Englishmen and Jews


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Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840-1914

David Feldman

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To what extent did English society of the late nineteenth century accept or reject its Jewish minority? How did the Jews' religious, communal, and political identities develop in the context of English life? What was the impact of Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe to England? How did these immigrants fare within the English economy?

This book presents an important new perspective on Jews in England and English attitudes toward Jews during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It investigates the history of Jewish integration more rigorously than any previous study and reveals that, despite legal freedoms, cultural and political antipathy to Jews was far greater than has been assumed.

Drawing on a wide range of source materials in both English and Yiddish, David Feldman discusses arguments between Whigs and Tories over Jewish emancipation; anti-Semitic assaults on Disraeli; the turbulent political life of the Jewish East End of London; and the travails of the immigrant sweatshop workers. By exposing the fractions and divided nature of the Jewish working-class community, and by pointing up similarities to non-Jewish working-class communities, Feldman's analysis overturns the conventional interpretation of growing homogenization of the wider working-class around 1900. The book therefore has a threefold importance: it is a major contribution to the debate about Victorian liberalism; it adds to the discussion of class and community in pre-1914 English society; and it goes well beyond all previous social histories of the Jewish experience in London to reveal both the limitations and achievement of Jewish integration there in the years before the First World War.

David Feldman is lecturer in history at Birkbeck College, University of London.

"[Feldman's] grasp and use of sources is wide-ranging and impressive, . . . [as are] the conceptual framework in which his analysis is set, his grasp of detail as well as of the broad theme, and his ability never to lose sight of context."—Geoffrey Alderman, Jewish Chronicle

"Feldman makes a heroically fair-minded effort to understand opponents of emancipation and unrestricted immigration on their own terms. . . . On the whole, . . . it is a happy story that he has to tell."—John Gross, Sunday Telegraph

"An important and original book. . . . Written with a clarity of style and an absence of jargon. . . . No summary could do this work justice."—Max Beloff, Jewish Journal of Sociology

"Its lucidity and fresh insights will attract the interested layman."—Michael Goldman, Journal of the Federation of Synagogues

"Brilliantly illuminating. . . . This is clearly one of those rare and important books that will permanently change the terms of debate about its subject."—R. W. Davis, American Historical Review

"A stimulating and innovative study. . . . Ambitious in scope and range of concerns. . . . [Feldman] makes a valuable contribution to the historiographical debate on the subject of Jewish integration and acculturation."—Thomas Linehan, Jewish Quarterly

"Feldman's masterful study of Jewish political, economic, and social life in Victorian and Edwardian England not only offers a fundamental reinterpretation of much Jewish historiography, but also directly questions many standard accounts of the evolving political ideology of the liberal nation state."—Paul Johnson, Economic History Review

"Ambitious and highly sophisticated. . . . A great achievement providing a well-researched and analytically sharp account."—Tony Kushner, History Today

"An important and useful book. . . . The reader will find much rewarding and some very original detail. . . . Feldman cobbles together the familiar and the new in ways that make his work a useful reference for students of both Jewish and mainstream British history."—Eugene C. Black, Albion

"Englishmen and Jews will no doubt remain a seminal text of Anglo-Jewish and minority history for many years to come."—Daniel R. Langton, Jewish Culture and History

ISBN: 9780300055016
Publication Date: May 25, 1994
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4