This article is arranged according to the following outline:
Second Temple Period
Chronicles of the Jews
EARLY MIDDLE AGES
SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE
SIXTEENTH TO THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
PUBLICATION OF SOURCES
LOCAL JEWISH HISTORY
One can best appreciate biblical historiography by comparing it with Greek historiography. Herodotus, a contemporary of authors of the later parts of the Bible, begins his book by explaining that he was publishing his researches "in the hope of preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done." In contrast, biblical historiography explains the events of history as parts of a divine plan at the center of which is God's chosen people. The point of biblical "remembrance" is religiously didactic. Past events, some real, others imagined, are recounted in order to show that the fortunes of the Israelite-Jewish people are directly proportional to their loyalty to Yahweh. The sequence of historical works in the Hebrew Bible is probably unparalleled in ancient historiography, in that it endeavors to place the history of a particular people – the Hebrews – in the setting of the history of the human race. The record begins in Genesis at creation and traces the beginnings of all humankind. From Genesis 12 the purview is narrowed to the story of the Hebrews from the days of their progenitor, Abraham, onward. Yet even then the wider setting is not overlooked: the genealogical data (Gen. 25, 36, et al.) purporting to give the broad outlines of the record of the kindred peoples who were neighbors of the Hebrews. Whatever the origin of the various documents which go to make up the pentateuchal story, they have been skillfully welded together into a narrative with a majestic sweep.
The Pentateuch's narratives are succeeded by an account of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the invading Hebrew tribes in the Book of Joshua. The major traditions of the Pentateuch, including the Egyptian enslavement, the exodus from Egypt, and the trek through the desert must be understood as political and religious allegories (Sperling) rather than factual accounts. The nature of the lost *Book of the Wars of the Lord, mentioned in Numbers 21:14, can only be conjectured, but it seems to have been a poetical elaboration of some part of the pentateuchal story. The Book of Judges comprises a somewhat heterogeneous collection of episodes relating to the pre-monarchic period: there is considerable chronological overlapping; no differentiation is made between happenings restricted to part of the country and those affecting it as a whole; and while some stories are dismissed in a few lines, others, e.g. the epic of Deborah (4–5), Abimelech (9), Samson (13–16), and the gruesome story of the concubine in Gibeah (19), are given extended treatment which does not necessarily reflect their significance in the overall story. Despite the presence of mythical and legendary elements, the Book of Judges presents a picture of pre-monarchic life that conforms reasonably well to the picture drawn by archeology.
Attention to national historiography is resumed in the Book(s) of Samuel. This gives a consecutive history of the Israelite people and its principal leaders in the period approximately coinciding with the 11th century B.C.E., with special emphasis on the lives of Samuel (1–7), Saul (8–31), and David (16ff., II Sam. 1–24). The writer displays an intimate knowledge of his subject and background material: as an attempt to convey an objective picture of the times and the personalities involved it is probably unique in ancient Oriental literature. The detailed biography of David, perhaps incorporated from an independent composition, is a splendid piece of historical writing and character delineation. The hero is presented as a human being with traits of nobility but at the same time capable of the basest actions. The story of the physical decline
Possibly a good deal of this material was derived from the composition of an official court chronicler or historiographer, an office that may already have existed at this period. This seems to have been the function of the royal mazkir (lit. "remembrancer"; cf. II Sam. 8:16; I Kings 4:3). The first specific mention of a contemporary historiographical record is the Book of the Acts of Solomon (referred to in I Kings 11:41) which obviously contained a great deal more biographical material than that part which was incorporated in the extant Books of Kings and of Chronicles. The period of the monarchy was also covered wholly or in part by the Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel and – apparently another work – the Book of Kings of Israel and Judah (II Chron. 27:7). The extant Book of Kings, which used these sources, is an uneven work, expatiating on the reign of Solomon (I Kings 1:11), the division of the kingdom after his death (12–14), and the epic of the house of Ahab and its dramatic fall (I Kings 16–II Kings 9), which contains some of the finest descriptive writing in the whole of historical literature, ancient or modern (especially II Kings 9:4–13, 29–37). The Book(s) of *Chronicles retells a good deal of the contents of Samuel and Kings, but with different stresses and from a different point of view, more favorable to David and later emphasizing the centrality of the Temple and adding many incidental details regarding the organization of the cult. The chief historiographical contribution of Chronicles is its consistent theodicy. Whenever a "good" king suffers, it is due to some impiety otherwise unattested outside of Chronicles. In like manner when a "bad' king prospers Chronicles attributes that to an otherwise unattested good deed. The Hebrew Bible also contains historical monographs relating to a more restricted field or period in the Books of Daniel (with much extraneous material), Ruth, and Esther.
[Cecil Roth /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
The period of the Second Temple, until its last days, was far poorer in its historiography (as in other literature) than the period of the First Temple. On the other hand, the historical works then produced were memorable because they were admittedly based to some extent on what many termed archivistic research. The official documents and correspondence found in the Book of Ezra (see chs. 4, 6) were derived – or purported to be derived – from official records preserved in public collections. The Book of Nehemiah, meanwhile, claimed to embody extensive quotations from the actual autobiography or memoirs of Nehemiah himself, whose authenticity seems to be established by the pathetic personal interjections ("Remember unto me, O my God, for good") which are interspersed (5:19, et al.). Thereafter there is a virtual blank in Jewish historiography extending over some three centuries. Two writers then devoted works to the revolt of the Hasmoneans, both of which have been incorporated in the Apocrypha. The author of I Maccabees – who wrote in Hebrew – was obviously an admirer of the Hasmonean dynasty who probably lived in the reign of John Hyrcanus, when independence seemed to have been definitely reestablished. Factual and straightforward, it is a historical source of first importance. Perhaps earlier than this work was the original author of II Maccabees, who may be regarded as the earliest Jewish historian known by name. This was *Jason of Cyrene, a Hellenistic Jew probably of the second century B.C.E., who wrote in Greek, though his writing indicates no knowledge or influence of the great classical Greek historians. The work – an abstract of a five-volume history on an ambitious scale – centered around the personality of Judah Maccabee, except insofar as it cites a number of authentic documents drawn probably from public records. In contrast to I Maccabees it is naive in tone and credulously recounts a number of "miracles" in which the author implicitly believed. The other narrative books of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (III and IV Maccabees, Judith, Tobit) are basically fictitious rather than historical and need not be taken into consideration here. A separate work of John Hyrcanus, now lost, is mentioned in I Maccabees 16:23–4.
