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The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, From Cromwell to Churchill Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor emeritus at the Graduate School of the City University, has written extensively on intellectual and cultural history with a focus on Victorian England. Her most recent books are The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, and The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2004 she received the National Humanities Medal awarded by the President.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594035709
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594035708
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,483,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
The title brings to mind an updated punch line for the old ethnic joke: "What is the world's shortest book?"

'The People of the Book' is very interesting; choc-a-bloc with historical nuggets about the attitudes of the English toward their Jewish population, much of it shaped by a fascination with the Old Testament by Reformation Protestants. A good portion of the text includes direct quotes from the various politicians, philosophers, and authors that Ms. Himmelfarb sites and meticulously footnotes.

The author starts with an etymology of the term 'philo-Semite'(it may literally translate to 'love of Jews' but was originally a derogatory term of German origin), a brief historical backround of the 13th century Jewish expulsion, and then their subsequent return under Oliver Cromwell's rule. A chief concern that English Calvinists/Puritans had was that the ingathering of the Jews into the New Jerusalem (ei:Britain) was a Biblical condition for the Second Coming. The other, more pragmatic issue was that the Dutch were benefiting as a world trade power from the talent and skills of their Jewish population.

'The People of the Book' pulls few punches and explains why it took so long for full British citizenship privileges to be conferred upon Jewish residents...but all of this is in the context of what was happening concurrently on the Continent.

There are things that I would have liked to read about that Ms. Himmelfarb did not include such as: Royal attitudes toward Jews are not mentioned beyond King George III. Is it true that Queen Victoria insisted on having her sons circumcised because she believed her family to be of the Davidic line?
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With all the negative things that are frequently written about semites, it is refreshing to see that someone has looked into another, brighter side of the issue. This is a short, well-written book that should appeal to those interested in history, literature, and politics. I recommended it to several of my friends and got favorable feedback from them.
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