‘Haskalah’ and ‘History’
This chapter provides an overview of the Jewish Haskalah of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Jewish Haskalah is the first modern ideology in Jewish history, which appeared at the threshold of the modern era and was promulgated by the maskilim — the first Jews who were conscious of being modern, and who concluded that the modern age called for a comprehensive programme of change in both the cultural and the practical life of Jewish society. For years, historians of the Haskalah movement have almost completely ignored the attitude of the maskilim to history. However, the attraction felt by many maskilim to the biblical past of the Jewish people has not been overlooked by scholars. Nevertheless, new surveys of the history of Jewish historical writing and thought continue to minimize the contribution of the maskilim to this field, and repeat the claim that the Haskalah had but a vague sense of the importance of historical knowledge. This book explores a range of sources from the 100-year period of the Haskalah (1782–1881), which show not only that the maskilim displayed a great interest in history, but also that their attitude to the past was significant both for the Haskalah's ideology and for the development of Jewish historical consciousness.
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