London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987, (First Edition) Hardback in dust wrapper.
From the cover: This 4,000-year survey covers not only Jewish history but the impact of Jewish genius and imagination on the world. It shows how in deep antiquity, a small tribal confederation rationalized the pagan pantheon into a single, all-powerful god endowed with an overwhelming moral purpose. This Jewish invention of ethical monotheism was perhaps the most important single event in human history: it led to the evolution of Judaism, with its philosophy of democratic theocracy and its notion of equality under the Law; and it produced the Bible and, in time, its offshoots the other two great religions of the Book, Christianity and Islam.
But Jews also played a major role in the creation of the modern world: in the origin of secular ideas; in the evolution of capitalism, and in its ideological counterpart, socialism; in the exploration of the human psyche; and in the revolutionary development of nineteenth- and twentieth-century culture. Paul Johnsons book is not only a highly organized chronological account of these events; it is also a powerful and sustained argument about the nature of Jewish genius, its strengths and contradictions. He demonstrates how the counterpoint of Jewish rationalism and Jewish mysticism was responsible for the huge impact of Jewish ideas on world society. He also shows how Jewish rationalism in its turn provoked the irrational force of anti-Semitism. He analyses its various archaeological layers: in pagan antiquity, in the Christian Middle Ages, in the Reformation, in the secular Enlightenment and in the modern totalitarian epoch. He traces the steps whereby the threat of modern anti-Semitism produced Zionism, and the reality of the Nazi holocaust precipitated the birth of Israel. He examines both the nature of Israeli society and the role of the Jewish diaspora in the world today. This is a book which presents the entire Jewish phenomenon from the early second millennium BC to the late 1980s, and makes incisive thought-provoking sense of the whole. It also has an enormous cast of characters, from Abraham the Wanderer, Moses the Lawgiver, Jesus the enigmatic Master, Maimonides the greatest of all medieval minds, Spinoza the founder of secularism, Heine the progenitor of the modern spirit, to latter-day gnostics like Marx and Freud and romantics like Disraeli and Herzl. Here are the Jewish women from Sarah and Ruth to Rosa Luxemburg and Golda Meir; the creators of the thoughts, sounds and images of the twentieth century, Mahler, Schoenberg, Kafka, Modigliani and Proust; and the rabbis and scholars, the Court Jews, the Rothschilds and Sassoons, the Hollywood moguls, Broadway songwriters, New York gangsters and Rand pioneers, the fighters and statesmen. Paul Johnson weaves all these various elements religious belief, scholarly passion, political purpose and force of character into a brilliant and sparkling narrative.
Very Good in Good Dust Wrapper. Dust wrapper sunned heavily at the spine and onto the margins of the panels. Gently bruised at the head, tail and corners of the binding. Edges of the textblock heavily tanned. Pages lightly age-tanned.
[X] 643 pages. Index. Bibliography. 9½” x 6¼”.