The last days of the Second Temple period were marked, it seems, by a reawakening of a historical sense among the Jews which led to the emergence of a significant historical literature. *Philo of Alexandria, as well as his philosophical writings, wrote a historical work, basically theological in inspiration, intended to demonstrate the operation of Divine Providence in protecting the Jewish people. Of this work, only two of the original five parts have been preserved: an account of the persecution of the Jews of Egypt by the Roman governor Flaccus and the retribution that was meted out to him; and a vivid description of the delegation of the Alexandrian Jews, including Philo himself, to the unbalanced Roman emperor Caius Caligula. Philo shows himself in these writings to be master of vivacious descriptive powers. His contemporary Nicholas of Damascus, the private secretary of Herod the Great, was not a Jew, but had a considerable influence on Jewish historiography because of the lengthy account of Herod's reign in his voluminous universal history. The full text of this has been lost, but considerable portions of it were incorporated, apparently almost unchanged, in the historical writings of *Josephus. The latter's political rival, *Justus of Tiberias, private secretary of King Agrippa II, wrote in Greek an account of the great war against Rome of 66–73 – or at least of its earlier stages – in which Josephus' ambiguous conduct in Galilee at this time was scathingly described. It is now lost, but is of significance because it goaded the latter (who indeed did not scruple to make use of the information which it contained) to defend himself in his own historical writings. Justus also wrote a work on the Jewish monarchy, similarly no longer extant.
The personal character of Josephus has no bearing on his importance as a historian, which was extremely significant: it is indeed possible to regard him as one of the great historians of antiquity. Beginning to write at the conclusion of the great war against Rome in order to excuse his own conduct and reply to the attacks which were being made on him, he soon extended his interests and became a historian by vocation. His failings as well as some of his qualities are obvious to the most casual reader. He did not have the virtue of consistency, sometimes giving contradictory accounts of the same episode in different passages. To this he was impelled to some extent by his constant need to justify himself and to present a favorable picture of Vespasian and Titus, his attitude toward whom was nauseatingly sycophantic. On the other hand, he took pains to consult documents in public archives, which he often quotes in extenso – though his paradoxical Jewish patriotism (except as far as concerned those Jews who set themselves in opposition to Rome) sometimes may have led him to modify his texts. His great virtue in his historical writing however was his tremendous sweep and effortless mastery of his materials. His Jewish Antiquities is a history of the Jewish people from its beginnings down to the period of the Hasmonean monarchy. The first part is based on the biblical accounts, reinforced by legend and allegorical moralizing: while it adds nothing to the known factual knowledge, it is memorable as an attempt, almost in a modern idiom, to reinterpret the ancient traditional accounts in accordance with the standards of contemporary historiography. The story enters a new phase with the account of the Hasmonean rising and monarchy, the Roman conquest, the reign of Herod and the Herodian house, and the events leading up to the revolt of 66 and the great war against the Romans which followed: this is contained in overlapping accounts at the end of the Jewish Antiquities and in the Jewish War – a work memorable in that here the author, instead of merely describing the revolt and the progress of hostilities, considers it necessary to give a detailed account of the political background and of the remote events indirectly leading up to the outbreak of the war.
It is remarkable that for centuries subsequently to the publication of Josephus, Jewish historiography was utterly stagnant apart from the exceptional attempt made in the *Seder Olam Rabbah, plausibly ascribed to *Yose b. Halafta (c. 150 C.E.), to establish a chronological framework of biblical history. So far as is known, the Jews of the age of the Talmud had no knowledge of Josephus' fundamental writings; while the serious contribution of the Books of Maccabees to history were naturalized into Hebrew in the historically worthless *Scroll of Antiochus, written as a liturgical exercise. The revival of Hebrew studies in Italy in the eighth century, in an environment strongly affected by the culture of the outside world, resulted in an attempt to present the historical writings of Josephus in Hebrew in the chronicle ascribed to Joseph b. Goryon (Book of *Josippon), compiled probably in southern Italy in the tenth century: a fine literary exercise, though lacking basic historical importance. It was of great significance in Jewish historiography, however, as it was the main source of information for Jews in the Middle Ages – including even the greatest scholars – for the events of the last years of the Second Temple period. Its literary influence on the other hand was slight, except in such works as the 12th-century world chronicle of *Jerahmeel b. Solomon, also an Italian production though emanating from the north rather than the south of the peninsula. The most important historical work of Italian origin of the early Middle Ages was the Chronicle of Ahimaaz, compiled in 1054 but admittedly incorporating earlier materials as well as family tradition (see *Ahimaaz b. Paltiel). This is basically a delightful family chronicle, naively written and embodying much preposterous legend. On the other hand, it gives a vivid (if credulous) picture of Jewish life in southern Italy of the time with which it deals – formerly utterly unknown – and has important sidelights on conditions in Sicily, Byzantium, North Africa, and Ereẓ Israel. The Chronicle of Ahimaaz is preserved in a single manuscript, discovered last century (1869) – a fact which raises the tantalizing possiblity that it followed a prevailing literary fashion, and that there may have been similar family chronicles of the period which have disappeared without leaving even the slightest trace.
A wholly different production is the Letter of R. *Sherira b. Ḥanina, gaon of Pumbedita (987), written in reply to an enquiry addressed to him by the scholars of Kairouan. The information was needed as guidance in the study of the Talmud; but in reply Sherira gave a complete account of the chain of transmission of rabbinic tradition from remote times down to his own day, in the spirit of contemporary Arab writers on similar themes. The information that he gave was based on the archives of the academies, which may have comprised some methodical chronicles. This remains to the present day the framework for the history of Mesopotamian Jewry in the period between the close of the Talmud and the 11th century.
