Jacques Basnage (1653–1723), author of the first comprehensive history of postbiblical Judaism, has elicited starkly contrasting evaluations. Some historians have been inclined to see him as the founder of the “pro-Jewish tradition in the Enlightenment”; in Heinrich Graetz’s view, Basnage’s History of the Jews offered an “incalculable service to Judaism.” Other, more recent historians have condemned Basnage’s harsh portrayal of the Talmud and his adherence to a Christian presumption of an eventual Jewish conversion, sometimes even branding his work as “antisemitic.” This essay expands the analysis of Basnage by proposing that an important feature of his historiography was the broad reception of Jewish historians, many of whom he studied in translations by Christian Hebraists. In his presentation, he consistently excised Jewish claims about the theological meaning of history but otherwise tried to retain as many Jewish sources—and voices—as possible for reconstructing history, often even including Jewish accounts of doubtful historicity. As is evident in his reception of Solomon ibn Verga and Isaac Cardoso, Basnage was especially determined to include Jewish records of Christian persecutions and atrocities, all of which he validated as he constructed a historical argument against Christian oppression of Jews and Judaism.


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pp. 290-312
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