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A history of the Jews - from Moses to the present day - by one of the world's finest historians, shot through with his own sense of what it means to have a Jewish history.

A history of the Jews is possibly the greatest story that can be told. It is the story of mankind - at its most noble and at its most barbaric. Simon Schama believes that by the time of publication the Jewish epic will once again be the fulcrum on which the fate of the world turns - that a two-state solution brokered in the Middle East by the Obama administration will be under threat from militant fundamentalists, supported by two nuclear states, Iran and Pakistan, capable of inflicting catastrophic damage in the region and beyond. So that moment, loaded with peril for all humanity, will ultimately turn, as so often before, on the obstinacy and grandeur of Jewish history - on its will, against the odds, to endure.

From the invention of a single deity and the killing of his embodied Son through to the production of urban modernity, so much of supreme importance for humanity bears the imprint of Jewish thinking and culture. As well as exploring that history, Simon Schama - as he did in The American Future - will report from the battlefronts of today. He will talk to Jews and non-Jews, to archaeologists, rabbis, soldiers, hedge fund managers, Israeli Arabs and Jews for Jesus, film-makers, cartoonists and comedians.

This is in every sense a major book - in its chronological reach and its international scope, in its humour and its tragedy, in the depth of its drama, and in its ability to change the way in which we view the world.

Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never let it be said that centrist politicians lack passion. Nick Clegg oozes it on every page, making his book…a cracking read

Anand Menon, Prospect

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781847922816

    October 16, 2017

    Bodley Head

    560 pages

    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781847922809

    October 15, 2017

    Bodley Head

    560 pages

    RRP $59.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Paperback

    9780099546689

    September 16, 2014

    Vintage

    512 pages

    RRP $27.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781448190669

    October 12, 2017

    Vintage Digital

    560 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781409040040

    September 12, 2013

    Vintage Digital

    512 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Simon Schama

The Face Of Britain
Rembrandt's Eyes
Scribble, Scribble, Scribble
A History of Britain - Volume 3
A History of Britain - Volume 1
A History of Britain - Volume 2
The American Future
The Power of Art
Rough Crossings
Hang-Ups
Citizens
History of Britain (Vol 2): The British Wars 1603-1776

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A Short History of Drunkenness
History of Australia in 100 Objects
Fields of Blood
The Islamic Enlightenment
Hitler's First Victims
The Devils Of Loudun
Queer City
Republic or Death!
High Minds
The Undiscovered Country
The Popes
Three Famines