Elie Kedourie Memorial Lecture, delivered by Professor Simon Schama, on 13 May 2010 (venue: The Royal Society).
For both their enemies and the Jews themselves, their history has always presupposed peculiarity. It has, for better or worse, been written and remembered as a history of separation.
But what if – as recent archaeological and historical research has emphasised – the heart of the matter turns out to be the softness of borders; the ambiguities of nationhood and religion?
Does the distinctiveness of Jewish history – and the identity of the people it chronicles, collapse into heterogeneity?
What gets lost in the process and why would Jews care?
What are the implications for the way that history is routinely invoked in contemporary battles over territory and identity?
About the speaker
Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, long time writer and broadcaster for BBC television and Contributing Editor at the Financial Times. His books have won the Wolfson Award for History, the W.H. Smith Prize for Literature, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature and most recently, for Rough Crossings, the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Non-Fiction (2007). His latest book, The American Future: A History, was published in the spring of 2009. He has been an essayist and critic for The New Yorker since 1994, his art criticism winning the National Magazine Award in 1996. His art essays have also been collected and published as Hang-Ups, Essays on Painting (Mostly). His television work for the BBC and PBS as writer-presenter includes two films on Rembrandt, the award-winning A History of Britain, a film on Tolstoy, an adaptation of Rough Crossings, and the eight part series The Power of Art. His latest series The American Future: A History aired in Britain before the presidential election of 2008, and in the US in spring 2009.