The History of the Jews of Italy

The History of the Jews of Italy

The History of the Jews of Italy

The History of the Jews of Italy

Excerpt

Surprising though it may appear, this is the first history of the Jews in Italy to be written in any language. The difficulties of the task are obvious enough. The subject covers over twenty centuries and half a dozen successive civilizations. It is bound up with the history of the Roman Empire and of the Papacy, of the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation, of the medieval city republics and modern totalitarianism. Apart from the repercussions of ecclesiastical, economic and intellectual history in their broader aspects, it reflects every aspect of Italian as well as of Jewish life. On the other hand, notwithstanding the notable amount of research devoted to the subject during the past century (I have in my own collection upwards of 300 monographs, large and small), the preparatory work has been unevenly performed. Out of the scores of Italian Jewish communities, only two -- Rome and Venice -- have received the honor of full-dress monographs covering their entire history and paying attention to Hebrew sources and to intellectual life; and while there is a very great deal of disconnected material on individual cities and regions, there is very little indeed which deals with the country as a whole.

In the preparation of this volume, therefore, the author has not even had an older ground-plan to work upon, and (if the metaphor may be continued) has frequently found himself compelled to lay the foundations as well as build the structure. It has been necessary to discover general tendencies in apparently unrelated happenings in widely separated places, to piece together isolated episodes so as to form a coherent picture, and, in a word, to transform anecdotes into history. Though the result may sometimes . . .

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