest in reform . The drive towards social control, social uniformity, and meticulous social regulation that was so prominent on the continent was absent in Britain as much in society as in government. There were, however, other roots to what might be thought of as British idiosyncrasy in this respect. It was in Great Britain, curiously, that the `Jewish Question' had first been seriously posed and to some extent debated in a major European state in modern times. When Cromwell resolved to rescind King Edward I's edict of expulsion of 1290 in the interests of allowing London's very small colony of crypto-Jews to surface and permit other Jews, mostly from Holland, to join them, he did so primarily because he had his eye on the advantages Spanish and Portuguese Jews with their worldwide connections might bring to English commerce, the information on foreign affairs with which they could supply him, and the political services they could perform for him on the continent. What is of greatest interest, because, unwittingly, it set a pattern of sorts, was that Cromwell had begun by considering a more open and comprehensive policy than the one that his administration was eventually to implement. When it became apparent, however, that by formally revoking the thirteenth-century edict of expulsion a noisy and troublesome opposition would be aroused, the plan was abandoned. The resettlement of Jews in England was allowed to take place, but on a de facto basis and Edward I's edict left to pass into history.     A century later there would be a new attempt to settle the matter of the status, rights, and privileges of Jews in England by formal legislation, and so, presumably, once and for all. This was the Jewish Naturalization Bill, or `Jew Bill' so-called, introduced by the Pelham ministry and passed into law by Parliament in 1753. It was not a radical measure. It provided for little more than specific procedures whereby foreign-born Jews might be naturalized and so allowed to acquire rights already possessed by their own native-born children under the principle of jus soli . Nevertheless, it failed. The implications of the bill were correctly understood to be wider and the lesson that Oliver Cromwell had had to learn was rehearsed by the government of the day. To the opposition's charge that `Nothing could be more absurd in its Nature, or more contrary to the Maxims of our own Policy, than to allow the natural Enemies of the Christian Religion to be the natural subjects of the Christian State', the government was incapable of formulating an effective answer--for all that the authorized spokesmen for Christian England, the senior bishops of the Anglican Church, viewed the matter with indulgence. Their position was that the Church, having the interests of the state at heart, had no reason to object to a limited measure of toleration. It was at the popular level that opposition to the measure was strong. Still, the government took the accusations of impiety heaped against it to heart and a mere seven months after its original passage through Parliament had the act repealed, reinforcing the Cromwellian precedent.     From that time on British governments, when called upon to take any position at all, were content to sanction (or ignore) piecemeal lifting of what had been, as in all other European states, an entire series of restrictions or prohibitions on the entry and presence of Jews into the country, on the occupations they might engage in, on the public bodies they might join, on the role they might play in public affairs, and, not least, their freedom to form and maintain an organized community, to worship, to marry, to care for their own, and to bury their dead. It was a slow and irregular process, mostly rather offhand. Where specific restrictions on personal freedom and on communal activity had not explicitly been lifted they were allowed to fall into desuetude by default. Perhaps, as a procedure, it was no more than was to be expected of an increasingly commercial nation, the more so as the tendency had grown, somewhat in the manner that it had long since taken root in the Low Countries, to regard the Jews as allies in Britain's economic enterprise. By the early years of the eighteenth century, political interest in the Jews of the kind that had initially drawn the Cromwellian government to favour them had largely faded. But English conventional wisdom was firm in holding them to be of worldwide commercial significance. They are, indeed, so disseminated through all the trading Parts of the World, [wrote Addison in 1712] that they are become the Instruments by which the most distant Nations converse with one another, and by which Mankind are knit together in general Correspondence. They are like the Pegs and Nails in a great Building, which, though they are but little valued in themselves, are absolutely necessary to keep the whole Frame together.     By the end of the eighteenth century the Jews of England had little to complain of. Those who had been born in Great Britain became British subjects as a matter of course. The grant of civil and commercial liberties to individual Jews, native or foreign-born, met with few difficulties. Jews continued to be excluded from the Guilds of the City of London for a considerable period. But it was not long before they were admitted as brokers in the Royal Exchange. Whether ancient legislation prohibiting ownership of land by Jews retained its force was unclear technically, but in practice no obstacle to freehold possession was raised. The oaths that certain elected and appointed officials, and which junior and senior members of the universities were obliged to take, operated against Jews, although they had been formulated with the exclusion of Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters rather than Jews in mind. The phrase `on the true faith of a Christian' automatically prevented any Jew at all, observant or otherwise, from taking them. But the ancient, and for the Jews themselves vastly more sensitive, issue of the legal force and validity of an oath taken by a Jew in court--when serving as a witness, for example--had effectively been disposed of as early as 1667; and the swearing of Jews on the Old Testament as matter of routine was confirmed in a formal judgment in 1744 when Lord Chief Justice Willes held that to deny the swearing (and therefore the evidence) of a witness who was not a Christian, but did acknowledge a Supreme Being, was `contrary not only to the scripture but to common sense and common humanity'. It was `a most impolitic notion' said the judge, `and would at once destroy all that trade and commerce from which this nation reaps such great benefits'. Besides, `It is a little mean, narrow notion to suppose that no one but a Christian can be an honest man'. The matter of the swearing-in of Jewish trial witnesses, and the associated question of the validity of whatever evidence they gave, took very much longer to settle on the continent of Europe, even in post-revolutionary France, as we shall see.     