No historical record of any sort that has survived was produced by the Jews of northern Europe during the first centuries of the development of Ashkenazi Jewry: it is for this reason that knowledge of it is in so great a degree hypothetical. A couple of narrative fragments describe in a somewhat legendary vein persecutions in France in 992 and 1007 respectively. With the First Crusade of 1096, Jewish historiography, or at least chronography, somewhat abruptly begins. The precise interrelationship between the three accounts of the Rhineland massacres at the time of the First Crusade (by Solomon b. Simeon or Samson, *Eliezer b. Nathan of Mainz, and an anonymous author) is as yet undetermined, but they certainly do not greatly postdate the events which they describe: the anonymous account may be the original source, but on the other hand it is possible that all three derive from another source now lost. In any case, the somewhat abrupt beginning seems to suggest that these accounts are part only of a more extensive chronicle which has not survived. Moreover,
Possibly the first medieval Jewish writer who may be considered a historian in the wider sense was Abraham *Ibn Daud of Toledo, who wrote brief histories of the Second Temple period and of Rome in addition to his famous Sefer ha-Kabbalah, dealing with the transmission of rabbinic lore from the earliest times down to his own day, written in a vivid Hebrew style in the rhetorical tradition of Arabic historiography. Basically, the work is an attempt to prove historically the continuity of rabbinic teaching from the remotest times, in order to disprove the Karaite counter-claims; incidentally, it comprises a number of famous "purple patches" relating to individuals and episodes of Spanish Jewish history which have entered into the common store of Jewish historical legend. The latest editor, Gerson D. Cohen (1967), is, however, inclined to doubt fundamentally the historicity of these insertions, believing that many of them were adapted from Muslim sources.
The "chain of tradition" remained henceforth one of the main preoccupations of Spanish Jewish historiography: in the Sefer Yuhasin of Abraham *Zacuto, in the continuation of the Sefer ha-Kabbalah by *Abraham b. Solomon of Torrutiel (b. 1482) and others; though in all such works historical data (mainly relating to persecutions and massacres) were interspersed almost at random in the basic chronological account of scholars and scholarship. The same applied to the Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah (Venice, 1586) by Gedaliah b. Joseph *Ibn Yaḥya, member of a distinguished family of Portuguese exiles domiciled in Italy. This comprises a perplexing medley of information on scholarship and scholars, bulked out with much legend which later became part of Jewish folklore, and occasionally diverging into historical byways of considerable significance as raw material for the historian rather than a contribution to historiography as the term is now understood. Immanuel *Aboab's Spanish defense of Jewish tradition, Nomología (Amsterdam (1629), but written in Italy), though more serious and less diffuse, was in much the same category.
Seemingly of a different type, and historiographically more significant, was a chronicle dealing basically with the Jews of the south of France between 1187 and 1240, a precis of which (from a manuscript in the hands of Yom Tov Sanzolo, a rabbi of Spanish origin then living in Turkey) was incorporated by Joseph *Ibn Verga as an appendix to his father's Shevet Yehudah (see below).
Probably at the beginning of the 15th century, Profiat *Duran compiled a history of Jewish persecutions and suffering. The wide competence and general culture of the author makes it probable that this was a work of considerable significance. It is known, however, only through incidental mentions in later literature, though apparently it was used extensively by the 16th-century chroniclers, with whom Jewish historiography entered on a fresh phase. Outstanding among these was Samuel *Usque, in his great threnody written in classical Portuguese, Consolaçam as Tribulaçoens de Israel (Ferrara, 1553). It is in form a dialogue between a much-suffering shepherd and his comforters, following what was then a popular literary convention. Incidentally, the first part gives an account, wholly based on the Bible and some post-biblical traditions, of the First Temple period; the second deals similarly with the Second Temple; the third with a series of Jewish persecutions and sufferings in the Middle Ages. From the literary point of view this is one of the most memorable productions in the entire field of Jewish literature: it is certainly the most remarkable work of its type of Jewish significance written in the vernacular (other perhaps than Arabic) until recent times. It does not, however, purport to be a history and the episodes, except those relating to the writer's own period, are taken from other sources, sometimes heavily manipulated to suit his purpose.
Almost exactly contemporaneous with the publication of the Consolaçam was that of the Shevet Yehudah, one of the most curious Hebrew literary productions of the age. It seems to have been based on a chronicle of Jewish persecution, written by the martyred R. Judah ibn Verga of Seville, probably leaning heavily, so far as the earlier period is concerned, on the lost work of Profiat Duran. This in turn was edited and supplemented for the contemporary period (the expulsions from Spain and Portugal and the accompanying events) by the original writer's son, Solomon; it was prepared for press, with various supplements such as the brief chronicle mentioned above, by Joseph ibn Verga (Adrianople, 1553). The work as it has survived, however, is in the main the production of Solomon *Ibn Verga, who regarded it not as a mere chronicle but as a vehicle for conveying his critique on his Jewish coreligionists and the place of the Jews in a gentile society. He therefore interspersed among the historical episodes accounts of discussions and disputations at various Spanish courts which seem to be nothing more than the fabrication of his own perplexed imagination. Moreover, even in the historical episodes, he sometimes inserts caustic asides which throw more light on his own psychology than on the events which he describes. This is the case, for example, in the few pages which he devotes (§40) to the disputation of *Tortosa: it is significant that of this cataclysmic and relatively recent event in Spanish Jewish
It is significant of the then prevailing backward state of Jewish intellectual life, which in the Middle Ages had been at the forefront of European cultural activity, that in the field of Jewish historiography Hebrew literature was only just arriving at the stage of the chronicle – that is, the treatment of independent episodes in chronological order – whereas European literature had already discovered, through the writings of Bruno, Guicciardini, and Machiavelli, "history" in its modern sense, with analysis of cause and effect, of motives and results, and the concatenation of events. Similarly Azariah de' *Rossi in his Me'or Einayim (Mantua, 1573) had introduced to Jewish scholarship the novel idea of using secular sources to supplement or check the data in talmudic literature and consulting the extraneous materials to establish a chronological framework for Jewish history. However, his work was frowned upon – if not worse – even by some of his more liberal contemporaries; its study was discouraged, and it had virtually no influence until the era of the Juedische Wissenschaft in the early 19th century. In any case, de' Rossi's writings were in the nature of prolegomena to Jewish historiography: so far as is known, he made no attempt to apply his scientific principles in any straightforward historical writing of his own.
