Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Jerusalem: The Biography Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 25, 2011
|New from||Used from|
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
“It's a wonderful book . . . [Montefiore] really tries to tell you what the life of the city has been like . . . why it means so much to everyone and why it’s so spectacular. You fall in love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can’t make peace over it, because it’s a treasure.”
—President Bill Clinton, #1 holiday book pick on the Today Show
“Magnificent . . . The city’s first ‘biography’—a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints . . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city’s story with compelling, breathless tension.”
—Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal
“Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story.”
—Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review
“This is a fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.”
—Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (UK)
“Immensely readable . . . Montefiore is that rarest of things: a historian who writes great, weighty tomes that read like the best thrillers . . . He has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading.”
—Philip Kerr, Newsweek
“Ambitious and arresting . . . A powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology of the city on the ground. In the matter of competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect . . . Jerusalem: The Biography is a double-headed book: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force.”
—Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books
“Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced.”
—Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Book World
“Magisterial . . . As a writer, Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story . . . It is this kind of detail that makes Jerusalem a particular joy to read.”
“Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3,000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike.”
“In his stunningly comprehensive history, Simon Sebag Montefiore covers 3,000-plus years of the Earth’s most fiercely contested piece of geography . . . Not only has Montefiore delivered a piece of superb scholarship, he has done so in an extremely easy-to-read style. The author tells the history of the complex relationships that existed between long-dead peoples in a manner that makes them seem human and understandable.”
—Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger
“A Meisterwerk . . . As one becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem’s rulers and the ruled, it becomes clear why this work was conceived as a biography. It provides a perfect, almost providentially designed, opportunity for one of our greatest biographers to display every one of his skills. Montefiore has a novelist’s eye, a great journalist’s nose and a great historian’s touch . . . He manages to construct a history that no fair-minded reader can conclude is anything other than judicious, nuanced, balanced, and sensitive . . . When history is written this way one can never have too much.”
—Michael Gove, Times (UK)
“Already a classic—a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose modern religious, political and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of its preceding 3,000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity and a keen eye for the entertaining historical detail.”
“A masterly, vastly entertaining, and timely book . . . Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling. [He] has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context . . . Some fascinating sources are entirely new to English readers . . . This is a compelling narrative and an important book.”
—Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard
“An astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic history of the city . . . Montefiore’s achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material, can hardly be praised enough . . . A marvellous book.”
—Tom Holland, The Sunday Telegraph
“Montefiore’s book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, looting, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy, and spirituality.”
—Antony Beevor, Guardian
“An outstanding work . . . Anyone who has a role to play [in the future of Jerusalem] would do well to read this superbly objective, elegantly written, and highly entertaining book.”
—Saul David, Mail on Sunday
“This is an essential book for those who wish to understand a city that remains a nexus of world affairs . . . Although his Jewish family has strong links to the city, Montefiore scrupulously sustains balance and objectivity . . . Beautifully written, absorbing.”
—Jay Freeman, Booklist (starred)
“A panoramic narrative of Jerusalem, organized chronologically and delivered with magisterial flair. Spanning eras from King David to modern Israel with rich anecdotes and vivid detail, this exceptional volume portrays the personalities and worldviews of the dynasties and families that shaped the city throughout its 3,000-year history.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Jerusalem has been the subject [of] surprisingly few single-authored books aimed at retracing her uniquely varied, long and rich history. Simon Sebag Montefiore, to whom we already owe a debt for his magisterial biography of Stalin, has daringly attempted just that . . . He has both read voraciously, and made excellent use of family archives . . . This reviewer, resident in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, was impressed by Sebag Montefiore’s ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem’s history . . . A lively book.”
—Guy G. Stroumsa, Times Literary Supplement (UK)
“Totally gripping . . . Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship. It is a considerable achievement to have created a sense of pace and variety throughout his 3,000-year narrative. He has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and the adventurers of the past.”
—Barnaby Rogerson, Independent
About the Author
Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Cambridge University. His books have been published in more than thirty-five languages. Potemkin: Catherine the Great’s Imperial Partner was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes in Britain. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar was awarded the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Award (U.K.), le Grand Prix de la biographie politique (France) and the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the concept of Jerusalem has always fascinated me. The Via Dolorosa, The Church of The Holy Sepulchre and The Garden of Gethsemane are all in Jerusalem. This places are holy for christians, who see these places as the literal locations of where christ walked. But incredibly, Christ is only 1/3 of Jerusalem.
Through a seemless prose of historical context, Montefiore weaves an intimate tale: biblical, political, and passionate in its story. Jerusalem for many, has been the center of the world, particularly for Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Places such as the Dome of the Rock or right next to the Wailing Wall. It is an irony that three faiths had to converge on one location. Excellent read, I would recommend to anyone who is interested in history or biblical scholars looking to put a colorface to those locations mentioned in the Bible.
