Israel, Jonathan I. 1946- (Jonathan Irvine Israel)

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Israel, Jonathan I. 1946- (Jonathan Irvine Israel)

PERSONAL:

Born January 22, 1946, in London, England; son of David S. (a businessman) and Miriam Israel; married Jenny T. Winckel (a secretary), January 19, 1975; children: Daniel L. Education: Queens College, Cambridge, B.A. (first class honors), 1967; graduate study at St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1967 and 1970, and Colegio de Mexico, 1968-69. Religion: Jewish.

CAREER:

University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, research fellow, 1970-72; University of Hull, Hull, England, assistant lecturer, 1972-73, lecturer, 1973-74; University College, University of London, London, England, lecturer, 1974-81, reader, 1981-85, professor of history, 1985-2000; Princeton University, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, professor of modern European history, 2001—.

MEMBER:

Jewish Historical Society of England (honorary secretary, 1974-79), Nederlands Historisch Genootschap (Utrecht).

WRITINGS:

Race, Class, and Politics in Colonial Mexico: 1610-1670, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1975.

The Dutch Republic and the Hispanic World: 1606-1661, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550-1750, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1985, third edition, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Portland, OR), 1998.

Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585-1740, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Empires and Entrepots: The Dutch, the Spanish Monarchy, and the Jews, 1585-1713, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, OH), 1990.

(Editor, with David S. Katz) Sceptics, Millenarians, and Jews, Brill (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor) The Anglo-Dutch Moment: Essays on the Glorious Revolution and Its World Impact, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor, with Ole Peter Grell and Nicholas Tyacke) From Persecution to Toleration: The Glorious Revolution and Religion in England, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 ("Oxford History of Early Modern Europe" series), Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1995.

Conflicts of Empires: Spain, the Low Countries and the Struggle for World Supremacy, 1585-1713 (essays), Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, OH), 1997.

(Editor, with others) The Emergence of Tolerance in the Dutch Republic, Brill (New York, NY), 1997.

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with Reinier Salverda) Dutch Jewry: Its History and Secular Culture (1500-2000), Brill (Boston, MA), 2002.

Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews, and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740), Brill (Boston, MA), 2002.

Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

(Editor and translator, with Michael Silverthorne) Benedict de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Toleration in Enlightenment Europe, edited by Ole Peter Grell and Roy Porter, Cambridge University Press, 2000, and William of Orange and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1572-84, by K.W. Swart, Ashgate (Burlington, VT), 2003. Contributor of articles to Dutch, German, Spanish, and British historical journals and of reviews to the Times Literary Supplement.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jonathan I. Israel is a British historian who taught in England and then at Princeton University in the United States. His research interests include European and European colonial history from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century. Israel has written about the Dutch Golden Age, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in Great Britain, and Spanish imperial strategy. He has also published a number of works focusing on the impact of radical thought and on the Enlightenment.

Among his earlier books is The Dutch Republic and the Hispanic World: 1606-1661, about economic and political events that resulted in new Dutch-Spanish relations at the end of the Eighty Years War. Israel's thesis relies on an "analysis of political events in the light of economic trends and vice versa," C.H. Wilson explained in the Times Literary Supplement. Wilson continued: "No one will doubt that his achievement is of remarkable quality. His range and mastery of primary sources, in Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Italian and English alone establishes his claim to be an international historian of high order." "This is a brave history," Wilson wrote, and "Dr. Israel is to be congratulated on a work of research as elegant as it is arduous."

The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 is the first volume in the "Oxford History of Early Modern Europe" series. Hugh Dunthorne noted in the English Historical Review that for the series "to be launched with a study of the Dutch Republic is both appropriate and auspicious. Appropriate, since the commercialized, urban and literate communities that flourished in the northern Netherlands during these years have a good claim to be regarded as Europe's first modern society. And auspicious, since it would be hard to think of a British scholar better qualified to write a wide-ranging account of the early modern Low Countries—and to set a standard for the series as a whole—than Jonathan Israel." Glenn E. Sanders wrote in the Historian: "If Israel's work is any indication, the new series will become the standard introduction to the period…. It is a comprehensive and coherent treatment of nearly every aspect of early modern Dutch life. Chapters in each section cover social change, economic expansion and contraction, religion, art, and intellectual life."

Conflicts of Empires: Spain, the Low Countries and the Struggle for World Supremacy, 1585-1713 is a collection of eighteen essays, thirteen of which were previously published. The essays cover a range of subjects, including Spanish military policy, tolerance, Dutch trade, and Jewish history. In particular, Israel provides an overview of the Spanish military presence in northwestern Germany during the Thirty Years War, explores a Spanish plan to construct a canal between the Rhine River and the Maas River in the 1620s, and examines the role of Dutch Jews in the colonization of Brazil. Reviewing Conflicts of Empires in the English Historical Review, Henry Kamen called it "a very fine volume, revealing the author's mastery of the major aspects of western history, and his status as one of the most wide-ranging, imaginative and professional scholars of early modern Europe."

In Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 Israel presents "a thorough study of the rise of Enlightenment individuals and ideas in the context of Western Europe," noted John B. Roney in History: Review of New Books. Israel contends that, contrary to previous studies that trace the high point of the Enlightenment to the era of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the critical time in the history of this intellectual movement came much earlier. "The real watershed—the age of truly ‘Radical Enlightenment’—Israel argues, lay in the last quarter of the 17th century," observed Telegraph reviewer John Adamson. "And rather than being either French or English, it was a genuinely pan-European phenomenon." The author observes that Dutch thinkers such as Franciscus van den Enden and Frederick van Leenhof had a considerable influence on the dissemination of new ideas. According to Adamson, many studies "simply fail to grasp the inter-connectedness of ideas and influences across the European continent—hence the stupendous scale of this book, which ranges from London to Moscow, Stockholm to Naples, in a virtuoso display of polyglot learning."

Israel especially notes the influence of radical philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677), a Dutch Jew who dismissed the idea that God rewards the just and punishes the wicked. According to Ann Talbot, writing on the World Socialist Web site, the author "makes it clear that Spinoza was a materialist philosopher, who rejected Descartes dualism between body and soul and instead regarded the whole of nature, including mankind, as consisting of a single substance." Talbot added, "Israel's account of Spinoza's ideas is one of the clearest available and he makes a philosophical system that is often opaque, because it is presented in the form of a geometrical proof and is expressed in a theological manner, much more accessible to the modern reader."

Reviewing Radical Enlightenment in the English Historical Review, Thomas Munck described it as being "a brilliant achievement, piecing together some highly elusive strands of the early enlightenment in a way which not only makes compulsive reading, but is also bound to have a major and permanent impact on enlightenment scholarship as a whole. Some of its conclusions will prove controversial, and many parts of the argument will stimulate detailed discussion."

Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752 is the second volume by Israel concerning the Enlightenment. Here he explains his theories about what he considers the two Enlightenments: the Radical Enlightenment, which was inspired by Spinoza, and the Moderate Enlightenment, which was influenced by John Locke and Isaac Newton. According to Israel, "the Radicals offered the only true Enlightenment, giving us democracy, equality, individual liberty and secular morality," wrote a contributor in the Economist. "The Moderates, on the other hand, have left an ambiguous and, in the end, harmful legacy." The critic added that the author "argues that for as long as historians treat the two wings of the Enlightenment as a single movement, they have misunderstood the phenomenon." In the work, Independent contributor Lesley Chamberlain commented, "Israel reminds us of a vision of reason—associated with Europe but drawn from many forces, not least Judaism and Islam—that sets universal standards for progressive mankind. He insists that reason is superior to non-reason, whatever its origin. His thousand-page reminder comes at a time when many of us need a boost to keep up our courage. It is a superb project, and Enlightenment Contested, meticulously produced, deserves space on every thinking person's shelves."

Israel once told CA: "I believe that we are now at a new stage in the writing of history which will transcend the old, habitual separation of political from socioeconomic history. Increasingly, it is being realized that what is now most needed in the domain of history writing is to bring out the interactions between fields which, hitherto, have been deliberately and artificially kept apart. Before long, the work of the ‘Braudelians’ is going to seem thoroughly old-fashioned."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Economist, December 2, 2006, review of Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752, p. 85.

English Historical Review, November, 1994, Christopher Hill, review of From Persecution to Toleration: The Glorious Revolution and Religion in England, p. 1274; September, 1996, Hugh Dunthorne, review of The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806, p. 943; April, 1999, Henry Kamen, review of Conflicts of Empires: Spain, the Low Countries and the Struggle for World Supremacy, 1585-1713, p. 439; April, 2002, Thomas Munck, review of Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750, p. 395.

First Things, April, 2002, Edward T. Oakes, review of Radical Enlightenment, p. 41.

Historian, winter, 1998, Glenn E. Sanders, review of The Dutch Republic, p. 433.

History: Review of New Books, winter, 2002, John B. Roney, review of Radical Enlightenment, p. 68.

Independent (London, England), December 8, 2006, Lesley Chamberlain, review of Enlightenment Contested.

Telegraph (London, England), February 24, 2001, John Adamson, review of Radical Enlightenment.

Times Literary Supplement, October 15, 1982, C.H. Wilson, review of The Dutch Republic and the Hispanic World: 1606-1661.

ONLINE

Princeton University Web site,http://www.princeton.edu/ (February 1, 2008), profile of Jonathan Israel.

World Socialist Web site,http://www.wsws.org/ (August 26, 2003), Ann Talbot, review of Radical Enlightenment.

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Israel, Jonathan I. 1946- (Jonathan Irvine Israel)

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