It is possible that other significant works now lost were written at this period, the age of what might be termed the tyranny of the printing press. What was published entered into the common store of literature, while a work for some reason or the other not published, however great its merit, had only a restricted influence or none at all. Moreover, at this time so much of what there was to be recorded about the Jews centered on their persecution at the hands of their neighbors that its publication was difficult if not impossible. This may be one of the reasons why Isaac *Cantarini's Paḥad Yiẓḥak, describing the attacks on the Jews in Padua in 1684, was written in such cryptic language and published in Amsterdam (1685), though Abraham Massarano's Ha-Galut ve-ha-Pedut, giving an account of the sufferings of the Jews at Mantua at the hands of the German Landsknechten, appeared in Venice (1634). The Italian Jews, with their mastery of limpid Hebrew, their facility for self-expression, and their familiarity with the advanced literary standards of their non-Jewish neighbors, were always highly articulate and had a facility for recording events which touched them closely. The recently-discovered record by Benjamin Nehemiah b. Elhanan of Civitanova, largely personal, of the times of Pope Paul IV and his relations with the Jews is a significant contribution to Hebrew prose literature as well as to Jewish historiography. The same may be said of the account of the plague in Padua in 1631 by Abraham Catalan (published in Kobeẓ al Jad, 14 (1946), 67–102). Parallel to this is the Spanish story, largely legendary, of the arrival of the first settlement of Marranos as professing Jews in Holland at the close of the 16th century. This, however, is an almost unique composition. The paucity of Jewish historical literature in Hebrew is perhaps less surprising than its virtual absence in languages other than Hebrew.
The newly-awakened chronographical (rather than historiographical) sense among the Jews is best exemplified in the writings of *Joseph ha-Kohen, who at least used non-Jewish sources, showed a broad geographical sweep, and tied up – clumsily, it is true – Jewish historical events with general history. However, his writing loses much of its effectiveness by his cloying attempt to imitate biblical narrative style, especially regrettable in a period when the Hebrew prose style of Italian Jews was so spontaneous and vivacious. His magnum opus was his history of the kings of France and Turkey, Divrei ha-Yamim le-Malkhei Zarefat (Sabionetta, 1554; Amsterdam, 1733), which earned him from Basnage the title of "the second Josephus." It is in fact a somewhat jejune production, not restricted to the subject matter of the title but giving a broad account of European history in chronological form, mainly in the 15th–16th centuries, all derived from familiar sources; there are occasional sidelights on Jewish history, mostly, however, repeated in his other writings. The book was nevertheless very popular, most copies of the first edition having many pages thumbed out of existence; and it helped to give its reader some idea of the main issues in general, and the background of Jewish history. Of greater importance as a source of Jewish history, however, was Joseph ha-Kohen's Emek ha-Bakha ("Valley of Tears"; cf. Ps. 84:7). For obvious reasons (for it was basically an account of the persecution of the Jews by their neighbors, stressing the share of the popes of the period of the Catholic Counter-Reformation) this was not published at the time (it was rediscovered only at the close of the 19th century) and underwent revisions and updating by the author, and after his death by an anonymous editor. The author makes use not only of Hebrew sources and Usque's chronicle but also of some non-Jewish authors whom he cites by name. This type of research was an innovation in Jewish historiography, but there are few other traces of modernity in the work, which is an episodic treatment in chronological sequence, valuable mainly for the information that the author gives on his own age and environment.
Even more blatantly chronological is the work of David *Gans. Notwithstanding his wide general culture, his intimacy with the most distinguished astronomers of his day, and his acquaintance with the broad outlines of general history, his Ẓemaḥ David (Prague, 1592) is no more than a chronological record in two parts, the one dealing with general, the other with Jewish historical events, with occasional narrative amplifications. Notwithstanding its obvious defects it was important
Perhaps none of the 16th-century Jewish historians was more capable than Elijah *Capsali, a Cretan scholar-physician who had studied in Padua. His parallel works on the history of Turkey and of Venice, the former including a remarkable account of the expulsion from Spain and the fate of the exiles, cannot be evaluated properly until they are published in full. To a large extent, however, they are based on personal observation and reminiscence, and the latter especially contains much autobiographical material which removes it from the strict category of history. Crete being at that time under Venetian rule, Capsali was essentially European in culture, and his work is therefore in a different category from the chronicle of scholars by the Egyptian Joseph *Sambari (Neubauer, Chronicles, 1 (1887), 115–62), the Kore ha-Dorot of David *Conforte (1677), or the later History of Fez (ed. by G. Vajda).
The *Chmielnicki massacres in Poland (1648–49) occasioned a spate of historical publications, the most noteworthy being the Yeven Meẓulah of Nathan Nata *Hannover (Venice, 1653), true to medieval precedent in concentrating on massacre and suffering. The autobiographies produced at this period by Leone *Modena and *Glueckel of Hameln, invaluable though they are for reconstructing the history of the period, are hardly to be considered in the category of historiography.
*Manasseh Ben Israel included in a list of his unpublished works a Heroica Historia of the Jewish people, intended as a continuation of Josephus. If this was ever written, it has disappeared. After his day editions of Josippon appeared both in Hebrew and in Yiddish with a supplement entitled She'erit Yisrael (Amsterdam, 1741) by Menahem Mann b. Solomon ha-Levi *Amelander. This gave the Jewish reader some idea of the continuous history of his people. But the first systematic history of the Jews, from remote times onward, was compiled not by a Jew but by the French Protestant pastor Jacques *Basnage (Histoire des Juifs…, 7 vols., 1706–11; Eng. tr. 1708) which he wrote while living in exile in Holland. Unoriginal and of little independent value, it is nevertheless memorable as the first attempt since the days of Josephus to give a comprehensive history of the Jewish people from antiquity onward. It therefore enjoyed great popularity, and was often translated and republished. The occidental Jew who wished to learn in a systematic fashion something about the past of his people had for many years no other work to consult except this. It constituted, moreover, the basis for several more popular and less voluminous presentations such as The History of the Jews from the Destruction of Jerusalem to the Present Time (New York, 1812) by the American Christian writer Hannah *Adams (which included for the first time in Jewish historiography some lines devoted to America). The once popular work by H.H. Milman, later dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London (London, 1830), was in much the same category, as was the history by Charles Malot (Paris, 1826) in French. The first Jew to attempt a consistent history of his people in a modern European language was Solomon *Loewisohn in his Vorlesungen ueber die neuere Geschichte der Juden (Vienna, 1820). He was followed by Peter *Beer, while David *Ottensosser published a similar work in Hebrew characters (Fuerth, 1821–25). The History of the Jews, from their Origin to their Ultimate Dispersion (1824) by M. Mayers of Yarmouth, England, was based, like his other writings, on Beer.
