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Jews in the Early Modern World

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Jews in the Early Modern World
By Dean Phillip Bell. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Lanham, Maryland: 2008. Pg. xv, 301. Maps, Figures, Tables.) ISBN 10: 0-7425-4517-2. ISBN 13: 978-0-7425-4517-5.

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - October 1, 2007

Jews in the Early Modern World presents a concise overview of Jewish history from 1400 - 1700. Written by Dean Phillip Bell, Dean and Professor of Jewish History at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, this book takes a comprehensive view on Jewish history, detailing not only the historical facts, but also offering examples of every day Jewish life and experiences during this formative period.

Bell's writing is engaging and informative. In addition to providing an overview of Jewish history during this period, Bell also examines Jewish historiography and the changes in the historic methodology used to study Jewish history that have occurred over time and how these changes have impacted our understanding of Jewish history in the early modern world. The text begins with an enlightening introduction that puts this text in historic context and which examines the importance of this period in both Jewish history and world history in general. The bulk of the information in this text is divided into five chapters:
  1. A Medieval Context
  2. Settlement and Demography
  3. Community and Social Life
  4. Identity: Religion and Culture
  5. Relations with the Other
The main text is followed by a conclusion that details the importance of Jewish history in the early modern period on the development of Jewish identity and nationalism, as well as future settlement patterns, religious and cultural changes, and Jewish interactions with non-Jews.

Each chapter in this book includes endnotes, as well as a detailed and up-to-date bibliography that can be used as a starting point for further study into this period. Jews in the Early Modern World is suitable for use in both university and adult education courses dealing with Jewish history or culture, as well as a supplemental text for courses in world or European history. This text is also ideal for use by general readers looking for a readable introduction into this fascinating period in Jewish history.

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