Jews are one of the most controversial nations, that travelled and lived all over the Earth. No wonder, that in every new generation there is a historian, who tries to write a monumental work on the history of the Jews. Forty-one years ago one great British historian named Cecil Roth asked Simon Schama, who at that time taught students history at Cambridge, to finish his work on the Jewish history for him. Schama agreed, but, as it appeared later, he just couldn’t bring himself to continue writing Roth’s book. Instead he began to write his own work, “The Story of the Jews”. Why?
The Stories Can Be Told Differently
Well, because sometimes the desire to do something is not enough. Cecil Roth was a Jew himself and he really did explore his field of study thoroughly. In his work he explored the doings of the greatest men of his nation, he looked at history from above, writing more of the elite than of the common folk. Simon Schama is a professional historian, who knows his field of study well enough, but he also is acquainted with many other studies and scientific fields. His point of view on the events of the past differs from Roth’s point of view a lot – unlike his forerunner, he prefered to explore Jewish history from unexpected angles – he dedicates a lot of thoughts to social and cultural forces and analyzes lives of the middle class of the Jewish society. To nowadays reader, Schama’s approach is more interesting and enthralling. Roth’s book is more of an encyclopedia, while “The Story of the Jews” has not only scientific, but also literary value.
Across the History
The events of Schama’s book end in the 15th century. The whole story starts in a Jewish colony on Elephantine, the island in the upper Nile. The readers start their trip with Jewish mercenary Shelomam, who works for Persian King; they end it at the side of Abrahab Zacuto in year 1500. Zacuto was an astronomer and his fundamental work “Perpetual Almanach for the Movement of Celestial Bodies” was the book, which Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama used as a guide while travelling and discovering unknown territories.
Never Wanted to Be Segregated
One of the main ideas of “The Story of the Jews” is the statement that Jews never quite wanted to form a separate society within the societies they lived in. They always tried to cooperate with people of all religions, beliefs and races, and the process of segregation was triggered only when Christians and Muslims turned against the Jews. In order to protect themselves and their culture, Jews had to unite into small communities, separating from the hostile society.