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Haskalah and HistoryThe Emergence of a Modern Jewish Historical Consciousness$
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Shmuel Feiner

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774433

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774433.001.0001

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From Traditional History to Maskilic History in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany

From Traditional History to Maskilic History in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany

(p.9) One From Traditional History to Maskilic History in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany
(p.iii) Haskalah and History

Shmuel Feiner

, Chaya Naor, Sondra Silverston
Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses how ‘maskilic history’, developing in the circle of German maskilim during the last two decades of the eighteenth century, broke with ‘traditional Jewish history’. Just as the European Enlightenment had constructed a new picture of the past and proposed a kind of ‘philosophical history’, the Haskalah, functioning within the framework of its critical goals and demands for a reformed society, also created a new image of the past that presented a clear alternative to the traditional version. The new legitimization of historical study, the new division of history into periods, the belief in the historical turning-point and the shaping of ‘a modern age’, stemming from awareness of modernity, together with progressive programmes and realistic explanations, all characterized maskilic awareness of the past. They also made it possible to identify maskilic history as a specific historical phenomenon and an element of the consciousness of those Jewish intellectual circles that made pragmatic and didactic use of history. Maskilic history presented exemplary types, elevated historical heroes, and proposed moral explanations of events, all aimed at realizing the maskilic aspiration of creating a new, ideal Jew who would also be a universal man and a citizen of his country.

Keywords:   maskilic history, German maskilim, Jewish history, European Enlightenment, Haskalah, modernity, Jewish intellectual circles, historical heroes

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