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Unit information: Jewish Experience in Modern European History (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2015/16

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Unit name Jewish Experience in Modern European History (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST20044
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Michlic
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit examines Jewish life in Europe from the 19th century to the present day within a wide range of social, cultural, and political contexts and local, urban, and national settings. We will focus on the varying trajectories of the transition of Jews from the status of distinct "other"/”outsider” in European societies to the present day construction of Jewish hybrid identities. We will investigate how Jews responded to the call of modernity; how, as members of a minority, they contributed to and helped to shape the dominant cultures; and the ways in which majority societies perceived and treated them prior to the Holocaust. We will next consider the Nazi destruction of European Jewry, and the post-1945 trajectories of the political, social and cultural reconstruction of Jewish communities in Western and Eastern Europe. Finally, we will explore the complexities of the current boom of the memory of Jews, including the emergence of “virtual Jewish culture” and “nostalgia for Jews” in East-Central Europe, Spain and Portugal. Major topics to be explored include the relationship between cultural/ethnic diversity and nationalism; how gender intersects with antisemitism and with modern Jewish identities; the question of minority rights within a majority society and the exclusion/inclusion of Jews; the cultural memory of Jews and the revival of Jewish life after the fall of communism. Throughout, we will view the development of modern Europe through the lens of European Jewish experience. We will combine the use of secondary sources with study of memoirs, diaries, letters, and documentary films.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed 1. a wider historical knowledge of the experience of Jews in Europe since the nineteenth century. 2. a deeper awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis; 3. the ability to set individual issues within their longer term historical context; 4. the ability to analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change; 5. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points; 6. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion; 7. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 8. the acquisition of key writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-5 and 7-8.

Reading and References

  • Amos Elon, The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Family, 1743-1933(Paperback)
  • Picador. Ebook
  • Jonathan Frankel and Steven Zipperstein, eds. Assimilation and Community: the Jews in the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Puah Rakovsky, My Life as a Radical Jewish Woman. Memoir of A Zionist Feminist in Poland, ed. by Paula E. Hyman (Indiana University Press, 2002)
  • Jeffrey Shandler, Awakening Lives. Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland Before the Holocaust (The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 2002)
  • Yaacov Shavit and Jehuda Reniharz, Glorious, Accursed Europe, (Waltham MA: Brandeis University Press, 2010) Ebook
  • Bernard Wasserstein, Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945(Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996)
  • Pauline Wengeroff, Rememberings, The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Studies and Texts in Jewish History and Culture, 9) (University Press of Maryland, 2000)