Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century: A Genealogy of Modernity

Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century: A Genealogy of Modernity

Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century: A Genealogy of Modernity

Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century: A Genealogy of Modernity

Synopsis

""Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century provides a wide-ranging synthesis of the current scholarship on Polish-Lithuanian Jewry. Gershon David Hundert's control of the secondary literature is magnificent: he incorporates the findings of over a century of research up to and including the most recent works in every relevant language. Only a handful of scholars in the world today could approach this level of mastery."--Benjamin Nathans, author of "Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia

"Gershon David Hundert's "Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century is likely to be viewed as the standard scholarly survey of the topic of 'classic' Polish Jewry for years to come."--Moshe Rosman, author of "Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov

Excerpt

More than once during the very long period of preparation of this book, I have felt like a pirate, raiding the work of colleagues and predecessors. This is a hybrid work that combines close and careful analysis of certain issues in the service of a very broad synthetic argument about the Jewish experience in recent times. Consequently, the book is based in part on my own research and substantially on work done by scholars mainly in Poland, Israel, and North America. I have tried to acknowledge all of these debts in the notes. If I have failed to credit a source, I ask forgiveness.

A recent tendency in the historical profession has focused attention on marginal and oppressed groups, for example, homosexuals, women, and Jews. This tendency to look at the edges of “mainstream” culture is often in the service of contemporary argument for a more inclusive and accepting society. I both reject and accept this trend in this book. On the one hand, I have tried to focus attention on the majority of Jews and their situation in East Central Europe in the eighteenth century; even the clarification of marginality requires a firm understanding of the center. On the other hand, Jews in Poland-Lithuania were themselves marginal both in terms of their relative numerical significance and in terms of political power. I have learned from my colleagues who study colonized groups how the historiography of the colonized encodes the dominance of the elite. I have tried to write about Jews without using the language of dominance and subjugation as if their situation were defined by their place in the state.

I have also tried to avoid essentializing the eastern European Jewish community. In order to make my broader argument, however, I have had . . .

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