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Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 119 ies to elaborate on the idea that bigotry is a mental illness and not just a normal aberration. Werner Israel Halpern, Psychiatrist Rochester, New York The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry 1880-1920, by Eugene C. Black. Cambridge , MA: Basil Blackwell, 1988. 325 pp. $27.95. The contribution of American scholars to the study of Anglo-Jewish history has been impressive. In particular the pioneer studies of Lloyd Gartner on East European immigrants in England and Todd Endelman's work on Anglo-Jewish social and intellectual development since readmission in 1656 have transformed their subject matter from ones of only antiquarian concern to the mainstream of modern Jewish and British history. Bernard Gainer's study of anti-alienism and a whole host of unpublished American doctoral theses have added further to our knowledge and understanding of Britain's Jewish minority. Eugene Black's major study of the Jewish elite at the time of mass ostjuden immigration is thus the latest product in what is now thirty years of American interest in Anglo-Jewish history, reflecting the advanced state of Jewish studies in the United States compared to the United Kingdom. Vital though this research has been in invigorating the historical study of the Jews in Britain, it has not been without its problems. Limited access to resources has resulted in a concentration on London to the exclusion of the provinces. Moreover the domination of a consensus model and concern about ethnic solidarity from American scholars has led to the downgrading or ignoring of class conflict in the Anglo-Jewish community. In response a more radical group of British historians have recently emphasized class above ethnicity in what have been quite crude Marxist interpretations of Anglo -Jewry. The need for a more sophisticated analysis which avoids the simplifications of both schools is therefore great. Unfortunately, despite his immense labors and wide-ranging scope, Eugene Black's book does not meet this basic requirement. Black himself highlights some of the past problems of Anglo-Jewish historiography. He points out that "the vibrant life of provincial British Jewry" has often been obscured by "the shadow of London domination." The author also makes a plea for the study of the Anglo-Jewish experience within the context of British history as a whole. In terms of his specific research on the communal responses of the anglicized Jewish elite to the East European immigrants, Black is aware of the need to compare Jewish to gen- 120 SHOFAR eral policies to the poor in society. Nevertheless, Black is of the opinion that in a period which he perceives as one marked by the progression from voluntarism to collectivism in Britain "one extraordinary exception stood out. British Jewry as a community cared to an outstanding and unique degree for the needs of their own community." Yet in both the areas of metropolitan bias and the lack of domestic context Black merely repeats earlier deficiencies. Those looking for material on the thriving provincial communities of Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow (which with other smaller settlements represented 40 percent of AngloJewry 's population of roughly one quarter million in 1914) will be disappointed . Black's feeble contention that "provincial Jewry lacked the entrenched elite leadership of London" and therefore is not worthy of study reflects no more than the author's own ignorance. As for the "context," The Social Politics ofAnglo-Jewry operates in a near-total vacuum. Black's case for the uniqueness of Anglo-Jewry, given no evidence about other non-Jewish institutions, remains unproven. Despite these major failings there is much of importance in this volume. There is a useful section on previously neglected women's organizations, some new material on the well-worked "aliens question" in the 1890s and 1900s. Two interesting chapters are devoted to the First World War-unfortunately not integrated into the rest of the book. Much of Black's material on clubs, education, and religious institutions has received attention before, however, and it cannot be said that he provides anything in the way of new insights. One of the weakest and most isolated chapters is on the_ response of the immigrants to their social "superiors" and their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 119-121
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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