The span of history is equivalent to 10 histories of the United States, in a place where lots happened. It appears Montefiore resolved this difficulty by briefly explaining the general flow of the history and then writing more detailed stories of spectacularly interesting personalities and events for each period -- kings, queens, or religious leaders. It works beautifully. It appears some reviewers didn't understand that pattern.
Montefiore is English, and a member of a distinguished family of Italian and North African Jews who funded the 19th century settlement of impoverished Russian Jews settling Jerusalem. That was in the Ottoman period decades before the century-long fights between Arabs and Jews, which likely explains his access across those lines, and knowing who to interview.
The first 100 pages are based mostly on historical sections of the Bible and Josephus, so those familiar with those sources will not learn much. The parts Montefiore uses in this book are accepted as probably accurate by most Western scholars. After the Biblical period, every page is chock full of fascinating history unfamiliar to nearly all Americans.
He appears to understand all the historical factions who have controlled the city over the centuries. However, like most Europeans, he seems flummoxed by American Evangelical beliefs. Some other commentators mention errors in the book -- I believe those are rare and minor, and some of the Amazon.com comments are themselves simply wrong.
The only points I found wrong were brief, rare references to U.S. history -- for example, he believes that Ben Franklin's suggestion of the crossing of the Red Sea as the seal of the U.S. was accepted. Or that Harry Truman was a back-bench mediocre Senator -- not true during WWII. Those rare errors are not a surprise after reading the Acknowledgements pages -- great scholars, historical players, and Jerusalem leading family members, but all European or Middle Eastern.
On the downside, the author appears to make some errors (or seems to rely on faulty sources) for some religious details on all sides, and labours under the misapprehension that modern religious leaders believe that everything was sunshine and roses back in their religion's heydey.
Nonetheless, an excellent resource.
A rich and intriguing book, and packed with detail that makes for slow progress
I have read this book as part of a graduate course I am taking on the Biblical Lands. It is packed with information, almost too much so, in that it covers Jerusalem from its beginnings as a small Jebusite town of less than 15 acres and 1,200 inhabitants to the present as an urbane, divided, internally warring city of great economic and political contrasts. Jerusalem is presently controlled by the State of Israel and parts of it are nominally shared with the Palestinian Authority. It stands at the cross roads of vast political and economic conflict between Western powers and developing Islamic national, and pan-national resistance to that control. The one time cooperation of the Muslims to “go along to get along” has gone and now Jerusalem and neighboring Muslim nations are in a virtual state of war with the so called “Islamic State” which seeks to impose its political control across national boundaries and implement fundamentalist Islam, such as has not been seen in millennia. To implement this “Islamist” control the ISIS fighters have mounted a war of terrorism, imprisonment and decapitation which is made real to the world through media disseminated via the internet.
What is most striking to me is that Jerusalem is the holy site for three monotheistic religions and the essence of what Montefiore reports is the wholesale slaughter, plundering, and looting of the occupants of Jerusalem, and the political despotism that has controlled Jerusalem across the millennia. The political elite of Jerusalem have come from across the face of the earth and seemingly the prime motivation is not that of religious sanctity but economic and political gain. Montefiore reports that the sacred Jewish, Christian and Islamic holy sites in many instances are carried on in a carnival atmosphere focused on the core economic activity of Jerusalem, tourism.
Montefiore recites very carefully the history of those that have controlled and directed the destiny of Jerusalem. Always that control has been vested in one or another religious group of the three monotheistic religions. What I find ironic and of note is what Montefiore reports in Chapter 40, entitled “Arab City, Imperial City 1870-1880.” His opening sentence of the chapter, is telling: “The real Jerusalem was like a Tower of Babel in fancy dress….Ottoman officers wore embroidered jackets coupled with European uniforms; Ottoman Jews, Armenians and Arab Christians and Muslims sported frock-coats….” He continues on page 377 and comments that all of the religions, after the end of the Islamic Ramadan fast celebrated with a feast and fair mode outside of the city walls. “During the Jewish festival of Purim, Muslim and Christian Arabs dressed up in traditional Jewish costumes, and all three religions attended the Jewish Picnic held at the tomb of Simon the Just north of the Damascus Gate. Jews presented their Arab neighbors with matzah and invited them to the Passover Seder dinner, while the Arabs returned the favor by giving the Jews newly baked bread when the festival ended. Jewish mohels often circumcised Muslim children.” And on the chapter continues reciting the ways that Jews, Christians and Muslims cooperated in that 19th century period; all of which has now come crashing down.
Bottom line, this is a wonderful book that requires concentration and persistence. One is also helped by a love of history and a passing acquaintance with many of the issues and historical periods covered.