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Jerusalem: The Biography [Hardcover]

Simon Sebag Montefiore
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Jan 2011

Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today's clash of civilisations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence.

How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the 'centre of the world' and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem's biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women - kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores - who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia.

Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime's study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique story of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem: the only city that exists twice - in heaven and on earth.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (27 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297852655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297852650
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore is the novelist and historian whose bestselling books, published in over 40 languages, have won prizes both in fiction and non-fiction.
'One Night in Winter' won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. His thriller-love-stories set in Russia -'One Night in Winter' and 'Sashenka' - are both out in paperback.
Amongst his history books...
'Catherine the Great & Potemkin' was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes. 'Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar' won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. 'Young Stalin' won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (US), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). 'Jerusalem: The Biography' won Jewish Book of the Year Prize (USA) and was Sunday Times number one non-fiction bestseller (UK).
'The Romanovs:1613-1917' will be published in 2016.
He read history at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University where he was awarded his Doctorate of Philosophy. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at the University of Buckingham, Dr Montefiore is the presenter of 3 BBC TV series Jerusalem (2011); Rome (2012) and Istanbul/Constantinople - 'Byzantium: a tale of 3 cities'...

Follow the author on Twitter: @simonmontefiore. For more information see: www.simonsebagmontefiore.com

Product Description

Review

A fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish. (Christopher Hart THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Astoundingly ambitious and triumphantly epic history...His achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. There are few themes as demanding as the history of Jerusalem...tautly gripping...a book with its gaze fixed on the stars [but] also with its feet firmly in the gutter... A heavenly city Jerusalem may be; but it is also a relentlessly terrestrial one. The achievement of this marvellous book is to fuse them into one biography. (Tom Holland THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

as one turns the pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore's absorbing book...[one] becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem's rulers and the ruled. Montefiore has a great novelist's eye for detail, a great journalist's nose for human frailty, and a great historian's touch... judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive... when a history is written this way one can never have too much. (Michael Gove THE TIMES)

Outstanding, superbly objective, elegantly written and highly entertaining (Saul David MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Simon Sebag Montefiore's history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship... a considerable achievement... he has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and adventurers of the past... totally gripping... vivid compelling, engaged, engrossing, knowledgeable (Barnaby Rogerson THE INDEPENDENT)

Compelling and thought-provoking...Working on an immense chronological and thematic canvas Sebag Montefiore does his subject more than justice. He narrates the terrible history of Jerusalem vividly and graphically... fascinating but ghastly. (Munro Price THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Montefiore's book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality...Montefiore's narrative is remarkably objective...A reliable and compelling account (Antony Beevor THE GUARDIAN)

masterly, vastly entertaining and timely... Sebag Montefiore has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context... a compelling narrative and an important book. (Victor Sebestyen EVENING STANDARD)

Jerusalem is an extraordinary achievement, written with imagination and energy that threatens to mesmerize and exhaust the reader at the same time...the resulting impression is of a unique borderline personality, with an irrepressible capacity for love and hatred; an aptitude for poetry, prophecy and the sacred; with no lack of the grotesquely profane...Read this book. (FINANCIAL TIMES John Cornwell)

To write a "biography" of Jerusalem is a formidable undertaking. Simon Sebag Montefiore has risen to the challenge. His book can be commended to anyone who is planning a trip to Jerusalem, or who wants background on the Palestinian question - or who just enjoys a good read. (PROSPECT)

Jerusalem is as a big as its gets... brilliantly accomplished (Dan Jones INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

This is [a] compendious and fleet-footed history of a city (Jonathan Beckman THE OBSERVER)

A riveting account of the eternal battle to prove whose God is best. (WORD magazine)

an enormous and enthralling epic, the prose equivalent of those sprawling Hollywood films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur or The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Here are dashing warrior kings, feuding prophets and priests, beautiful and dangerous women, spectacular battles and a potent mix of piety and profanity. All human life was there. All human life is here...this magnificent history gives the general reader a vivid insight into a conflict that seems without resolution. (Peter Burton DAILY EXPRESS)

a tour de force (Philip Mansel SPECTATOR)

