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

Anthony Julius
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Feb 2010
Trials of the Diaspora is a ground-breaking book that offers the first ever comprehensive 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 then 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.

This book, the first history of its kind, is sure to provoke much comment and debate, and comes as a timely reminder that English culture has been in no way immune to anti-Semitism - and in certain ways is still not to this day.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (14 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199297053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199297054
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


His book 'Trials of the Diaspora' is magisterial...No Judaica library should be without it. (Jeremy Rosen, Jewish Telegraph)

A torrent of primary-source material. (Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books) nothing if not a superb rhetorician. (Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books)

Anthony Julius' erudite and scholarly work will prove indispensable in the struggle against this form of racial prejudice. (David Harounoff, Tribune Magazine)

A strong, sombre book on an appalling subject. (Harold Bloom, New York Review of Books)

Julius is a truth-teller...I am grateful for his calm balance...[and his] extraordinary moral strength. (Harold Bloom, New York Review of Books)

Luminous and comprehensive history. (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)

A scholarly and judicious history of Britannia's version of that most lethal form of nonsense called antisemitism.

No thoughtful person who wants to have an opinion about anything Jewish...can avoid reading this book. (David Cesa rni, BBC History Magazine)

Excellent book. (Jonathan Wright, The Tablet)

An elegantly written, well-researched survey of England's anti-sematic urges...masterful...poignant, insightful stuff. (Jonathan Wright, The Tablet)

A magisterial work about the history of anti-Semitism in Britain that will surely have a major impact and be widely discussed. (William Rubinstein, Standpoint)

'Trials of the Diaspora' reveals him to be an historian of great ability who has produced a magisterial work. (William Rubenstein, Standpoint)

Wonderful... immensely learned... observant and shrewd. (Joanathan Sumpton, Spectator)

An excellent autobiographical essay in which Julius recalls the distasteful reaction to his appointment as lawyer to Diana. (Jonathan Beckman, New Statesman)

Julius writes with unrivalled authority. (James Shapiro, Financial Times)

This is an essential history and so it's fortunate it has been written by a man with the extraordinary fluency, staggering erudition, scholarly integrity, intellectual acumen, and moral discernment of Anthony Julius. (Philip Roth)

Part history of an irrational hatred, part forensic analysis of a sophistical lie, part literary criticism - for, as Anthony Julius shows, anti-Semitism is a species of fantastical literature, all figure of speech, misquotation and fancy - this exhilarating work nails a defamation which to humanity's discredit, persists to this hour. Indispensible. (Howard Jacobson)

Anthony Julius has produced a brilliant and readable account of a shameful stain on the national reputation. The best dissection I've seen of Britain's oldest and least acknowledged racial prejudice. (Nick Cohen)

Fiercely relevant history (Ihsan Taylor, New York Times)

is a well-organized and well-written book ... Anthony Julius has provided important material for future debate on both the historical and the ongoing relationship of English people to the Jews. (Frank Felsenstein, Jewish Quarterly Review)

About the Author

Anthony Julius is Deputy Chairman of the commercial law firm Mishcon de Reya, specializing in litigation law. He is also Chairman of the London Consortium, a Visiting Professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Vice-President of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The author of several books, including

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not 'readable' 13 Mar 2010
My argument is with the publishers and the reviewers rather than the author. Although this book is well-researched it is not, by any means 'readable' in the sense that it flows. More than 20% of the book is taken up with notes referenced in the main body of the text. Every one is numbered in the text, a constant distraction to the eye and few are worth following up immediately. This is all very good and commendable academic practice but it does not make the book 'readable'. It is a book for studying. Although the book divides the history into four broad sections, material and sources are cross-referenced over all four ("I will deal with this in chapter 6....") making the arguments difficult to follow without recourse to post-it notes, pencil marks in the margin or copious personal note-taking. In the end, this book is an academic volume aimed at those who have the time and skill to study it in depth and discuss it with others. It is not for the general reader, even one with a very high level of education.
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31 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars England's dirty linen exposed 9 April 2010
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An enormously wide-ranging work with some 800 pages of text and extensive footnotes. After a long introduction which includes a completely irrelevant but spot-on analysis of the lawyer Anthony Julius' most famous client, Princess Diana, the book is divided into three parts. Part 1 describes Medieval English anti-Semitism which set many precedents subsequently employed by the nazis, notably that of state authorities endorsing, and in the case of the Church, encouraging, popular prejudice and illegal violence against Jews. After several bestial incidents, this culminated in the official expulsion, by royal proclamation, of all Jews from England in 1290. Part 2 describes literary anti-Semitism, the most important examples of which come from two of the greatest English writers, Shakespeare and Dickens. Shylock and Fagin are particularly sinister because they immortalise the crude Jewish stereotype, a bearded, money-grubbing, skull-capped schemer who wants to exploit Christian blood and children. The third part of the book shows how the English tradition of negativity towards Jews continues to this day in the form of anti-Israeli activity, an extremely worrying development. Thus the Medieval 'blood libel' which grotesquely suggested that Jews murdered Christian children to make matzos for Passover has a direct connection with middle class, supposedly educated, British people today disrupting a Jerusalem String Quartet performance because they don't like what the Israeli Air Force is doing in Gaza.

