The Jews in Poland and Russia: 1350-1881 v. 1

Antony Polonsky

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ISBN: 9781874774648

Publication: December 10, 2009

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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In his three-volume history, Antony Polonsky provides a comprehensive survey—socio-political, economic, and religious—of the Jewish communities of eastern Europe from 1350 to the present. Until the Second World War, this was the heartland of the Jewish world: nearly three and a half million Jews lived in Poland alone, while nearly three million more lived in the Soviet Union. Although the majority of the Jews of Europe and the United States, and many of the Jews of Israel, originate from these lands, their history there is not well known. Rather, it is the subject of mythologizing and stereotypes that fail both to bring out the specific features of the Jewish civilization which emerged there and to illustrate what was lost. Jewish life, though often poor materially, was marked by a high degree of spiritual and ideological intensity and creativity. Antony Polonsky recreates this lost world—brutally cut down by the Holocaust and less brutally but still seriously damaged by the Soviet attempt to destroy Jewish culture. Wherever possible, the unfolding of history is illustrated by contemporary Jewish writings to show how Jews felt and reacted to the complex and difficult situations in which they found themselves. This first volume begins with an overview of Jewish life in Poland and Lithuania down to the mid-eighteenth century. It describes the towns and shtetls where the Jews lived, the institutions they developed, and their participation in the economy. Developments in religious life, including the emergence of hasidism and the growth of opposition to it, are described in detail. The volume goes on to cover the period from 1764 to 1881, highlighting government attempts to increase the integration of Jews into the wider society and the Jewish responses to these efforts, including the beginnings of the Haskalah movement. Attention is focused on developments in each country in turn: the problems of emancipation, acculturation, and assimilation in Prussian and Austrian Poland; the politics of integration in the Kingdom of Poland; and the failure of forced integration in the tsarist empire. Volume 2 covers the period 1881–1914; Volume 3 covers 1914–2008.

Antony Polonsky is Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and chief historian of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. He is co-chair of the editorial collegium of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry.

List of Maps List of Tables Note on Transliteration Note on Place Names Maps General Introduction I Jewish Life in Poland–Lithuanian to 1750 Introduction 1 Jews and Christians in Early Modern Poland–Lithuania 2 The Structure of Jewish Autonomous Institutions 3 Jewish Places: Royal Towns and Noble Towns 4 Jews in Economic Life 5 Religious and Spiritual Life Conclusion Appendix: The Polish-Lithuanian Background II Attempts to Transform and Integrate the Jews, and the Jewish Response, 1750–1880 Introduction 1 The Last Years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 2 The Jews in the Prussian Partition of Poland, 1772–1870 3 The Jews in Galicia to the mid-1870s 4 The Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland, 1807–1881 5 The Jews in the Tsarist Empire, 1772–1825 6 Nicholas I and the Jews of Russia, 1825–1855 7 The Reign of Alexander II, 1855–1881 Glossary Bibliography Index

‘The first serious, and most successful, effort thus far to summarize the history of the Jews of  “Eastern Europe” . . . the first book to synthesize the vast research that has emerged since the seventies . . . comprehensive and multidisciplinary . . . there is no book today that can compare to its scope and to the vast and new materials that he brings forth and analyzes with a broad imagination, an intensive approach, and a moderate style.’
- Moshe Rosman, Zion

'Exemplary and formidable . . . Polonsky, as much as anyone else, has created the field of modern Jewish history as a subject to be considered and understood rather than simply a tragic past to be mourned. He is too good a historian to confuse the history of Jewish life with the German policies that brought Jewish death . . . The barely visible commitment in these three wonderful volumes is to rescue a world from polemic, for the sake of history.'  
- Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal


'Definitive . . . The scope is immense and the author does an impressive job of synthesizing a vast literature . . . This trilogy will no doubt serve as a standard history of east European Jewry for a long time.'
- Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review


'Magisterial . . . all three volumes, but particularly Volume 3, should be of special interest to Polish Americans and all Americans interested in the history of the Jews in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia.'  
Anna M. Cienciala, Polish Review


'We can only commend Antony Polonsky for his massive effort to explain seven centuries of Jewish history in a mere 2,000 pages . . . Polonsky's strength lies in his ability to illuminate intellectual and cultural developments . . . Because of the excellent bibliographies, extensive annotation, and wonderful maps included in each volume, any reader wishing to read in greater detail about Polish and Russian Jewry will have plenty of resources to enable the search.'
Alexandra S. Korros, Jewish Quarterly


'Combines a masterful grasp of Jewish history with that of eastern Europe. While underlining the unique features and achievements of the Jewish communal experience he authoritatively integrates them into the history of the countries in which Jews lived . . . Incorporating current, ground-breaking scholarship from North America, Israel, and Europe these beautifully narrated volumes should not only be seen as a staple of university courses, but also as a must-read for anyone attempting to understand any aspect of modern Jewish history and religious tradition, wherever it may be playing out . . . With this extremely important book, Antony Polonsky not only writes history but, following the example of his illustrious predecessors, makes it.'  
Katarzyna Person, European Judaism


'Succeeds admirably. Simply put, these volumes are required reading for anyone with a serious interest in East European history or for anyone looking for a scholarly assessment of a particular feature of Polish or Russian Jewish history. Handsomely produced, with extensive maps and tables, and a glossary . . . will remain a standard work in the field for some time . . . a body of work that, in summarizing the current state of our knowledge, effectively sets the agenda for future scholars. Polonsky is perhaps the scholar most responsible for the growth of Polish Jewish studies in the late twentieth century . . Very few historians could write a series of volumes like this . . . [he] has armed scholars with a formidable tool that will help them dispel stereotypes . . . Just as these volumes are destined to become the starting point for the work of many students, they will be the touchstone for scholars working in the field at all levels.'  
Sean Martin, European History Quarterly


'Polonsky's sweeping study offers an illuminating, accessible view of Jewish life in eastern Euope since the end of World War II. In elegant prose, the author engages major historiographical issues while analyzing important cultural, religious, social, and political trends among eastern European Jewry. He carefully frames each section with a chapter-long overview of the relevant historical context for the following chapters . . . Throughout, Polonsky masterfully navigates the different realms of a turbulent eastern European Jewish world, conveying both the richness of its history and the tragedy of its destruction. Highly recommended.'
J. Haus, Choice


Format: Hardback

Size: 235 × 155 × 51 mm

566 Pages

B&W tables and maps

ISBN: 9781874774648

Publication: December 10, 2009

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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