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A study of the emancipation of the Jews spanning more than four centuries.

Sorkin, David

Jewish Emancipation

A History Across Five Centuries


    57,95 € / $65.75 / £51.00*

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    Publication Date:
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    September 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    The first comprehensive history of how Jews became citizens in the modern world

    For all their unquestionable importance, the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel now loom so large in modern Jewish history that we have mostly lost sight of the fact that they are only part of—and indeed reactions to—the central event of that history: emancipation. In this book, David Sorkin seeks to reorient Jewish history by offering the first comprehensive account in any language of the process by which Jews became citizens with civil and political rights in the modern world. Ranging from the mid-sixteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, the book tells the ongoing story of how Jews have gained, kept, lost, and recovered rights in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the United States, and Israel.

    Emancipation, Sorkin shows, was not a one-time or linear event that began with the Enlightenment or French Revolution and culminated with Jews' acquisition of rights in Central Europe in 1867–71 or Russia in 1917. Rather, emancipation was and is a complex, multidirectional, and ambiguous process characterized by deflections and reversals, defeats and successes, triumphs and tragedies. For example, American Jews mobilized twice for emancipation: in the nineteenth century for political rights and in the twentieth for lost civil rights. Similarly, Israel itself has struggled from the start to institute equality among its heterogeneous citizens.

    By telling the story of this foundational but neglected event, Jewish Emancipation reveals the lost contours of Jewish history over the past half millennium.


    368 pages
    17 b/w illus. 11 maps
    General/trade;Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

    More ...

    David Sorkin is the Lucy G. Moses Professor of History at Yale University. His books include The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna (Princeton), Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment, and The Transformation of German Jewry, 1780–1840.


    "In Jewish Emancipation, David Sorkin provides an illuminating and accessible new interpretation of modern Jewish history. Without sacrificing nuance and detail, Sorkin's narrative is propelled by a set of compelling arguments that revise our understanding of an important phenomenon we thought we understood. The combination of historical insight and meticulous research makes Jewish Emancipation an indispensable work for scholars and lay readers alike."—Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University

    "A pioneering synthesis of an unjustly neglected subject, this book will become a classic. David Sorkin has done something no one has done before—written a global history of Jewish emancipation. By presenting such a broad picture, he makes a convincing case that emancipation is actually one of the main events in modern Jewish history."—Shmuel Feiner, Bar-Ilan University

    "In this masterful work of global history, David Sorkin argues convincingly that emancipation—or its lack—has been the most important force shaping modern Jewish life. Wearing his vast erudition lightly, he has produced a work of enduring value for general readers as well as scholars and students."—Derek Penslar, Harvard University

    "Drawing on deep erudition and a remarkable range of sources, David Sorkin provides the definitive account of Jewish emancipation across vast swaths of time and space, showing how it doubles as a Rorschach test for the societies in which Jews found themselves. It is shocking to discover that emancipation had not yet received its full due—until now. This book is a stunning achievement."—David N. Myers, University of California, Los Angeles

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