The People of the Book by Gertrude Himmelfarb
Philosemitism in England, From Cromwell to Churchill

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The history of Judaism has for too long been dominated by the theme of antisemitism, reducing Judaism to the recurrent saga of persecution and the struggle for survival. The history of philosemitism provides a corrective to that abysmal view, a reminder of the venerable religion and people that have been an inspiration for non-Jews as well as Jews.

There is a poetic justice – or historic justice – in the fact that England, the first country to expel the Jews in medieval times, has produced the richest literature of philosemitism in modern times.

From Cromwell supporting the readmission of the Jews in the 17th century, to Macaulay arguing for the admission of Jews as Members of Parliament in the 19th century, to Churchill urging the recognition of the state of Israel in the 20th, some of England's most eminent writers and statesmen have paid tribute to Jews and Judaism. Their speeches and writing are powerfully resonant today. As are novels by Walter Scott, Disraeli, and George Eliot, which anticipate Zionism well before the emergence of that movement and look forward to the state of Israel, not as a refuge for the persecuted, but as a "homeland" rooted in Jewish history.

A recent history of antisemitism in England regretfully observes that English philosemitism is "a past glory." This book may recall England – and not only England – to that past glory and inspire other countries to emulate it. It may also reaffirm Jews in their own faith and aspirations.

About Gertrude Himmelfarb

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Gertrude Himmelfarb taught for twenty-three years at Brooklyn College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, where she was named Distinguished Professor of History in 1978. Now Professor Emeritus, she lives with her husband, Irving Kristol, in Washington, D.C. Her previous books include The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values; On Looking into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society; Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians; The New History and the Old; Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians; The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age; On Liberty and Liberalism: The Case of John Stuart Mill; Victorian Minds (nominated for a National Book Award); Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution; and Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics.From the Hardcover edition.
Published November 8, 2011 by Encounter Books. 193 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The People of the Book

Publishers Weekly

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Historian and professor emeritus Himmelfarb (The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot) presents a compelling counter-story to the popular topic of anti-Semitism by focusing on philosemitism, an ambiguous term that is used here to describe England’s historical high regard for Jews and Judaism.

Sep 26 2011 | Read Full Review of The People of the Book: Philo...

The Wall Street Journal

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In her admirable and provocative "The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, from Cromwell to Churchill," Gertrude Himmelfarb asks us to rethink the history of Jews in England.

Dec 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The People of the Book: Philo...

The Washington Times

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With characteristic clarity and precision, Gertrude Himmelfarb tells us at the outset of her slim but substantial book why she has chosen to write about the strain of philo-Semitism running through British history.

Mar 02 2012 | Read Full Review of The People of the Book: Philo...

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