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Jews and the Military:
A History
Derek J. Penslar

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"Professor Penslar’s book treats Jews and the military, perhaps for the first time, as a coherent subject of study rather than a series of individual conflicts. . . . To write a book on a single subject is challenge enough. To range across such a vast canvas of history and geography, through the prism of a coherent unity, is a remarkable achievement."--Jonathan Lewis, Jewish Historical Studies

"This book offers remarkably new ways of thinking about the relationship between Jews and the military beyond the context of modern Israel. It also weaves Jewish history, which is so often disconnected from scholarship on the predominantly Gentile countries in which the vast majority of the world’s Jews lived for centuries, into larger historiographies in a way that makes the text stimulating reading for specialists in a variety of fields."--Christopher Tozzi, The Journal of Modern History

"Penslar’s pioneering volume is certain to become a core work in the field."--David Rodman, Israel Affairs


"This book shatters the conventional image of diaspora Jews as a people who shun warfare. With exemplary scholarship and a gimlet eye for telling historical evidence, Derek Penslar analyzes Jewish participation in armies from the seventeenth century to the present. Wide-ranging in its scope, original in its argument, and elegant in its presentation, this is the work of a master historian at the peak of his powers."--Bernard Wasserstein, author of On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War

"Derek Penslar's Jews and the Military reminds us of the importance of great historians. It has been a common belief, especially in Israel, that diaspora Jews before the advent of political Zionism lacked the will to fight. Penslar shows us, in his astute and meticulous way, that Jews not only fought, but also had the courage to do so while struggling with hybrid, sometimes clashing identities. An illuminating book."--Bernard Avishai, author of Promiscuous: "Portnoy's Complaint" and Our Doomed Pursuit of Happiness

"By changing Jewish historical accounts of engagement in war from the passive to the active voice, Derek Penslar transforms our understanding of continuities between the history of the diaspora and the military culture of the Yishuv and the state of Israel. A strikingly original study, Penslar's book rearranges the scholarship of major facets of modern Jewish history."--Jay Winter, Yale University

"This book recovers the history of the Jewish soldier in the diaspora--from the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth century--and connects it to the early military history of the state of Israel. Combining a consummate command of the extant scholarship with sophisticated analysis, and encompassing a broad array of questions and sources, this is social and cultural history at its best. There is absolutely nothing else like it in any language."--David Sorkin, City University of New York, Graduate Center

"This book offers a new comparative history of state policy toward Jewish army service and rethinks modern Jewish political culture through the lens of military service. Demolishing the myth of diaspora Jewish pacifism, Penslar shows that attitudes toward soldiering and citizenship in Israeli political culture were anticipated in diaspora Jewish assimilationist and integrationist visions. Jewish historians, historians of modern Europe, and many others will want to read this book."--Kenneth B. Moss, Johns Hopkins University

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File created: 11/22/2015

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