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The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words,…

The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BCE – 1492 CE

by Simon Schama

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No matter where you come from, you will learn something from this book, be it about the Jews, antiquity, philosophy, religion or the history of Christian Europe. Shama takes us through the allotted time period on the edge of our seats, full of deep history and deep insights into what shaped the history of the Jews, but also how anti-semitism evolved. You will hear many echoes of today's world (and not just anti-Jewish sentiment, but anti-anyone) in these pages.

I stopped short of five stars because I felt the book stopped short of being an unassailable history, in the sense that while he documents 95% of what he is saying, occasionally he just asserts things. While the book is well-written, it is not well-edited: his editors failed him in small places where a reference to something prior is obscure and that sort of thing.

But don't let that dissuade you. It's an extremely compelling look at a one of the world's great "outsider" cultures. How the Jews fared in mainstream Roman, Christian and Muslim societies at various times and places tells a lot about what made those worlds tick. And his documenting of the atrocities from around 1000 CE to 1492, largely in the Christian world, should be required reading for all of Europe and North America. It's a grim tale, documented both in great detail and in very human anecdotes that go beyond the statistics.

Lastly, the connection of Jewish society with other West Asian cultures, and later the Muslima Umma, highlights the way in which European scholars have conveniently appropriated Greece and even Egypt as somehow Western. Shama's work incidentally documents how late Europe was to that party, and the role that Jews and Arabs played in spreading Greek and even Roman science and philosophy.. ( )
  mschlack | Sep 10, 2018 |
This massive first volume tells the story of the Jewish People from 1000 BC to 1492 AD. It's a sobering history, reminding us of the millennia of persecution that has been suffered by them. It is also a celebration of the vibrant Jewish culture and its contribution to science, technology, language, philosophy, and art. The subtitle for this volume is important: "finding the words". It underscores the historical importance of the written word in Jewish theology and life. The volume ends in 1492 with the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal (and the mass executions, under the auspices of the "Inquisition"), including the flight of Abraham Zacuto (creator of the stable, copper astrolabe, and the most advanced and usable almanac for seafarers). "Zacuto's mind, like that of so many Jews, was caught between the ancestral and the visionary, the endless past and the opening future under the charted heavens and the vast ocean. Perhaps the ends of the earth were where the words reached farthest? For all the attempts to burn, expunge and blot hem out, to excise and criminalize Hebrew reading, to beat the books out of the Jews, the words travelled on and on through space and time." (Brian) ( )
  ShawIslandLibrary | Mar 21, 2018 |
Details the story of the Jewish experience, tracing it across three millennia, from their beginnings as an ancient tribal people to the opening of the New World in 1492 to the modern day. A tie-in to the PBS and BBC series The Story of the Jews.
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Sep 24, 2017 |
Finding the words 1000 BC - 1492 AD
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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Details the story of the Jewish experience, tracing it across three millennia, from their beginnings as an ancient tribal people to the opening of the New World in 1492 to the modern day. A tie-in to the PBS and BBC series The Story of the Jews.

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