Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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WAXMAN ---- SOME OUTSTANDING JEWISH BOOKS
35
historiography, in general, consists. These are the historical
material, form of presentation, point of view, and the spirit
permeating it.
As to the material out of which history is constructed, namely
ascertaining the facts which determine the exactness of events,
selecting the particles of truth embedded in sources often en-
crusted with legends, and search of documents, there is no doubt
that Dubnow was under obligation to his predecessors, especially
to Graetz who performed yeoman’s work in this field. At least
for a large part of Jewish history could the successor rely upon
his predecessor and thus divert his energy to the work of co-
ordination and presentation. However, Dubnow contributed his
share even in this field. Not only did he gather all new material
which was brought to light, in the half century which elapsed
from the completion of the history of Graetz, by the
spade>
search in libraries, and scholarly discovery of documents, but he
himself dug up much material bearing upon the history of Polish
Jewry from the seventeenth century on, and especially a mass of
material relating to the Hassidic movement. Dubnow was the
first to study this movement from a historical-scientific point of
view in his long series of articles in the Russian-Jewish monthly,
the
tVoschody
in the years 1889-1890. Consequently, there is new-
ness of material in the
Weltgeschichte
, not only in the story of the
seventy years which elapsed from 1848 where Graetz stopped,
but in other periods as well.
.
DUBNOW’s CONTRIBUTION TO HISTORY
Of great importance is Dubnow’s contribution to the form of
presentation of the historical narrative. A history of a people
like the Jews, which is scattered over time and space, offers
exceptional difficulty in its presentation, and all who undertook
the task, grappled with it unsuccessfully. Graetz, who followed
simply the chronological method, was most unsuccessful in his
presentation. In each chapter he leads the reader through a
series of countries and shifts his story around from East to West
and from North to South, and frequently there results confusion
in the mind of the student, for events of totally different character
are put together contiguously. Dubnow attempted to overcome
this difficulty by combining time and space, and often also content,
paying great attention to the geographic distribution of the Jews.
In general, he divides the entire Jewish history into two great
epochs, the Eastern and the Western. By the first, is meant the
long period of time when the main Jewish centers of population
were located in the East, i. e., Asia and parts of Africa; and the