While generally humane, this ad hoc approach to the matter of the Jews and their emancipation was unquestionably untidy. This had something to do with the Jewish community in Great Britain being a very small one at least until the final decades of the nineteenth century. As late as the middle of the nineteenth century it numbered no more than 30-40,000 members of all ages and conditions throughout the British Isles. Moreover, virtually all were city-dwellers and of these most (some 25,000) lived in the single, but already immense city of London. England's Jews were therefore sufficiently inconspicuous for such anti-Jewish militants as there were in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London to be unable to make much of a meal of their presence there. And the fact that British Jews were concentrated in London (and Bristol and a few other cities) and therefore almost entirely unknown in the countryside--except, and then very marginally, as pedlars travelling through it--was a further, unintended contribution to their presence in the country being seen, at any rate at the time, as raising issues of no great urgency or public importance. In this respect, as in so many others, their situation was therefore strikingly unlike that of most Jews on the continent of Europe, still overwhelmingly a rural people. British Jews had the further advantage of being totally free of the primal curse of being ground between lord and peasant as in eastern Europe, especially Poland. They were not engaged in moneylending to anything like the same extent as were the Jews of eastern France. The economic roles for which they were best known were stock-jobbing and wholesale and foreign commerce--spheres which were favoured by the government in London--and trades and crafts of the middle-lower rank: silversmithery, shopkeeping, diamond polishing, tailoring, watchmaking, and the like. Those who could not set up shop on their own account engaged in peddling and trading in old clothes as did many Jews in Germany, but among these the driving tendency to escape from the lower levels of the economy was evident and likely to be approved of. That United Kingdom citizenship was determined primarily by jus soli was another boon; and those who had not been born on British soil found that it could be granted them quite freely by a process of naturalization. Possessed of citizenship, provided they met the appropriate property qualifications, they were entitled to vote in local and parliamentary elections and serve as magistrates and city aldermen. Admission to Oxford and Cambridge was barred to them, but so it was to Dissenters and Catholics. In sum, as would be repeatedly and correctly claimed in the course of the sole great formal and politically binding public debate on the integration of the Jews into the body politic of England to be held in the nineteenth century, there were virtually no hurdles left for them to overcome apart from that which occasioned that debate: the admission of Jews to membership of parliament itself.     In the light of the experience elsewhere in Europe it remains an oddity that a century would pass between the fiasco of the `Jew Bill' and the next full-dress public and parliamentary debate on the matter of the Jews in England and that, in the interim, virtually all the questions that had troubled the political classes respecting the Jews were resolved. This had much to do, no doubt, with the fact that the norms of British politics and administration both encouraged and facilitated an incremental and ameliorative treatment of any issue in which ideology and interest were intermixed. But the generally mild approach to the renewed presence of Jews in England and to the question of their legal status in it--a mildness that was only sporadically distinguishable from lack of concern--is perhaps better accounted for by factors of another category altogether. The English had long experience of the presence among themselves of members of other nations and religious denominations. The Scots, the Irish, and the Welsh were considered by the English, as they were, of course, by themselves, to possess a separate and distinctive nationality. But `nationality' in the context of the British Isles had long had something less than the usual ring. The Scots, the Irish, and the Welsh were not in the ordinary sense of the term, if in any sense at all, foreign . Religion, to be sure, was another matter. But where religion was at issue, and where it related to the Jews, and to their emancipation in particular, the questions it raised tended to be assimilated into, or, more commonly still, to fall into line behind, the much more immediate, politically weightier questions of the political rights and liberties to be accorded (or denied) to Protestant Dissenters, to Unitarians, and, above all, to Roman Catholics. Elsewhere in Europe the terms and significance in which matters of religion and nationality were perceived were of another order, and this was most dramatically so in France. And there were other ways in which France and Britain were not at one in these respects and in which the differences between revolutionary France and the absolutist regimes to the east were subtle rather than decisive. (Continues...)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Old Dispensation: the old regime
two levels of authority, two yokes to bear
social control: the modalities
the Gevir, self-help and self-governance
consensus and confusion
Part I Integration and Disintegration
1 Proposals: under the Enlightenment - 'useful' Jews and 'useless' Jews
in England - incrementalism
in France - principles
in the Germanies - inpenetrable hostility and legal rigour
in Poland - deadlock
in Russia - despotism for all...
the Jews as an encumbrance to be dealt with
2 Social Fragmentation: emancipation: the early responses
the fears of the orthodox
the enthusiasm of the modernists
the cultural inroads
the Haskalah as a halfway house
modern education - the Russian carrot
military subscription - the Russian lash
the irreversability of fragmentation
3 Questions From Without and Within: the Jewish question posed
the question formulated
the Jews re-characterized
the Jews re-demonized
calls for treatment
the Decembrists (along with other Russians) try their hand
internal politics: the beginnings
triumph at Damascus...
... and its limitations
Jews in general politics and in society at large - the German model
Part II Aspirations and Equivocations
4 Movement: pogroms
West versus East
Eastern European Jewry as the question
5 Auto-Emancipation leaderlessness as a condition
national self-determination as an idea: Zion as a destination
Jews as revolutionaries
the Bund
6 Crystallization: intercession institutionalized
1878 - triumph in Berlin, failure in Bucharest
the limits of libel and the rule of law
Bernard Lazare and the Affair
Russia in 1905 - Jews as targets, Jews as participants
the Zionists stand still
the orthodox circle their wagons
Part III New Dispensations
7 War: the Jewish contingents
the Jewish increment
the 'Palestine idea'
a neutral Zionism, belligerent Zionists
the 'Palestine Idea' revived
8 Peace: Bolshevik Russia and the binding of its Jews
the great slaughter
who speaks for the Jews?
at the Peace conference
9 Captivity: Wilson's world
the nation-state as grindstone
ancient frictions in a new Poland
Polish equivocation
Jewish ambivalence: Germany takes the lead
towards extrusion
the Jews of Germany crushed
a community destroyed
10 Denouement: on the eve
once again: who will lead them, where will they be led?
a world Jewish Congress
loyalties and principles
the purpose of Zionism, the needs of the Jews
pragmatism and honour
the final rejection
into the night

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