Paul Johnson:


"A History of the Jews" (1987)

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This is an amazing book, written by one of the 20th century's foremost historians.

Summarizing some of the main points:

  • The Jews are the only people in the world who can trace their ancestry back thousands of years
  • Jews penetrated most societies of the world.
  • Writing a history of the Jews entails writing a history of the world.
  • After 70AD rise of the rabbi (a religious scholar who is also a working Jew), who replaced the priests
  • The intellectual is not separated from political power as in Christian and Islamic societies
Jews in the Islamic world
  • Kairouan (Tunisia) from the 7th c
  • Granada (Spain) from the 8th c
  • 25% of the population of Baghdad under the Abbasids from the 8th c
  • Cairo (Egypt)
  • Jews lived in separate quarters
  • Jews were mainly traders and scholars
  • In medieval times Jews constituted the main economic link between the Islamic and Christian worlds, operating as far as China
  • Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 resettle are welcome in the Ottoman Empire and help the Ottomans wage war against the Christian powers
Jews in the Christian world
  • Jews sometimes demanded to live in separate quarters
  • Jews were mainly traders and financiers
  • In medieval times Jews constituted the main economic link between the Islamic and Christian worlds, operating as far as China
  • After the Crusades the Knights Templar of Jerusalem become the first Christian bankers and make the Jews less relevant for Europe
  • Jews banned from universities (create their own schools)
  • Jews persecuted (continuous emigrations, mainly towards Eastern Europe)
  • Persecutions led by Franciscan and Dominican friars (the most educated Christians)
  • Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 are welcome in the Ottoman Empire and help the Ottomans wage war against the Christian powers
  • Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 move to Italy
  • Poland becomes the safest country for Jews (150,000 Jews out of seven million people in 1575)
  • Jews move into the underdeveloped lands of Eastern Europe (Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine) and develop them
  • Food-supply chain of Eastern Europe: andowners were (Polish) Christians, port managers were (German) Protestants, ship owners were (Dutch) Calvinists, Jews funded and ran the food-producing estates
  • Legend of the "Wandering Jew" (first published in 1223 in Italy but boom of books in the 16th c)
  • Jews accepted oppression and discrimination as long as it came with stable, definite rules
  • Jews welcomed segregation (meant to protect Christians from Jewish influence) when it protected them from persecution (and from un-Jewish secular lifestyles)
  • The Reformation eliminates the friars (the Jews' main enemies) from Protestant countries
  • After the Reformation Jews are welcome based on their usefulness
  • Jews help fund the big European wars (Thirty Year War, Austro-Turkish wars) supplying all the powers
  • Vienna saved from the Ottomans (1683) by Samuel Oppenheimer who equips the Austrian troops
  • Jewish loans finance the great projects of the new nation states
Persecution of Jews
  • Christians think Jews crucified the son of god
  • Muslims think Jews sin for rejecting Mohammed (but did not crucify him)
  • Christians and Jews have different traditions (circumcision, diet, etc)
  • Arabs and Jews have similar traditions (circumcision, diet, etc)
  • 7th c: Visigoths massacre Jews and force them to convert to Christianity
  • 711: Jews help Muslims invade Spain
  • 1215: Anti-Jewish code of the Lateran Council
  • 1278: Mass arrests of Jews in England
  • 1421: Mass expulsion of Jews from Austria
  • 1442: Mass expulsion of Jews from Bavaria
  • 1481: Dominicans set up the Spanish Inquisition that burns hundreds of Jews in the next twelve years
  • 1489: Expulsion of Jews from Milano
  • 1492: Mass expulsion of Jews from Spain after the Christian "Reconquista"
  • 1494: Expulsion of Jews from Firenze
  • 1495: Mass expulsion of Jews from Poland and Lithuania
  • 1497: Mass expulsion of Jews from Portugal
  • 1516: Venezia decides to confine the Jews in a "ghetto" (2,400 Jews out of a population of 98,000) and charge them special taxes
  • 1518: Ottomans massacre Jews in Hebron
  • 1541: Jews expelled from Napoli
  • 1557: The Pope creates a ghetto for Jews in Roma
  • 1597: Expulsion of Jews from Milano
  • 16th c: Russian czar Ivan the Terrible orders to drown Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity
  • 1648: Thousands of Jews are massacred by peasants in Poland-Ukraine
  • 1936: Arabs massacre almost all the Jews in Hebron
  • The Holocaust
Surprisingly, Johnson did not analyze the influence that the various Jewish groups exert today on society. There is a widespread belief in the USA, in Western Europe and in Eastern Europe that Jews control vast sectors of the economy and influence foreign politics. Johnson does not deal into these matters, although it would provide for an interesting (temperoray) ending to the story.