Graetz and Dubnow: Two Jewish Historians in an Alien World

  • Lionel Kochan


When Mendelssohn and a group of followers undertook to enlighten Eastern European Jewry, they attributed to the knowledge of Jewish history an important share in the process of enlightenment. They endeavoured to commission Solomon Maimon either to prepare a Hebrew version of Basnage’s Histoire des Juifs depuis Jésus-Christ jusqu’à présent (1706–11) or to compose an entirely new work of Jewish history. Neither scheme had any success. Maimon comments that history, natural theology, morals, ‘being easily intelligible, would not instil any regard for science into the more learned Jews, who are accustomed to respect only those studies which involve a strain upon the highest intellectual powers’. Then there was the certain conflict between these subjects and ‘religious prejudices’. ‘Besides,’ Maimon concludes, ‘there is no proper history of the Jewish nation: for they have scarcely ever stood in any political relation to other civilised nations and, with the exception of the Old Testament and Josephus and a few fragments on the persecution of the Jews in the middle ages, nothing is to be found on the subject.’1


Sixteenth Century Jewish People Jewish Life Jewish History Natural Theology 
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© Lionel Kochan 1974

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  • Lionel Kochan

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