Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars An Underrated Legacy For The Jewish Culture, 7 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Disraeli: or, The Two Lives (Hardcover)
Other than the fact that this is a political book written by Douglas Hurd and I liked his Peel and Choose Your Weapons Books, the thing that motivated me to buy this book was the fact that Disraeli's Primrose League at the height and of course posthumously, some 2 million members in 1910. This is some feat in view of the fact that the UK Population was 39,700,000 in 1907!

So I thought something must be the reason for this and when the book was published I was on vacation in Scotland so I thought that I would read it.

I accept the view that it seems that the book, starts with a bang and the author's descriptions explode onto the pages in the first few chapters, and hence it may seem that it is U-Shaped. The first chapter being quite interesting about the relationship between Disraeli and Gladstone (apparently the latter detested him), in itself. To quote,

"...[Gladstone's] ... memories of past conflicts must have crowded in ... Gladstone now found himself leading a nation in mourning for a man he had detested."

Oh dear oh dear a Blair and Brown forerunner!

The Chapter I liked best though, and to my mind the one most worth reading and considering against other sources (Douglas Hurd usefully refers to further reading at the back by chapter), is that on Christian and Jew (Chapter 2) , in that Christian intolerance of Jewish faith and culture was apparently so trenchant that Disraeli was baptised into the Christian faith. His parents " ... Thus opened the door for Disraeli's entry into political life that would otherwise have been barred by the law .." Isaac Disraeli, his father thus according to Douglas Hurd was known for his warmth, geniality and anxiety to avoid conflict, notwithstanding that his faith and culture preceded this step for centuries he was willing to assimilate his son into the Christian tradition (and to threaten to leave the Synagogue in order to do so). It is also the more surprising in a way because again according to the book his grandfather bequeathed the family 35000 (many millions today) that put them into the very highest echelons of Jewish London life at the time. However it removed the main impediment at the time |(apparently) to Disraeli's 'progress'.

Nevertheless, this selfless move by Isaac Disraeli which appears to be rather than divisive, inclusive, must have been foremost in Benjamin Disraeli's mind when he voted against his party to support Lord John Russell's Jewish Emancipation Bill and used inclusive religious jurisprudence / arguments to do so:

"...Where is you Christianity if you do not believe in their Judaism..."

"... I cannot for one, give a vote which is not in deference to one what I believe to be the true principles of religion ..."

This public spirited and extremely tolerant stance, though (according to Douglas Hurd), possibly viewed as heretical at the time by fellow Tory MP's, resulted in the first Jewish MP, Lionel De Rothschild shaking him by the hand on eventual entry to the Commons in or around 1858. It must have been set in his constitution by his father and parental background and I am attracted by the references to those influences by Douglas Hurd (who to be fair could have overlooked them completely and still written a good book).

And hence probably Disraeli can be said to have done more for Jewish emancipation than any politician of that period (effectively bring the Tory Party on board it would appear).

And therefore although he is deemed to be famous for the words 'One Nation' which do not appear to have been uttered by him, it is easy to see where the concept came from even apparently after his death with an inclusive mind set that he had. It is also easy to see why this former Dandy, was one of Queen Victorias favourite Prime Ministers.

This book is well worth the read and I would say that careful reading will show that it can grab the attention throughout the chapters and not just at the beginning and end. I will however only give it 4 Stars because it could have been slightly better structured over all.
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