The Jews of Georgian England, 1714-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society

The Jews of Georgian England, 1714-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society

The Jews of Georgian England, 1714-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society

The Jews of Georgian England, 1714-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society

Excerpt

The central theme of Jewish history in Western Europe since 1700 is the migration of the Jewish people from the self-sufficient world of rabbinic tradition and corporate autonomy to the desacralized world of the modern European state. The acquisition of the rights of citizenship, the abandonment of medieval forms of ritual and belief, the adoption of non-Jewish values and modes of behavior, and the entry of Jews into new spheres of activity within state and society were the hallmarks of this journey. It is the history of this transformation as it was experienced by the Jews of England in the years 1714 to 1830 that is the subject of this work.

Over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Jews of Western Europe abandoned the autonomous corporate structure of traditional Jewish society and chose to participate as individuals in the various spheres of modern life. They did so partly out of necessity (the state everywhere was encroaching on the privileges of corporate bodies) but also in the belief that the new society was religiously neutral and would at least tolerate, if not welcome, such participation. They were willing, often eager, to exchange some or many of the values and institutions of traditional Jewish life for the dominant mores of the states in which they lived, either because they believed that such values were necessary for survival or success in the modern world, or because they were . . .

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