Academic journal article The Jewish Quarterly Review

Scholars of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean of Scholars

Academic journal article The Jewish Quarterly Review

Scholars of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean of Scholars

Article excerpt

I

So WROTE Emil Ludwig in the first chapter of his On Mediterranean Shore,), which originally appeared as Am Mittelmeer (1923). Some six decades later, in the epilogue to the fifth (and final) volume of his A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab Wortd as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, S. D. Goitein recalled having been "impressed" by Ludwig 's book "immediately after its appearance"1 The year of its appearance was also the year in which the Bavarian-born Goitein, then still known as Fritz, completed his doctorate on Muslim prayer in Frankfurt under the Arabist Josel Horovitz and, on the day alter Rosh Ha-Shana, left for Palestine. There he taught first at Haifa's Reali high school - the only extended period in his life spent near the Mediterranean - and then for three decades at Jerusalem's newly founded Hebrew University. In 1957 Goitein left Jerusalem and made his way across the Atlantic, first to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (where he had spent the year 1953-54) and then to Princeton, where he was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study until his death in 1985.2

In the epilogue to the fifth volume of A Mediterranean Society, completed shortly before his death (and reviewed in these pages),3 Goitein recalled that Ludwig (né Cohn, 1881-1948), a well-known journalist and popular biographer, had treated the Mediterranean region "as a personality," and indeed it is memorably described there as a woman - with its "caprices and storms, longings and spites, seductions and undercurrents and fantasies." But it is likely that the young scholar-Zionist was no less struck by the author's generally (though not overly) positive account of Palestine, a place where, he asserted, "certain faults conspicuous among European Jews have ceased to be noticeable." The Breslau-born Ludwig, who had converted to Christianity some two decades before the publication of Am Mittelmeer, wrote that he attributed this change to the Jews finally having a country "which they can regard as their own." Gershom Scholem, who had crossed the MittUmeer together with Goitein in 1923 on their way to Palestine,4 mentioned Ludwig's book in a letter from Jerusalem, written a decade later, to his mother in Berlin, praising in particular the author's comments about the country's Jewish pioneers.5 Whatever Goitein himself thought of those comments, both scholars presumably agreed with Ludwig's assertion that only he "who knows many seas, begins to know the ocean" - a statement that epitomized the enormous body of scholarly work each of them eventually created, though one developed a decidedly more oceanic grasp of his field than the other.

In the epilogue to his Mediterranean Society, composed in the year of both his own death and that of Fernand Braudel, Goitein curiously linked Ludwig's slim travelogue with Braudel's massive The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of PhUip II, the French original of which had appeared in 1949. In contrast, however, to Am Mittelmeer, which Goitein read upon its initial appearance, he put off reading Braudel's great though controversial work until " the book was available in twin paperbacks (in English) and could be studied away from my desk" - that is, during the mid-1970s. Braudel's two dense volumes did not make their way to Goitein's Princeton desk presumably because they were not of direct relevance to any of the thousands of Geniza documents that had dominated his work for the previous two decades.

Fred Astren's wide-ranging essay in our forum explores, among other things, the relationship between Goitein's multivolume work on medieval Jewry of the eastern Mediterranean and Braudel's more "total history" of the sea and its shores, which, as Astren notes, devotes several hundred pages to "geography, climate, and the physical environment and their effects on human history and economy before beginning to deal with the ostensible subject of his work, the sixteenth century. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.