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About the book
  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099590064
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 800
  • RRP: $27.99


The Story of the Jews 1492–1900

A passionate history of a world unfolding across many continents and five centuries by one of our greatest and internationally bestselling historians.



Belonging is a magnificent cultural history abundantly alive with energy, character and colour. From the Jews’ expulsion from Spain in 1492 it tells the stories not just of rabbis and philosophers but of a poetess in the ghetto of Venice; a boxer in Georgian England; a general in Ming China; an opera composer in nineteenth-century Germany. The story unfolds in Kerala and Mantua, the starlit hills of Galilee, the rivers of Colombia, the kitchens of Istanbul, the taverns of Ukraine and the mining camps of California. It sails in caravels, rides the stage coaches and the railways; trudges the dawn streets of London, hobbles along with the remnant of Napoleon’s ruined army.

The Jewish story is a history that is about, and for, all of us. And in our own time of anxious arrivals and enforced departures, the Jews’ search for a home is more startlingly resonant than ever.

  • Pub date: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099590064
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 800
  • RRP: $27.99

About the Author

Simon Schama

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. His award-winning books, translated into fifteen languages, include Citizens, Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt's Eyes, A History of Britain, The Power of Art, Rough Crossings, The American Future, The Face of Britain and The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492).

His art columns for the New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism and his journalism has appeared regularly in the Guardian and the Financial Times where he is Contributing Editor. He has written and presented more than fifty films for the BBC on subjects as diverse as Tolstoy, American politics, and The Story of the Jews and is co-presenter of a new landmark series on the history of world art, Civilisations.

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Praise for Belonging

“A magnificent achievement… [a] parade of bustlingly vital characters from across the globe ... all painted in luminous colour… By offering such a throbbing cavalcade of characters, Schama is defying several key assumptions, even stereotypes, about Jewish history and Jews themselves… Above all, while much Jewish history can read like a sorrowful trudge through disaster, plague and pogrom, Schama’s book teems with life rather than death”

Jonathan Freedland, Guardian

“Magisterial ... the product of a world-class historian at the peak of his creative powers … rich, ornate, intensely evocative and sensory. With astonishing range and extraordinary synthesising powers, Schama captures the drama of Jewish history.”

Financial Times

“A rich melody that soars above the ground bass of prejudice and persecution … Schama has made himself the leading virtuoso of our time. This second volume of this trilogy is an affirmation of faith in the grand narrative … Its familiar and familial tone proclaims the author’s unapologetic mission to play his part in the story of the Jews by bringing their history alive… [A] glittering gemstone of a book”

Daniel Johnson, The Times

“So beautifully written it regularly takes your breath away, it is a book far greater than the sum of its parts. Daunted by its colossal size, I started reading with some trepidation; I finished filled with wonder and delight.”

Abigail Green, Times Literary Supplement

“An extraordinary cultural journey, filled with astonishingly colourful and outrageous characters … Schama delivers a superb and thrilling ride, both inspirational and tragic.”

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Mail on Sunday

“Magisterial… a wonderfully rich narrative … The third and final volume won’t be easy reading. But at least in the company of Schama – one of the finest writers and thinkers of his generation – we’re guaranteed a guide both insightful and eloquent”

Saul David, Daily Telegraph

“Rich, complex and fascinating … Schama maintains the attention with the vividness of his writing and his talent for unearthing gripping figures full of human contradictions. And through this dazzling immersion in the preoccupations of the period that the bigger picture slowly emerges … Profoundly illuminating”

Andrew Anthony, Observer

“Simon Schama is an international treasure ... By painterly touches, he manages to convey colour, texture, shape, context, light and shadow, as well as to stimulate the senses ... He is imaginative, epigrammatic and fearless ... an effervescent cicerone who instructs and entertains in like measure.”

Bernard Wasserstein, Spectator

“Immensely erudite and compulsively readable … The importance of Schama’s book is that it forces the reader to think about how the long and shameful legacy of Christian hatred for Jews is reworked in “enlightened” society… Deeply engaging”

Rowan Williams, New Statesman

“Schama is a talented storyteller with a dramatist’s eye for character … Schama leavens his tale with wit and charm, while also displaying remarkable breadth of research and erudition, ranging fluently from Sephardic merchant princes in the Mediterranean to fevered kabbalistic sects in Galilee”

Josh Glancy, Sunday Times

“The second volume of Simon Schama’s story of the Jews…continues with a cast of characters so extraordinary that some seem hardly more believable than the Sabbath-keeping Sambatyon river… Schama, as both a historian and a Jew, closes his wonderful book the only way he could: with love shot through with melancholy and foreboding”

The Economist

“Schama writes history through personalities, a technique that makes the second of his vast-ranging history of his people as gripping as the first… All these stories offer pathways backwards and forwards in time, and make an unforgettable tale of mixed fortunes”

Christina Hardyment, The Times

“A masterpiece”

Erica Wagner, New Statesman

“A revelation. It is an engaging and electrifying read by a skilled literary craftsman, cultural historian and tour guide … Schama enchants his readers by introducing colorful characters worthy of a Charles Dickens novel ... [it] dazzles with the art and alchemy of an adventure novel”

Thane Rosenbaum, Washington Post Sunday

“Schama writes with power and energy, and his patchwork of individual tales crosses the world.”

Anthony Satting, The Observer

“Extraordinary… From Britain to France, from America to the dark forests of central and eastern Europe, Schama’s scalpel-like wit and painterly descriptions provide a bravura panorama of the Jewish story”

Jenni Frazer, Jewish Chronicle

“It’s a riveting read, bursting with anecdote, colour and wit. Schama uses individual stories to highlight horror and suffering, but also to illustrate bravery, achievement and hope”

Peter Frankopan, History Today

“Few historians write with the energy of Simon Schama. His second volume on the history of the Jews shows that Schama has lost none of his vigour”

David Abulafia, Standpoint

“Simon Schama takes the reader through a grand sweep of Jewish history, but he makes it so personal you begin to feel you know the men and women whose lives shine out from the pages, and their foibles, and you get a sense of the fragility of their lives and their determination to survive. It's a brilliant piece of work”

Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi, West London Synagogue

“Schama's speciality is to take sometimes little-known historical figures and bring them dramatically to life. We are presented with a glittering cast of Jews from every century since the 15th ... Belonging shows Jews as prize-fighters and charlatans, theatre managers and physicians, writers, actors, painters, farmers and musicians. They are men and women of every sort, who leap off the pages as they struggle with what Schama has defined as the abiding challenge of Jewish life in the diaspora”

Jewish Chronicle

“Simon Schama’s epic tale of the Jewish people is full of rich, colourful stories that span centuries and continents and include massacres, miracles, discrimination and tolerance… Passionate”

Life & Living

“In the hands of a master colourist, this is history as a portrait gallery.”

The Economist

“It is an engaging and electrifying read by a skilled literary craftsman, cultural historian and tour guide.”

Thane Rosenbaum, Guardian


Daniel Beer, Guardian

“Schama presents his material with the wit and panache of a novelist. The reader is treated to a dazzling parade of humanity in all its glory and shame. Every page sparkles with rich material and the range of learning is breathtaking. The story of Jewish survival – and sometimes even flourishing – against all the odds is utterly riveting.”

Rev. Dr. John Harrod, Methodist Recorder

“Simon Schama is the perfect companion for a time-travelling journey through Jewish history… A beguiling narrator.”

David J. Wasserstein, The Tablet

“These accounts make such fascinating reading that, through Schama’s extraordinary gift for storytelling, his book was difficult to put down.”

Anthony Phillips, Church Times

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