Meanwhile, as a by-product of the interest in Hebraic studies by Christian (mainly Protestant) theologians, a number of local histories by more or less well informed Christian scholars appeared in the 18th century, before any similar work by a Jew made its appearance: e.g., Anglia Judaica by D'Blossiers *Tovey (Oxford, 1738); Giovanni di Giovanni's L'ebraismo della Sicilia (Palermo, 1748); J.C. *Ulrich's Sammlung juedischer Geschichten in der Schweiz (Basle, 1768); Andreas Wuerfel's history of the Jews in Fuerth (1754) and Nuremberg (Nuremberg, 1755); and J.C. Aretin's history of the Jews in Bavaria (Landshut, 1803) – all of them serving to prepare the ground for more consistent and thorough treatment of Jewish historical material.
The period of the *Wissenschaft des Judentums witnessed the first serious attempt by a Jew to present the history of his people as a whole in accordance with the standards of modern scholarship. It was only in 1820 that Isaac Marcus *Jost, a teacher in the Jewish school in Frankfurt, published the first volume of his history of the Jews from the Maccabean period to contemporary times: the ninth and last volume appeared in 1829. This was the first history of the Jews written in accordance with the criteria of modern scholarship by a person with an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew sources and capable of making full use of them. The deficiencies of the work resulted from the personal attitudes of the author. A leader of German Reform Judaism in its early stages, he was to some extent out of sympathy with traditional Jewish life: he was coldly rationalistic, and his intention was nakedly apologetic; literary history rather than the history of the people occupied the forefront of his picture, and he lacked historical training as well as the personal warmth which is needed for a great historian. His later work, a history of Judaism and its sects concentrating on religious history (3 vols., 1857–59), has similar defects but made use of a greater range of research and was therefore in certain respects definitely superior. Nevertheless, the two works still retain some importance, and Jost may fairly be regarded as the father of serious Jewish historiography.
It is said that when Moritz *Steinschneider, the father of Hebrew bibliography, heard that Heinrich *Graetz was engaged
Simon *Dubnow set out deliberately to correct the defects of Graetz's history. Of Russian birth and author of the history of Eastern European Hasidism (1930–32) and of the Jews of Russia and Poland (1916–20), he did not find the task difficult. Belonging to a later generation, he was naturally able to pay proper attention to factors which his precursors had overlooked. Nevertheless, notwithstanding his professed intention, he failed to carry out his plan of devoting adequate attention to social and economic life. Moreover, the subsequent Holocaust, in which he himself perished, threw his work out of balance; and indeed the annihilation of Eastern Jewry, and the consequent catastrophic decline of Yiddish in its former homeland, removed from the realm of actuality the living centers which were the focus of his treatment.
The only remaining massive treatment of Jewish history as a whole is the Social and Religious History of the Jews by Salo W. *Baron (27 vols., 1952–832). This work, overwhelming in its vast erudition and its superb bibliographical equipment, has elevated the author to the first rank among Jewish historians, but it is essentially a discussion of the interplay of social and religious forces in Jewish history rather than a consistent history of the Jews. Popular single-volume histories of the Jews have also been produced in many languages in the course of the past generation, e.g., in English by M.L. *Margolis and A. *Marx, S. *Grayzel, R. Learsi, A.L. *Sachar, C. *Roth, and others.
During the past century there has been a spate of historical writing on specific periods, aspects, or geographical areas of Jewish history – without taking into account the mass of writing on biblical history to which Jewish scholars such as E. *Speiser and B. *Mazar made fundamental contributions. Thus a number of Christian scholars such as Emil *Schuerer and Eduard *Meyer have dealt with the period of the birth of Christianity – for the most part in a somewhat biased religious spirit. This has been counterbalanced on the Jewish side by the work of Adolf *Buechler, Joseph *Klausner, Gedaliah *Allon, Solomon *Zeitlin, Yitzhak *Baer, and, so far as Hellenistic Egypt is concerned, by Victor (Avigdor) *Tcherikover, and for the Roman Empire generally by Jean *Juster. Social history engaged the attention of Moritz *Guedemann, Israel *Abrahams, Abraham *Berliner, and Simhah *Assaf, and economic history that of Levi *Herzfeld, Georg *Caro, Mark *Wischnitzer, and a devoted band of Eastern European writers, for the most part Dubnow's disciples, such as Ignacy Isaac *Schipper, Bernard *Weinryb, and Jacob *Lestschinsky. The history of the Khazars was treated by the non-Jewish scholar D.M. Dunlop, that of Beta Israel by Wolf *Leslau, the German Court Jews by Selma *Stern-Tauebler and the Marranos by Cecil Roth and Benzion *Netanyahu. The relations of the Catholic Church and the Jews engaged the attention of Moritz *Stern, Bernard *Blumenkranz, and Grayzel, and, from the Christian side, of Peter Browe and (more objectively) James William *Parkes. Gershom *Scholem, as a logical sequel to his works on Jewish mysticism, wrote the definitive account of the messianic movement associated with the name of Shabbetai Ẓevi.
