Freedman, Jeffrey E. 1957-
FREEDMAN, Jeffrey E. 1957-
PERSONAL: Born December 4, 1957, in New York, NY; son of Norbert (a psychotherapist) and Njuty (a psychotherapist; maiden name, Greenberg) Freedman; married Gina Fisch (divorced). Education: University of Rochester, B.A., 1980; Princeton University, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1991. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, salsa dancing.
CAREER: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, lecturer in history, 1990-91; Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, visiting assistant professor of history, 1991-92; Yeshiva University, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1992-2000, associate professor of history, 2000—. Director, New York Area Faculty Seminar on Modern European History.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
AWARDS, HONORS: Annenberg fellowship from University of Pennsylvania, 1997.
A Poisoned Chalice, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte 4, 1994; Deutsch-französische Kulturbibliothek, edited by Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink and Rolf Reichardt, Leipzig, 1997; Le Rayonnement d'une maison d'édition dans l'Europe des lumières: La Société typographique de Neuchâtel 1769-1789, edited by Robert Darnton, Neuchâtel, 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Revising dissertation for inclusion in Schriften und Zeugnisse zur Buchgeschichte. Veröffentlichungen des Leipziger Arbeitskreises zur Geschichte des Buchwesens, tentative title, Between France and Germany: The International Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment; research on the fear of being buried alive in the eighteenth century.
SIDELIGHTS: Jeffrey E. Freedman is a social historian of eighteenth-century Europe with emphasis on the Enlightenment in France and Germany. His book A Poisoned Chalice explores an episode of mass poisoning in a Zurich Protestant church in 1776. On September 12 of that year, a large crowd—including many political leaders—took communion from a wine chalice that was later found to have been tainted with arsenic. The investigation at the time concentrated on a gravedigger for the parish and on a defrocked priest who protested his innocence right up until his execution for the crime. Not only does Freedman revisit the crime itself and offer his own assessment of the perpetrator, but he also uses the case as a launch from which to study Enlightenment views of good and evil, original sin, and vicarious satisfaction. Freedman's research uncovered contemporary journalistic accounts of the incident and subsequent philosophical debates that wrestled with the problem of deliberate evil.
Patricia Fara in History Today noted that A Poisoned Chalice is "refreshingly original." She observed that Freedman "cleverly uses this well-publicised event to tease out important characteristics of eighteenth-century Germany." A Publishers Weekly reviewer characterized the work as "an erudite cultural history with obvious implications for our own age." Times Literary Supplement reviewer Joachim Whaley found A Poisoned Chalice to be a "fascinating book." Whaley added: "Freedman's detective work takes the reader on an extraordinary journey. He moves with great elegance and skill from the politics of Zurich to the wider world of German Enlightenment; his book is a tour de force."
Freedman told CA: "As a teacher of history, I have come to realize that the most effective way to awaken an interest in the past is to present it in the form of stories. The great historians of the nineteenth century—Ranke, Michelet—realized this too; but the art of storytelling fell out of favor among twentieth-century historians, who preferred to see themselves as social scientists rather than as practitioners of a narrative art. In my own writing, I try to reconnect with the earlier tradition of history as storytelling. I organize my work around dramatic and arresting events that bring the past to life; and I attempt to present those events in narrative form, as in my book about the affair of the poisoned communion wine, A Poisoned Chalice, which is loosely modeled on the genre of detective fiction."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 2003, Robert Anchor, review of A Poisoned Chalice, pp. 591-592.
English Historical Review, February, 2003, W. R. Ward, review of A Poisoned Chalice, p. 236.
History Today, November, 2002, Patricia Fara, review of A Poisoned Chalice, p. 72.
Journal of European Studies, December, 2002, Jeremy Black, review of A Poisoned Chalice, p. 412.
Publishers Weekly, April 22, 2002, review of APoisoned Chalice, p. 66.
Times Literary Supplement, July 26, 2002, Joachim Whaley, "A Vintage Case," p. 27.
Yeshiva Today Online,http://www.yu.edu/ (April 1, 2003), "A Murder Mystery That Brings the Past to Life."*