Books interview: Simon Schama

Simon Schama speaks to Ellie Cawthorne about his new book, which looks at the lives of Jews – from rabbis to bare-knuckle boxers – across four centuries…

Historian Simon Schama.

This article was first published in the December 2017 edition of BBC History Magazine

Your new book spans more than 400 years of Jewish history – from the turn of the 16th century to the end of the 19th. What are some of the central themes you cover?

For more than half a millennium, the life of a Jew was one where you never knew whether you were going to be holed up in a ghetto, expelled from your country, or accused of murdering Christian children to drink their blood. It could be a very transitory life. What intrigued me was what Jews could make of that transitory life while staying put in one religion.

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