The Stakes of History

On the Use and Abuse of Jewish History for Life

David N. Myers

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January 9, 2018
192 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300228939
Hardcover

A leading scholar of Jewish history’s bracing and challenging case for the role of the historian today

Why do we study history? What is the role of the historian in the contemporary world? These questions prompted David N. Myers’s illuminating and poignant call for the relevance of historical research and writing. His inquiry identifies a number of key themes around which modern Jewish historians have wrapped their labors: liberation, consolation, and witnessing. Through these portraits, Myers revisits the chasm between history and memory, revealing the middle space occupied by modern Jewish historians as they work between the poles of empathic storytelling and the critical sifting of sources.

History, properly applied, can both destroy ideologically rooted myths that breed group hatred and create new memories that are sustaining of life. Alive in these investigations is Myers’s belief that the historian today can and should attend to questions of political and moral urgency. Historical knowledge is not a luxury to society but an essential requirement for informed civic engagement, as well as a vital tool in policy making, conflict resolution, and restorative justice.

David N. Myers is President/CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York, as well as Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has written extensively in the fields of Jewish intellectual and cultural history in the modern age. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

"David Myers, author of several ground-breaking works on Jewish history and historiography, provides us with yet another rich and thoughtful account of Jewish historiography."—Michael Brenner, American University and University of Munich
 

“Denying the starkest of oppositions between the construction of memory and the claims of scholarship in an inspired dialogue with his honored teacher, David N. Myers renews the public role of history in his rich new lectures. The results are indispensable.”—Samuel Moyn, Yale University
 

"Eloquent and erudite, this review of Jewish historiography crosses boundaries of discipline and identity. With empathy and ethics, Myers lends new meaning to ancient and contemporary histories in a morally trying era. A truly human book."—Galit Hasan-Rokem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem  
 

“Though brief in length, this is an amazingly dense volume revealing the author’s mastery of Jewish history and recent historiographical debates. It is hard to criticize such a brilliantly conceived historical essay.”—Donald A. Yerxa, Reading Religion
The Jewish Past Revisited
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Edited by David N. Myers and David B. Ruderman

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