There is an extremely large number of monographs of varying value on individual towns and communities, such as Rome (H. *Vogelstein and P. Rieger, A. Berliner, H.J. *Leon), Florence (U. *Cassuto), Frankfurt (I. *Kracauer), Vilna (I. Cohen), Paris (L. *Kahn), Cologne (A. *Kober), Mantua (S. Simonsohn), Vienna (M. *Gruenwald), Baghdad (D.S. *Sassoon), Salonika (J. Nehama, I.S. *Emmanuel), Castoria (M. Molho), Ragusa [i.e. Dubrovnik] (J. Tadić), and many more. This material has in some cases been digested in histories of the Jews in individual countries, such as Germany (I. *Elbogen), Spain (Y. Baer; for the Muslim period E. *Ashtor), Italy (C. Roth, A. *Milano), Portugal (Mendes dos Remedios), England (A.M. *Hyamson, C. Roth), Egypt (V. Tcherikover for the Hellenistic period; J. *Mann, E. Ashtor, and J. Landau for the
This is apart from the thousands of separate articles both on aspects of general Jewish history and on the annals of individual communities which have appeared in general scientific periodicals (especially those devoted to local history) and in specialist Jewish reviews such as the *Revue des Études Juives, Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (two series), the *Jewish Quarterly Review, *Tarbiz, Rivista Israelitica, Historia Judaica, and Zion (the historical quarterly published since 1936 by the Historical Society of Israel). Salo W. Baron's monumental Social and Religious History of the Jews is thus far the only major work that has attempted to take into account the entire range of this vast accumulated source material.
From the close of the 19th century, following the tendencies in general scholarship, a beginning was made with the systematic investigation and publication of historical sources. This was the principal object of the Historische Kommission fuer Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, established in 1885, which published a number of important source books on the subject. In England, investigation of medieval sources was begun in a systematic though superficial fashion by Joseph *Jacobs. The *Jewish Historical Society of England, of which he was the founder, subsequently began the complete publication of the records of the medieval English Exchequer of the Jews. A calendar was made of the rich 13th and 14th century material in the archives of the crown of Aragon by Jean *Régné. Jacobs had carried out in 1894 a cursory inquiry into the manuscript sources for the history of the Jews in Spain, setting the example for the more systematic investigation made by Y.(F.) Baer in the 1920s. The rewriting of Spanish Jewish history was thus made possible. Magyar-zsidó oklevé tár (Monumenta Hungariae Judaica, 11 vols., 1903–67) collected the basic material regarding Hungarian Jewry, and Regesty i Nadpisi (3 vols., 1899–1910) materials regarding Russia. The General (now Central) Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been engaged since 1939 in collecting archivistic material both from governmental archives and Jewish communal bodies from every land. The discovery of the Cairo *Genizah at the end of the 19th century revealed a vast amount of hitherto unknown record material for Middle Eastern Jewry in the early Middle Ages: this has been investigated by a number of scholars, on the historical side, especially by Jacob Mann and S.D. *Goitein in his studies on social and economic life.
Historical source materials in Hebrew have been collected and published by Adolf *Neubauer (Medieval Jewish Chronicles, 1887–95), Abraham *Kahana (Sifrut ha-Historyah ha-Yisre'elit), Simḥah Assaf (especially his source book for the history of Jewish education), Simon *Bernfeld (Sefer ha-Dema'ot, on the history of Jewish persecution), and Benzion *Dinur, in an ambitious collection covering a great part of the Middle Ages. Jewish historical source books have been published in English by J.R. *Marcus and L.W. *Schwarz. Inscriptions and epitaphs have been collected and published by numerous scholars, such as J.B. *Frey (classical period), I.S. *Emmanuel (Salonika, Curaçao), F. *Cantera (Spain), M. *Schwab (France, Spain), S. *Hock (Prague), D. Henriques de Castro (Amsterdam), E. Shilstone (Barbados), D. de Sola *Pool (New York), B. Wachstein (Vienna), and many others.
Meanwhile attention began to be paid by various scholars to local Jewish history in different lands, cities, or environments. Societies for the study of local Jewish history, all producing valuable publications, were established in the U.S. (*American Jewish Historical Society, 1892), England (Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893), Czechoslovakia (Society for the History of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic, 1927), etc. In addition, societies for Jewish studies in the various countries, such as the French Society of Jewish Studies (*Société des Études Juives), naturally devoted special attention to local Jewish history. The result was the publication of important monographs which otherwise might not have seen the light, and of hitherto neglected source material without which Jewish history in its fuller sense could not be written.
Local Jewish historiography may be illustrated by two 20th-century works in which the revival of Jewish studies reached its climax. Yitzhak (Fritz) Baer's History of the Jews in Christian Spain (Heb. 1945, Eng. 1931, 1961–19662) was based on the corpus of documents on Spanish Jewish history which he had collected and published under the auspices of the *Akademie fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums (2 vols, 1929, 1936), and an exhaustive study of all the published sources, both Hebrew and secular, literary archivistic. This placed the history of one of the greatest centers of Jewish life in the Middle Ages on a sound basis for the first time, replacing former works on the subject such as those of M. *Kayserling and J. *Amador de los Rios. It immediately took its place as one of the fundamental works on medieval Jewish history. Baer's
In Ereẓ Israel, scientific historiography in a modern sense may be said to have been instituted with the establishment of the history faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, mainly under the direction of Y. Baer from 1930 onward: later, the universities of Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan created important historical faculties. Naturally such historiography has concerned itself largely with the history of the Jews in Ereẓ Israel, the centrality of the country in Jewish history, and the development of the national idea among the Jews.
There has also been a tendency to extend serious historical research almost for the first time into the history of the Jews in Oriental countries, among whom the historical sense was almost undeveloped. Izhak *Ben-Zvi, second president of Israel, was particularly interested in this, and was responsible for the founding of the Ben-Zvi Institute for research on the Jewish communities in the Middle East. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People were officially established, comprising manuscript materials which had survived the Holocaust in Central Europe and elsewhere and a systematic collection of microfilms or photocopies from private and public archives throughout the world. The outstanding scholars who are working or have worked in the history faculties of Israel universities include, besides those mentioned above, R. *Mahler, important for his economic interpretation of the history of the Jews in modern times; I. *Halpern, who edited the surviving fragments of the records of the Council of the (Four) Lands, besides his other contributions to Eastern European Jewish history; A. *Schalit, biographer of Herod the Great; H.H. *Ben-Sasson, specializing in late medieval European Jewish history; and J. *Katz, who has studied penetratingly Jewish-gentile relations in medieval and early modern times. Historiography in Israel has been strongly influenced by the desire to perpetuate the memory of the annihilated Eastern European Jewry as well as by specific attention to military and activistic elements in Jewish history. More important probably is the fact that it has been able to rid itself of the somewhat apologetic tendencies which were inevitably discernible in even the most objective of the works written by Jews in the Diaspora of the history of their people.
