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The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste: Absolutist Politics and Enlightenment Culture

Overview


This book offers an important new perspective on the process of Jewish integration in modern Europe. Heretofore, discussions of Jewish culture and politics in the eighteenth centry have emphasized enlightenment in Berlin and emphasized emancipation in Paris. In this study, the author addresses the Habsburg Mondarchy, which contained the largest Jewish Population in Europe outside Russia, by focusing on the free port of Trieste, at the crossroads of Central Europe, Italy, and the Levant. In this dynamic port ...
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Overview


This book offers an important new perspective on the process of Jewish integration in modern Europe. Heretofore, discussions of Jewish culture and politics in the eighteenth centry have emphasized enlightenment in Berlin and emphasized emancipation in Paris. In this study, the author addresses the Habsburg Mondarchy, which contained the largest Jewish Population in Europe outside Russia, by focusing on the free port of Trieste, at the crossroads of Central Europe, Italy, and the Levant. In this dynamic port city, mercantilist state-building, enlightenment absolutism, multicultural diversity, and Italian Jewish traditions produced a path toward integration that is generally ignored in modern Jewish history: that of acculturated merchants in commercial centers.

The book provides an in-depth study of enlightened absolutism in action—of the way rulers, officials, and subjects negotiated and implemented policies. It shows both maria Theresa and Joseph II as pragmatic state-builders who developed new policies of toleration for Jews and other religious minorities. The book also emphasizes the commitment by Trieste Jews to the new norms of acculturation, enlightenment, and civil inclusion—in contrast to the wariness expressed by other European Jews to enlighteneed absolutist programs of societal transformation.

The author seeks to counter the usual teleological readings of eighteenth-century Jewish history that sees civil-political improvement only in terms of the French Revolution's granting of legal emancipation. The example of Habsburg Trieste demonstrates the possibility and parameters of change within an Old Regime corporate-estates society and state, under which most Jews lived through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Dubin's brilliant study of the cosmopolitan entrepôt of goods and peoples that was Trieste breaks new ground in our understanding of Jewish life in Old Regime Europe. It demonstrates with exacting detail the extensive privileges such 'port Jews' enjoyed and the effect enlightened absolutist and emancipation politics exercised upon them, while skillfully portraying the Jews' political and cultural responses. It is a classic study in modern Jewish history." —David Sorkin,University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Lois C. Dubin is Professor of Religion and Biblical Literature at Smith College.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2001

    Winner of the 2000 AAASS Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

    CITATION FOR BARBARA JELAVICH BOOK PRIZE, for an outstanding monograph on Southeast European or Habsburg studies since 1600 or 19th- and 20th-century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, funded by Charles Jelavich. The Selection Committee unanimously award the 2000 Barbara Jelavich Prize to Lois C. Dubin for her outstanding The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste: Absolutist Politics and Enlightenment Culture published by the Stanford University Press. Dr. Dubin has produced a fascinating and beautifully written study about the Jewish community in Trieste, a community especially invited thither by the Habsburg government to stimulate trade in that city. Dr. Dubin presents the development of Trieste from a minor town to a major emporium. In doing so, she shows herself to be equally at home with the Jewish community (drawn from Jewish families from different areas and different backgrounds), with Habsburg matters (whether the court and its policy or cultural issues [including Central-European Jewish culture and state policy toward the Jews and trade]) and Italian urban culture. Her study is based on an extraordinarily rich Bibliography with documents and scholarship not only in Italian and German, but also in Hebrew, not to speak of the other European languages. This work tells a fascinating story, many of whose facets are tied to the contacts between the Jewish world and the modernizing Habsburg state. She draws the reader into all the issues she treats. The work is a pleasure to read and will fascinate scholars and general readers of history, even those with no particular interest in the area with which she is dealing. (The prize was presented at the 32nd AAASS Convention in November 2000, in Denver, Colorado.)

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