Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Broadening Jewish History

Towards a Social History of Ordinary Jews
Todd M. Endelman

Key themes and issues relevant to writing the social history of the Jews in the modern period are brought to the fore here in a way that is accessible both to professional historians and educated readers with an interest in Jewish history. Some of the articles are programmatic and argumentative, others are case studies. Together they create a strong, coherent volume that demonstrates the advantages of the social historical perspective as a tool for interpreting the Jewish world.

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In Broadening Jewish History Todd Endelman seeks to expand the horizons of modern Jewish historiography by focusing on ‘ordinary’ rather than exceptional Jews, arguing that what those in the wider Jewish community did or felt can do more to deepen our understanding of Jewish history than what a few exceptional individuals thought and wrote. His innovative study also makes a strong case for comparative history: only a comparison across national borders can reveal the Germanness of German Jewish history or the Englishness of English Jewish history, and thereby identify what is uniquely Jewish about each. Through a combination of historiographical essays and case studies, Endelman redefines the area under consideration and convincingly restates the need for Jewish social history to counterbalance the current focus on cultural studies.

The historiographical essays constitute an important examination of the major trends in the writing of modern Jewish history. Here the author spells out the assumptions that have guided historians in their narration of the Jewish past, and in particular how the two watershed events of twentieth-century Jewish history—the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel—influenced Jewish historiography for decades thereafter. No less important, though, is how integration into the broader scholarly framework of American academia has shaped both the form and the content of Jewish historical research.

The need to revitalize Jewish social history is argued through a series of case studies examining the lives of largely unknown Jews whose careers vividly illustrate the often tortuous paths of integration and acceptance, among them the London money broker, swindler, and political radical John King and the novelist and unabashed imperialist Gilbert Frankau. But many of the Jews who populate the volume remain altogether unknown, such as those who converted to Christianity in nineteenth-century Warsaw and whose histories are recoverable only as statistics.

In its wide-ranging analysis of trends in recent historical writing and its treatment of key themes and issues, this book is essential reading for professional historians, students, and indeed all those with an interest in Jewish history.


About the author

Todd M. Endelman is Professor Emeritus of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. In 1976. He taught at Yeshiva University, Indiana University, and the University of Michigan. He is the author of three books on Anglo-Jewish history—The Jews of Georgian England, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, and The Jews of Britain, 1656–2000—and the editor of three collections of essays—Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World, Comparing Jewish Societies, and Disraeli's Jewishness.


Note on Transliteration



1 Making Jews Modern: Jewish Self-Identification and West European Categories of Belonging
2 The Legitimization of the Diaspora Experience
3 The Englishness of Jewish Modernity in England
4 Welcoming Ex-Jews into the Jewish Historiographical Fold


5 The Social and Political Context of Conversion in Germany and England
6 Jewish Self-Hatred in Germany and England
7 German Jews in Victorian England


8 The Chequered Career of ‘Jew’ King
9 The Emergence of Disraeli’s Jewishness
10 Disraeli and the Myth of Sephardi Superiority
11 The Impact of the Converso Experience on English Sephardim
12 The Frankaus of London
13 Jewish Converts in Nineteenth-Century Warsaw
14 Memories of Jewishness





'One of the world's leading authorities on the history of European and specifically of British Jewry . . . This volume is subtitled "Towards a Social History of Ordinary Jews" thereby charting directions others must take if such social histories are ever to be written. The raw material is there, but discovering its location and divining its meaning are no easy tasks. Endelman has provided a guidebook and a manual.'
Geoffrey Alderman, Jewish Chronicle