For Holocaust historiography, see *Holocaust.
The first specimen of historical writing about American Jews appeared in a Hebrew oration written by Gershom Mendes Seixas and delivered by Sampson Simson at the Columbia College commencement of 1800. A better-researched and more substantial discussion, based on correspondence with Jews, appeared in a history of the Jews (1812) by the Protestant scholar Hannah Adams. This and other early, brief efforts by Mordecai M. Noah (1818) and Isaac Harby (1826) possess limited historical value beyond their authors' observations concerning their own generation. However, they contained one idea which characterized American Jewish historiography: that the Jews of the United States represent a unique departure in Jewish history by virtue of having enjoyed equal rights and full opportunity from their first arrival, all as a matter of course. This conception of the uniqueness of American Jewry and its history paralleled American historiography's view of the United States as a fresh beginning in world history. During the 19th century little historical research was done, although the traveler I.J. Benjamin furnished historical information supplied to him in numerous communities, Isaac Markens published historical sketches of notable Jews (1888), and Charles P. Daly and Max Kohler produced a survey of The Settlement of the Jews in North America (1893). American Jewish history became a subject of serious study with the founding in 1892 of the American Jewish Historical Society, the establishment of its archives, and the appearance from 1893 of its Publications (92 vols. to 2004; from 1961, American Jewish Historical Quarterly, from 1978, American Jewish History). The regnant point of view during the late 19th and early 20th century paralleled that of historical studies among other ethnic and religious groups, seeking to honor notable ancestors and demonstrate the depth, range, and fervor of Jewish patriotism and contributions to American life. Notwithstanding their antiquarianism, filio-pietism, and isolation from general historical scholarship, studies of value were produced by M.J. Kohler, L. Huehner, A.M. Friedenberg, S. Oppenheim, L.M. Friedman, C. Adler and others. They focused on Jews in Colonial and Revolutionary America, rarely passing the year 1840. Broader surveys appeared in a supplement to the American edition of K. Magnus, Outlines of Jewish History (1890), written by C. Adler and H. Szold, and in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
From approximately 1940 there was substantial improvement in the range of subjects, extent of sources employed, and quality of interpretation. The rising interest of professional American historians in subjects closely bearing on American Jewish history, such as immigration, religion, ethnic and racial groups, and philanthropy, stimulated Jewish research and helped to elevate its standards. In 1947 the American Jewish Archives was established at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew
Initially, the best cultivated chronological period was that from 1654 to approximately 1790, in which J.R. Marcus made the prime contributions, in addition to others by S.F. Chyet, L. Hershkowitz, E. Faber, W. Pencak, S. Rezneck, and historians of older local communities. The period from the Revolution to 1881 drew attention later, with valuable broad studies by, among others, A. Barkai, N. Cohen, H. Diner, and J.R. Marcus, and more specialized studies, including biographies, community studies, and studies of religion by D. Ashton, E. Bingham, M. Davis, R. Glanz, H.B. Grinstein, J. Hagy, L. Jick, B.W. Korn, J.D. Sarna, A. Silberstein, L. Sussman, and G. Zola. The great era of East European Jewish immigration, and its implications, were broadly surveyed by I. Howe and G. Sorin. More specialized studies of the era include books by G. Best, S. Brumberg, S. Cassedy, E. Eisenberg, S. Glenn, A. Goren, A. Heinze, T. Kessner, B. Marinbach, T. Michels, M. Rischin, R. Sanders, J.D. Sarna, M. Slobin, D. Soyer, S. Tenenbaum, and S. Weinberg. The era from World War I through World War II is less studied. In addition to valuable surveys by H. Feingold and J. Teller, specialized studies include volumes by M. Alexander, J. Oselit, D.D. Moore, and B. Wenger; as well as two fine books on the Leo Frank case by L. Dinnerstein and S. Oney, and books on the New York Jewish intellectuals by, among others, A. Bloom, C. Kessner, and A. Wald. A shelf of books treats diverse aspects of World War II, American aspects of the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust memory in America, including works by G. Arad, H. Feingold, W. Helmreich, D. Lipstadt, A. Mintz, D. Moore, P. Novick, M. Penkower, D. Wyman, and E. Zuroff. Finally, scholars have now turned their attention to the postwar era. Key books have been authored by M. Dollinger, D. Moore, M. Staub, S. Svonkin, and J. Wertheimer.
Institutional and community histories dominate the field of American Jewish history. Organizational histories written by professional historians include the histories of the American Jewish Committee (N.W. Cohen), American Council for Judaism (T. Kolsky), B'nai B'rith (D. Moore), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (M. Meyer), Jewish Publication Society (J. Sarna), Jewish Theological Seminary (J. Wertheimer), Joint Distribution Committee (Y. Bauer), National Council for Jewish Women (F. Rogow), ORT (L. Shapiro), Rabbinical Assembly (R. Fierstien), Yeshiva University (J. Gurock), and the Jewish fraternal organization, Zeta Beta Tau (M. Sanua). Hundreds of synagogue and community histories have appeared, many produced by significant scholars. For a survey see A.S. Korros and J.D. Sarna, American Synagogue History: A Bibliography and State of the Field Survey (1988) as well as the list of community histories in Daniel Elazar's Community and Polity (19952).
