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The Jews in Britain

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The Jews in Britain: A Chronology. By Raphael Langham. ( Palgrave Macmillan, New York: 2005. Pg. 150. Charts. Illustrations.) ISBN:1-4039-9597-4

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - August 3, 2007

The Jews in Britain: A Chronology is an annotated timeline of Jewish history in Britain from the arrival of the first Jew in Britain (date unknown) through to May 6, 2002 when about 50,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square in support of Israel. For an event to be listed in this book, it must pertain to the Jews in Britain, an aspect of British history that involves Jews, or the reaction of Jews and non-Jews in Britain to foreign events affecting Jews. The events listed in this book are further limited to only those events that occurred in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland (to 1922, thereafter, only to Northern Ireland). Other 'British' areas, such as India and British possessions are not covered within the scope of this book.

This wonderful reference book was written by Raphael Langham, whose own history is as intriguing as his book. Langham was an actuary, who upon retirement returned to school as a "very mature undergraduate." He studied Jewish history at University College London, and he is currently working on his PhD. His endeavor to start on such a venture after retiring from one career gives hope to all of us who have ever asked the question, "Is it too late to start..." The events and dates that are listed in this book are annotated by his witty and insightful commentary on the events. When available, he also gives suggestions on texts to consult if you want to investigate a particular event in greater detail.

In addition to the main body of the text, which consists of a list of dates, the corresponding event, and Langham's commentary, he has also included a host of helpful reference material. This additional information includes some wonderful illustrations of Jewish life in Britain, a list of the Arch Presbyters, Hahamim, and Chief Rabbis in Britain, the dates major Jewish communities where established, a list of Jewish 'firsts', number of Jews in Britain during various periods, and more. He also includes a list/timeline of major events in Jewish history beginning with the reign of King David, as well as a list of major events in British history, beginning around 750 B.C.E.. A list of British monarchs, and a list of Prime ministers is also included. Not least, the book includes detailed endnotes and a bibliography that will fascinate scholars and lay-readers alike.

The Jews in Britain is a fascinating book to read, and an invaluable boon to scholars seeking a ready reference guide to the major events related to the sojourn of Jews in Britain. It is also an indispensable book for anyone with an interest in British history in general. Langham's commentaries are concise, informative, and well documented and the extra material that he added to the book makes it a practical reference for students of all ages, grade school through university level. It is also the most up-to-date and comprehensive overview of the history of Jews in Britain that I've come across.

Related Reviews:

Britain in the Twentieth Century, by Ian Cawood.
A well-organized study guide for students studying for their AS and A2 level exams in 20th Century British History.

Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, by Israel Abrahams.
A sweeping social history of Jewish life in Europe during the Middle Ages.

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