Homesickness

Eric Hobsbawm

  • Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933 by Peter Pulzer
    Blackwell, 370 pp, £35.00, March 1992, ISBN 0 631 17282 3
  • The Jews of Germany: A Historical Portrait by Ruth Gay
    Yale, 336 pp, £19.95, September 1992, ISBN 0 300 05155 7

Most of world history until the later 18th century could be written without more than marginal reference to the Jews, except as a small people which pioneered the monotheistic world religions, a debt acknowledged by Islam, but creating endless problems for Christianity, or rather for the Jews unlucky enough to live under Christian rulers. Practically the entire intellectual history of the Western world, and all that of the great cultures of the East, could be written without more than a few footnotes about the direct Jewish contribution to them, though not without paying considerable attention to the role of Jews as intermediaries and cultural brokers, notably between the classic Mediterranean heritage, Islam and the medieval West. This is rather surprising when we consider the extraordinary prominence in 20th-century cultural, intellectual and public life of members of this small people which, even at its demographic peak before the Holocaust, formed less than 1 per cent of the world population.

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