Although Julius had made a study of English literary anti-Semitism as a student at University, it is in describing this that his theme becomes weakest. He is mistaken, for example, in saying that Chaucer's (blood libel) Prioress' Tale is followed by an 'Arthurian tale told by the Wife of Bath'.
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29 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review 28 Mar 2010
English antisemitism is unique. It has given rise to no mass movements, as in Continental Europe, and has not prevented the establishment of a successful Jewish community in England. According to Anthony Julius, we must look carefully at English antisemitisms rather than regard there as being one type. In this penetrating analysis, he dissects the specific qualities of English antisemitism and how it has impacted on the perception and acceptance of Jews in England. The book commences with a history of the mediaeval period, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews in 1290. During this period the major motivating ideology was of Christian antisemitism. He demonstrates incisively in successive chapters how these tropes, or common themes, penetrated English literature and ideology even following the readmission of the Jews under Cromwell. The ability of basic antisemitism to disguise itself in different masks, in different periods, is demonstrated specifically by examples of the use of blood-libel imagery through journalism, plays, novels and polemics. Remarkably, Julius clearly demonstrates the persistence of this lethal libel to the present day, where it becomes fused to analyses of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. In the final section of the book the persistence of ancient prejudice is shown to be able to adapt itself in new and potentially dangerous ways in demonisation of Israel and its delegitimisation.
Anthony Julius's book is a nuanced, witty and clear history of this subject. Without being alarmist he shows just how important English antisemitism is, despite its apparent lack of success, and why the recent upsurge is important. This will become the standard work on the subject.
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29 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A one-sided picture 23 May 2010
Anthony Julius has drawn a misleadingly one-sided picture of the Jewish experience in England, at least in relation to recent history. It is at odds with the view of the Chief Rabbi, who said in an interview with the BBC in 2006 that "Jews in Britain have found this country one of the most tolerant places on the face of the earth." Nor is it consistent with the polls conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on attitudes to Jews in a number of European countries. In 2002 an EU report stated that the ADL found that "Compared to most of the other EU countries agreement with anti Semitic statements in the United Kingdom was clearly lower." Again, in 2009 the ADL reported that "Britain consistently registered the lowest levels of anti-Jewish sentiment."

Perhaps an explanation for Julius's writing such a one-sided account may be found in a couple of comments he makes in the Introduction. He writes in the context of anti-Semitism that "There are certain things that will always remain unsaid between Jews and non-Jews", which to my mind implies a prejudicial attitude to non-Jews. He also claims that "For Anglo-Jewry in general, [anti-Semitism] is the background noise against which we make our lives. Almost always barely audible, one must strain to detect it..." Julius has indeed strained very hard in his attempt to demonstrate that anti-Semitism is a significant feature of present-day life in England.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Anthony Julius is not only a successful lawyer, but also a literary critic, this is an academic discipline with which I am not familiar, and the difference between that and and the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. Roger Eden
1.0 out of 5 stars Overkill
Wouldn't common sense indicate that if so many people and institutions over the millennia found some aspects of Jewish/Israeli behavior and beliefs objectionable (as described ad... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service.
The product arrived much earlier than expected, in first-class condition. Thoroughly recommend this source.
Published on 6 Sep 2010 by Edinburgh reader.
2.0 out of 5 stars Dishonest ending to a well researched book
The analysis of historical anti-semitism is well researched and thoughtful. However the book is ruined for me by equating hostility and criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Read more
Published on 23 July 2010 by N. Rogall
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult read
I bought this book mainly to see Julius' analysis of The Merchant of Venice in particular and William Shakespeare in general. Read more
Published on 22 July 2010 by Mr. Leong Wai Hong
1.0 out of 5 stars Perversity
Given that little untoward has befallen the Jewish community in England since 1290, the idea of devoting an entire book to the history of anti-semitism in England seems a bit... Read more
Published on 7 April 2010 by G. Noel
2.0 out of 5 stars What history?
I found the book very long winded and very repetitive. I am over 70 and during my lifetime in England I have seen very little anti-Jewish behaviour (my maternal grandfather was a... Read more
Published on 1 April 2010 by Linda Brennan
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