Montefiore has constructed a narrative that has a pleasing flow and more than does justice to his subject...his history is remarkably clear-eyed and even-handed whether recounting tales of Jewish, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman or British rulers of the city. (SUNDAY HERALD, GLASGOW)

Religion is not an abstract theory...It involves the story of people's actual encounters with God. Simon Sebag Montefiore understands this...his lack of theological training... makes him exceptionally sympathetic to the city whose story he tells. He is not trying to impose some theory upon it. He just wants to tell the tale of its terrible, beautiful, God-intoxicated, squalid (and surprisingly louche) life...There is never a dull page. (Charles Moore DAILY TELEGRAPH)

superb (Paul Levy WALL STREET JOURNAL)

compelling...it is a tribute to the author's skill that he has been able to make 672 pages highly readable. (CATHOLIC HERALD)

As a writer, Mr Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story. When Queen Victoria's son, the 20-year-old Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, rode into Jerusalem in 1862, escorted by 100 Ottoman cavalrymen, the plump princeling could think of little else but getting a Crusader tattoo on his arm... It is this kind of detail that makes "Jerusalem" a particular joy to read. (THE ECONOMIST)

authoritative and illuminating...Cantering through 3,000 years of dramatic history at a lively pace and with never a dull moment in the 500-odd pages... I found the chapters about the British rule in the region especially fascinating...[a] commendable analysis (THE OLDIE)

Sebag Montefiore made a judicious choice in privileging the modern era while not neglecting any important chapter in the city's history. This reviewer... was impressed by Sebag Montefiore's ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem's history. (TLS)

Anyone with an interest in history should read this, if only to be reminded of just how much history has rolled back and forth over this pile of stones between 1458 and today. In fact, when compared with the carnage visited on it by the Romans, Crusaders, Albanians and, in the 12th century, the teenage King of Norway, the last 100 years there have been relatively peaceful. (David Hepworth THE WORD MAGAZINE - 10 Best Books of 2011)

Book Description

The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
162 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and beautifully produced book 2 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover
Right from the off, with a blistering opening set in 70AD as the Roman general Titus lays siege to Jerusalem, this is a well-paced and absolutely gripping read.

Early on Simon Sebag Montefiore tells us that a story of Jerusalem is, really, `the story of the world'. If at the beginning I was sceptical, by the end I was not. What stops Jerusalem from being a Wikipedian succession of kings, rabbis, muftis and patriarchs is the author's elegant and consistent ability to supply fascinating characters - the kind of characters you might not expect to find in a book like this. For every despot - and there are plenty - Sebag Montefiore gives us a rake, a bungler or an eccentric. Just as Jerusalem emerges as a place of religious intensity, it is also a city addicted to vice.

An important and beautifully produced book. Highly recommended.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
By Asmahan
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I came to this book as an Arab reader, growing up with songs, poems, and books written about beloved Jerusalem, but never have I come across a book offering such a luxurious detailed and honest view and at such a scale! Written with remarkable neutrality and taking us through the diverse and rich history of the most disputed and news making region in the world! This comprehensive, and unpatronising treatment of Jerusalem's past is neither overwhelmingly scholarly to gloss over the gory (and fascinating) details, nor too hurried as to miss out important facts. Simon Sebag Montefiore combines the rare talent of total political and cultural understanding with a great and most eloquent narrating skill!

"Jerusalem, the Biography" is a new sort of History, written as a biography, through the people who made Jerusalem, starting with King David and ending with Barrack Obama, over a span of 3000 years. Each section is about a person who, made, destroyed, believed in, or fought for Jerusalem, some are ordinary people, some are monsters and dictators. There is massacre, siege, blood, violence, but also beautiful poetry.

