Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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second embraces the subsequent period when these centers passed
primarily to Europe, though there were always minor Jewish
settlements outside of it. Each epoch is divided into periods,
distinguished from each other either by an important change in
the cultural milieu or by geographic concentration. The last
factor is especially noticed in the second epoch which begins in
the year 1000 C. E. The periods in this epoch are: 1) that of the
dominance of Spanish and Franco-German centers, i. e. from
1000-1500; 2) of German-Polish center, 1500-1789; 3) Modern
period. In each of the periods the division of the historical
material follows both time and space. In each section of time,
special chapters are devoted to delineation of each center sep-
arately. The presentation is thus
improved and more
coordinated. The value of this form is enhanced when we pay
attention to his point of view or conception of Jewish history
which is his greatest contribution.
Dubnow, after many earlier attempts to emancipate himself
from the conception of his predecessors which emphasized the
religious, or speculative, or literary productive phases of Jewish
history, finally introduced the sociologic viewpoint. “The sub-
ject of scientific historiography,” says he, “is not this phase or
that phase of a people’s activity, but the people as a whole, or
more exactly, the national personality and its growth and struggle
for existence in various environments.”1 If we add to this his
well known view of Jewish nationalism based on autonomy,
which emphasizes the development of Jewish life in a center in
all its phases, according to its own pattern, but influenced by
external circumstances, we can gauge the extent of change and
newness which resulted from the historian’s point of view in the
He devoted chapters to the delineation of the
economic, social, and communal life of the Jews in various periods
and centers as well as to the interrelation of these phases in the
external life to those of the inner conditions. Some of these sub-
jects were either hardly touched upon by earlier historians or
treated in a woefully inadequate manner. His history was thus
enlarged and rounded out.
We come now to the last element, the spirit, or more exactly
the personal relation of the writer to the history. On the whole,
it can be characterized as a nationalistic-secular objective spirit.
Graetz was both conservative and rationalistic at the same time,
1 Introduction to Vol. I, Heb. tr. p. 3.