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The Damascus Affair: 'Ritual Murder', Politics, and the Jews in 1840 Hardcover – January 13, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0521482462 ISBN-10: 0521482461

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521482461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521482462
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,340,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...the book can be read with profit by anyone interested in the intellectual and historical vicissitudes of the middle third of the 19th century and their ramifications to the present." S. Bowman, Choice

"If any work of history might be termed 'definitive' this one is." Albert S. Lindemann, H-Net Reviews

"The Damascus Affair is impressive in many ways. As a riveting story of murder and of some of the most terrifying extremes of human conduct, it also provides a penetrating scrutiny of both Jewish and European politics at the dawn of the modern era. This is a study as worthy for its balance and comprehensiveness as for its liveliness." Donna Robinson Divine, Domes

"...a very impressive and well-written account.... Frankel provides a particularly impressive review of the reactions to the far-away and long-ago events of his study." Middle East Quarterly

"...this rich, detailed, capacious book plunges deeply into what used to be called `the Eastern Question' from the standpoint of the Damascus Affair of 1840, a clash of local, international, religious, ethnic, and political interests over a charge that dated back to the twelfth century in Europe.... This is a learned, thorough, demanding, wide-ranging, and carefully considered work." Michael R. Marrus, Journal of Modern History

Book Description

Many Jews in Damascus were charged with ritual murder and tortured after the disappearance of an Italian monk and his servant in 1840. This book assesses the "Damascus affair" as a factor in the European and Jewish politics of the time as well as a chapter in Jewish history and historiography.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Philadelphia on July 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Frankel, professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has rescued a small but key event of modern history from ill-deserved obscurity. In a very impressive and well-written account, he tells what happened in Damascus after an Italian monk and his servant disappeared in February 1840. The newly-arrived but powerful French consul, Ratti-Menton, developed an �entirely manufactured� thesis of Jewish ritual murder that the local government in large part accepted, leading to the imprisonment, torture, and death of many Damascene Jews, followed by similar tribulations throughout the eastern Mediterranean.
But the real impact of the Damascus Affair, Frankel shows, lay in Europe, where it led to a formidable backlash against Jews, the greatest in years. Jews found themselves completely unprepared for the tribulations they suffered but learned from this tragedy to organize and lobby, and from it came the first stirrings of modern Jewish solidarity, the basis of the formidable institutions that followed. Frankel provides a particularly impressive review of the reactions to the far-away and long-ago events of his study, showing just how the to-and-froing between the Middle East and Europe on the matter of Jews became a major issue for all concerned. In many ways, he shows, the grounds for the West�s involvement today in the Middle East were set in the terrible events of 1840.
Middle East Quarterly, September 1998
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 on December 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
On 5 February 1840, a capuchin monk named Father Tommaso disappeared together with his servant Ibrahim Amara in Damascus, where they lived. Because they had last been seen on a visit to the Jewish quarter, where they were out to post a notice, suspicion fell on a Jewish household. And because Thomas had been a clergyman in a French, Catholic monastery, he stood under French protection as per Franco-Turkish treaties, and inquiries into his disappearance were initiated by the new French consul, the Count of Ratti-Menton. The case soon turned into a ritual-murder story, blood libels being unknown to the Muslim world but somehow still likely to germinate in the imagination of an outsider such as the Count. Ratti-Menton then enlisted the local authorities which, according to established procedure, used torture as their prime investigatory method. Two men died heroically under interrogation, but others supplied the accusations that were requested of them and denounced more of their fellow Jews. One ex-rabbi even converted to Islam and went on to manufacture translations of the Talmud to fit his persecutors' theories. Soon, more innocents were imprisoned, and the large Jewish community of Damascus found itself on the edge of a full-scale pogrom.

Meanwhile, the affair acquired major international dimensions. The French consul's involvement guaranteed reporting in the European press. The consular bodies in Damascus itself and in Alexandria were split. Moreover, Syria was at the time the bone of contention in a full-scale military conflict between the Ottoman Sultan and his nominal vassal, the Egyptian pasha Mehemet Ali, and this conflict had dragged the European powers: Britain, France, Prussia, the Habsburg Empire, and Russia, into the fray.
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