The story of Jerusalem, is truly (as the author expressed) the story of the world, as well, of the Middle East, of religion, of holiness, of empire! I was thrilled to read about one of the greatest philosophers, the Arab historiographer "Ibn Khaldoon", about Suleiman the Magnificent, Caliph Muawiya, Saladin Dynasty, Druze princess and angelic voiced Singer "Asmahan", the Hashemite (Sherifian) Dynasty, and most exciting to read was some poignant poetry by Nizar Qabbani.
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133 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Capital of Blood and Holiness. 22 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover
If Jerusalem is a City of World History then it is the capital of blood and holiness. Simon Sebag Montefiore's superb new book is rich with salacious detail, scholarship and narrative drive. Such has been Jerusalem's centrality to history that the author is able to use the city as a prism to shine light upon a number of diverse periods and movements - Roman, Jewish, Christian and Islamic.
The structure of the book is chronological and finely weighted. Jerusalem has witnessed blood upon the hands of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike - yet the author is balanced and insightful enough to praise those rulers and characters of all religions who infused Jerusalem with a sense of tolerance, prosperity and architectural beauty.
Jerusalem may be a long book, but it is never laboured. One can read this book cover to cover, or dip into it to mine facts or comment on your favourite chapters, such as the Crusades or the middle east during WWI or WWII.
Am pleased to say that Jerusalem: The Biography lives up to the anticipation and hype.
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69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God Bless Jerusalem: The Biography 23 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover
Throughout history Jerusalem seems to have been at the hub of where the world can come together - and then also pull itself apart. The city, from King David's time to the present day, has served as a place of worship and a prize to be won. Simon Sebag Montefiore has written an expansively researched but pacy account of this desert town which, even now, somehow resides at the centre of the world. In many ways the author's Jerusalem is a stage, upon which players make their entrances and exits - but what characters they are: prostitutes and prophets, crusaders and caliphs, worshippers and warmongers.
If you enjoyed the author's gossipy yet elegantly written biographies of Stalin then you should enjoy this title too.
The publishers should also be applauded for framing such a sumptuous portrait in old fashioned production values. The cover is attractive and textured, the book contains four sets of plates where one usually just gets one or two nowadays and the paper quality and typesetting are excellent. My advice is to buy this book as a present for someone - and read it first.
My one criticism would be that I would have liked the maps to be in with the text, rather than filed at the end.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely - and Terrific 6 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover
Although Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem is an entertaining and engaging romp through history, the present instability in Egypt and the Middle East adds greater resonance to this wonderful book.
Jerusalem: The Biography tells of past uprisings, powerful yet unpopular leaders, bloodshed and religious and political conflict.
I purchased this book after reading various favourable reviews - yet such is the scope and richness of this book that no one review (including this one) can do justice to this book, period and region (which is again at the centre of the world's attention).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This arrived on time and was a present for brother's ...
This arrived on time and was a present for brother's birthday who assures me he is enjoying reading it very much.
Published 7 days ago by Mrs. Angela Coleman
2.0 out of 5 stars A flawed masterpiece: never clear what it really wanted to be and in...
Amazon defines two stars as meaning `I don't like it' and I didn't like this book. Nevertheless, I'm glad I've read it and I certainly respect the immense effort that went into... Read more
Published 7 days ago by W Greenhalf
5.0 out of 5 stars sweeping and marvellous
A sweeping and marvellous history of. Jerusalem, everything I could've wished for in a history book, accessible and juicy, educated and stimulating.
Published 1 month ago by Max Zachs
5.0 out of 5 stars Headline here
Why can I not just click on five stars and have done with it? It is a good book, okay?
Published 3 months ago by M. P. Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting
Life has not changed there are still monsters in the world, but i wonder if the people portrayed in the book are unique. Read more
Published 3 months ago by D. Sayers
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely a MUST READ!
If you are Christian, a Jew, Muslim, French, English, Arab, Israeli, a Turk, Armenian or American, you HAVE to read this book!
Published 4 months ago by TonyBinEye
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST READ
Read it, and immediately started to read it again, because it has so much to take in. The best book I've read on the subjects I enjoy so much, including Jewish, Roman, Greek,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by tony burrett
5.0 out of 5 stars Jerusalem The Biography
The history of jerusalem is a history of Europe and of the middle east. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the very long and complex roots of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brian Raymond Cooper
1.0 out of 5 stars Jerusalem The Biography
Excellent read and full of well researched information. Enjoyed it very much. Have bought another book by this author as a result.
Published 5 months ago by V B Belcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Jerusalem
This herculean effort by Simon Sebag Montefiore has resulted in a work of art - a comprehensive and easy to read full history of Jerusalem from it's humble beginnings as a site for... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Hex Austen
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