Topical studies have become more common in the field. The most important works on American antisemitism are by L. Dinnerstein, D. Gerber, and J. Higham. On black-Jewish relations, see especially works by H. Diner, C. Greenberg, S. Forman, M. Friedman, J. Schorsch, and C. Webb and edited works by M. Adams and J. Bracey as well as J. Salzman and C. West. Cultural history is covered in older works by I.S. Meyer, J. Kabakoff, and A.G. Duker, as well as newer works by S.B. Cohen, P. Ewens, L. Friedman, N. Gabler, L. Harap, A. Heinze, J. Hoberman, A. Most, J.D. Sarna, S. Rubin Schwartz, J. Shandler, and S. Whitfield. The economic history of American Jewry has scarcely been written; see preliminary works by B. Chiswick, S. Kahan, and S. Kuznets. No definitive work on the history of Jewish education in America has appeared either, but see valuable studies by A. Dushkin, P. Gold, M. Ben-Horin, L. Gartner, I. Janowsky, J. Krasner, S. Niger-Charney, J. Pilch, E. Rausch, J. Sarna, A. Schiff, and Z. Scharfstein. The central work on genealogy is by M.H. Stern. For studies of immigration and labor, see works by G. Alroey, D. Berger, M. Epstein, L. Gartner, R. Glanz, O. and M. Handlin, I. Howe, T. Kessner, A. Kahan, S. Kuznets, E. Lederhendler, T. Michels, E. Morawska, M. Rischin, Z. Szajkowski, E. Tcherikower, M. Wischnitzer, and I. Yellowitz. Political history has also been inadequately studied; the best single book is the collection of essays edited by L.S. Maisel and I. Forman. J.D. Sarna's American Judaism (2004) synthesizes work on Jewish religious life in America; other contributors to this area include J.L. Blau, K. Caplan, M. Davis, E. Diamond, J. Gurock, L. Jick, A.J. Karp, D. Kaufman, B.W. Korn, B. Kraut, C.S. Liebman, M. Meyer, P. Nadell, R.E. Prell, M.L. Raphael, A. Rothkoff, S. Rubin Schwartz, A. Silverstein, H. Soloveitchik, L. Sussman, A. Tarshish, and J. Wertheimer. On Sephardim in America, see works by M. Angel, A. Ben-Ur, M. Cohen and A. Peck, and J.M. Papo. The most important work on American Jewish thought is by A. Eisen. The field of American Jewish women's studies (see also below) has burgeoned with valuable books by J. Antler, L. Davidman, H. Diner, S.B. Fishman, R. Glanz, K. Goldman, P. Hyman, D.R. Kaufman, M. Klapper, L.G. Kuzmack, J.R. Marcus, M. McCune, P. Nadell, R.E. Prell, J. Sochen, L.M. Schloff, and E. Umansky and D. Ashton. For the history of American Zionism, see works by N.W. Cohen, E. Friesel, A. Gal, S. Halperin, R. Medoff, M. Raider, R. Rojanski, and M. Urofsky.
Methodological discussion and bibliographic surveys include M. Davis and I.S. Meyer, eds., The Writing of American Jewish History (1957); S.W. Baron, "American Jewish History: Problems and Methods" PAJHS, 39 (1950), 207–266; M. Rischin, An Inventory of American Jewish History (1954); L.P. Gartner, "The History of North American Jewish Communities…," Jewish Journal of Sociology, 7 (1965), 22–29; E. Lifschutz, Bibliography of American and Canadian Jewish Memoirs and
[Lloyd P. Gartner /
Jonathan D. Sarna (2nd ed.)]
The recognition that women's lives and experiences in any particular historical era may differ significantly from men's has wrought profound changes in how many historians approach and interpret their research data. The use of gender as a category of analysis by historians of the Jewish past began in the 1980s, under the influence of the academic field of women's studies. In recent decades, both female and male historians have delineated the constructions and consequences of gender in Jewish societies of many times and places, producing a growing body of historical scholarship about Jewish women's social and economic roles, religious lives, and creative contributions. Valuable reference works include The JPS Guide to Jewish Women: 600 B.C.E.–1900 C.E., ed. E. Taitz, S. Henry, and C. Tallan (2003); Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia, ed. P.E. Hyman and D. Ofer (2006); and Jewish Womenin America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore (1997). For collections of scholarly essays that include analyses of women's situations in a number of times and places, see edited volumes by Y. Azmon, J.R. Baskin, S. Grossman and R. Haut; R. Levine-Melammed, and L. Levitt and M. Peskowitz. Historical studies focused on Jewish women in late antiquity include works by C. Baker, B. Brooten, M. Peskowitz, R. Kraemer, and T. Ilan; for recent historical studies of medieval and early modern Jewish women in Europe, see H. Adelman, J.R. Baskin, E. Baumgarten, N.Z. Davis, A. Grossman, R. Levine Melammed, A. Rapoport-Albert, and R.L. Winer. Historians who write about Jewish women in Europe from 1700 to 1939 include N. Deutsch, R. Elior, H. Friedenreich, C.R. Freeze, M. Galchinsky, B. Hahn, D. Hertz, P.E. Hyman, M. Kaplan, L.G. Kuzmack, I. Parush, E. Umansky, and C. Weissler. Anthologies on women and the Holocaust have been edited by D. Ofer and L. Weitzman and by R. Baer and M. Goldenberg. Historians who study Jewish women in the early modern and modern Muslim world and in pre-state and post-1948 Israel include D. Bernstein, R. Lamdan, R. Kark, F. Malino, S. Reinharz, M. Shilo, and R. Simon; for historical essays on women in pre-state and post-1948 Israel, see the anthologies edited by D. Bernstein, M. Raider and M.B. Raider-Roth, E. Fuchs, and M. Shilo, R. Kark and G. Hasan-Rokem. For a review of historical scholarship on Jewish women in North America, see the section above on U.S. Historiography.
[Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]
M. Steinschneider, Geschichtsliteratur der Juden… vol. 1: Bibliographie der hebraeischen Schriften (1905); S.W. Baron, History and Jewish Historians (1964); A. Marx, in: AJHSP, 20 (1911), 1–9; Shunami, Bibl, index S.V. History; for a partial list of monographs on Jewish history see: Cambridge Medieval History, 7 (1932), 937–47; A.S. Freidus, List of Works in the New York Public Library Relating to the History and Condition of the Jews in Various Countries (1913; repr. from: New York Public Library Bulletin, 17 (1913), 537–86, 611–64, 713–834); G. Gabrieli, Italia Judaica (1924); Milano, Bibliotheca; Roth, Mag Bibl; Lehmann, Nova Bibl. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Halpern, The First Historians (1988); T. Thompson, in: ABD, 3:205–11 (incl. bibl.); M. Brettler, The Creation of History in Ancient Israel (1995); J. van Seters, In Search of History (repr.; 1997); S.D. Sperling, The Original Torah (1998).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.