Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England

Anthony Julius

Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England

Anthony Julius identifies four distinct versions of English anti-Semitism, which he then proceeds to investigate in detail. The first is the anti-Semitism of medieval England, a radical prejudice of defamation, expropriation, and murder, which culminated in 1290, the year of Edward I's expulsion of the Jews from England, after which there were no Jews left to torment. The second major strand is literary anti-Semitism: an anti-Semitic account of Jews continuously present in the discourse of English literature, from the anonymous medieval ballad "Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter" through Shakespeare to T. S. Eliot and beyond. Thirdly, Julius addresses modern anti-Semitism, a quotidian anti-Semitism of insult and partial exclusion, pervasive but contained, experienced by Jews from their "readmission" to England in the mid-17th century through to the late 20th century. The final chapters deal with contemporary anti-Semitism, a new configuration of anti-Zionisms, emerging in the late 1960s and the 1970s, which treats Zionism and the State of Israel as illegitimate Jewish enterprises. It is this final perspective which, in Julius's opinion, now constitutes the greatest threat to Anglo-Jewish security and morale. 3.3 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Society, Politics & Philosophy, Religion & Spirituality
Format Hardback
Pages 864
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication February 2010
ISBN 978-0199297054
Publisher OUP
 

Anthony Julius identifies four distinct versions of English anti-Semitism, which he then proceeds to investigate in detail. The first is the anti-Semitism of medieval England, a radical prejudice of defamation, expropriation, and murder, which culminated in 1290, the year of Edward I's expulsion of the Jews from England, after which there were no Jews left to torment. The second major strand is literary anti-Semitism: an anti-Semitic account of Jews continuously present in the discourse of English literature, from the anonymous medieval ballad "Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter" through Shakespeare to T. S. Eliot and beyond. Thirdly, Julius addresses modern anti-Semitism, a quotidian anti-Semitism of insult and partial exclusion, pervasive but contained, experienced by Jews from their "readmission" to England in the mid-17th century through to the late 20th century. The final chapters deal with contemporary anti-Semitism, a new configuration of anti-Zionisms, emerging in the late 1960s and the 1970s, which treats Zionism and the State of Israel as illegitimate Jewish enterprises. It is this final perspective which, in Julius's opinion, now constitutes the greatest threat to Anglo-Jewish security and morale.

Reviews

The Times

David Aaronovitch

[An] extraordinary book... I might have liked him to compare anti-Semitism today with other prejudices against minorities, but I recognise that might have turned Anna Karenina into War and Peace. I’m also not ready to agree with his assessment that things are now “quite bad, and might get worse. The closed season on Jews is over.” Even so, anyone who wants to pontificate on the subject of anti-Semitism — either to accuse someone of it, or to dismiss such an accusation — should read this book first.

06/03/2010

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The Sunday Telegraph

Gerald Jacobs

Astonishingly thorough… Julius’s scrutiny of English writers, major and minor, is the most fascinating part of his book. Whether citing Shakespeare, Dickens or Eliot (T S) for the prosecution, or Eliot (George) for the defence, Julius – a lawyer in his day job – argues his case convincingly. The one contentious part of this literary onslaught, to my mind, is in relation to The Merchant of Venice.

28/02/2010

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The Financial Times

James Shapiro

[An] important book... Julius’s training in the law proves both a blessing and a curse in Trials of the Diaspora. He is skilled at identifying the evasions, inconsistencies, and self-deluding language of Jew-haters and he is a master at assembling evidence and building his case. But determining what happened over seven centuries ago or analysing literary works calls for a different argumentative style than one that works best in a court.

20/02/2010

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The New Statesman

Jonathan Beckman

Julius scrupulously examines the positions often taken by avowed left-wing opponents of racism, in which anti-Zionism shades into anti-Semitism... There is a broader problem with this book's scope. It is primarily an intellectual and political history. But, philosophically, anti-Semitism is banal and repetitive, so Trials of the Diaspora has its longueurs. And as a political history, it pays excessive attention to parliament. What is lacking is any sense of how English Jews have responded to anti-Semitism.

15/03/2010

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The Daily Telegraph

Dominic Sandbrook

He is particularly good on the two defining texts of literary anti-Semitism, The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist... Many readers, I suspect, will part company with Julius in his final chapters, where he effectively suggests that criticism of Israel is inextricably bound up with anti-Semitism, jabbing an accusing figure at a predictable list of supposed anti-Semites from the poet Tom Paulin to a host of newspaper columnists... This strident tub-thumping is unworthy of such a learned author, and makes an unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise thoughtful and impressive book.

26/02/2010

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The Sunday Times

Max Hastings

Much of Julius’s narrative is a meticulous survey of an aspect of English life that can scarcely fail to discomfit modern readers. I feel obliged to part company with him, however, during the long section of his book discussing what he calls the new anti-semitism, linked to the conduct of the state of Israel... I fear that I would fall into Julius’s categorisation of “new anti-semites”.

14/02/2010

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The Guardian

Antony Lerman

Julius is not just creating anti­Zionist labels in the abstract. He pins them on individuals, giving pride of place to so-called "new Jewish anti-Zionists". And it's here that he reveals the bankruptcy, confusion and malign nature of his project… There is merit in the earlier sections of this book, but the deficient treatment of anti-Zionism casts a shadow over the whole work.

27/02/2010

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The Independent

Bryan Cheyette

In many ways this is three books bundled into one, which results in many internal contradictions. The chapter on "The Mentality of Modern English Anti-Semitism", by far the most original, stresses the "minor", "non-lethal" "modest", "invisible" aspect of the subject. But we are also told that when it comes to anti-Semitism "no other country" has the "density of history", nor is as "innovative", as England... the abiding problem with Trials of the Diaspora is that the reader remains unsure whether anti-Semitism is being evoked in this "major" or "minor" key.

26/02/2010

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