Wolf, Lucien

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WOLF, LUCIEN (1857–1930), Anglo-Jewish publicist and historian. Wolf, who was born in London, was the son of a Bohemian political refugee who worked as a pipe manufacturer. He began writing for newspapers at the age of 17. His first regular employment was with the Jewish World, of which he later became editor (1905–08). His fluency in French and German was an asset in this profession, and he gradually became known as a foreign affairs expert. His articles in the Fortnightly Review and elsewhere, under the pseudonym "Diplomaticus," commanded wide attention. From 1890 to 1909 he was foreign editor of the then-influential Daily Graphic. Aroused by the pogroms of 1881, Wolf became extremely interested in Russian affairs, acquired a reputation as an expert in the field, and edited the bulletin Darkest Russia (1912–14). He was supplied clandestinely with information through a network initiated by Isaac Elhanan *Spektor. Wolf's anti-Russian attitude made it difficult for him to continue to work as a foreign correspondent after Great Britain's entry into World War i as Russia's ally. In 1917 he became the secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee (of the *Anglo-Jewish Association and the *Board of Deputies of British Jews). As such, he attended the postwar Paris Peace Conference, where he was regarded as a spokesman of "western" Jewry. Although he strongly opposed Jewish nationalism in any form, he was largely responsible for the *Minorities Treaties to safeguard the civil and religious rights of central and eastern European Jews. Subsequently, he acquired a reputation as an authority on minorities problems at the sessions of the *League of Nations at Geneva. Originally an admirer and, to some extent, supporter of Herzl, Wolf later became the principal English spokesman of anti-Zionism, though after 1905 he collaborated with *Zangwill in the Jewish Territorial Organization (see *Territorialism). His hopes that the Wilsonian settlement in Europe at the close of World War i would lead to the protection of its Jewish populations proved tragically naïve.

He had early begun research in Anglo-Jewish history, which he continued throughout his life. He wrote the centennial life of Sir Moses *Montefiore (1884), was one of the organizers of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887, and founded the Jewish Historical Society of *England in 1893 (serving repeatedly as its president). His principal work was on the "middle period" of Anglo-Jewish history (after the expulsion of 1290) and on the resettlement. His contributions, based almost wholly on original sources, were of primary importance and placed the study of the subject on a new basis. These researches attracted Wolf to the history of the Marranos. He edited reports on trials of Jewish interest from the *Canary Islands Inquisition records and in 1925 prepared a report on the contemporary Marranos of *Portugal, a historical contribution of great importance. He contributed a most important article to the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica on antisemitism, on the history of which he was the recognized authority in the English-speaking world. His collected Essays in Jewish History, edited by Cecil Roth in 1934, contains an account of his life. In the non-Jewish sphere he wrote a life of the English statesman Lord Ripon (1921). During the last 30 years of his life, he was hampered by almost total blindness (only partly relieved by an operation) but triumphantly overcame it. An account of Wolf's wartime activities is Mark Levene's War, Jews, and the New Europe: The Diplomacy of Lucien Wolf, 19141919 (1992).


Roth, in: L. Wolf, Essays in Jewish History (1934), 2–34, 37–47 (bibl.), 51–69; M. Beloff, Lucien Wolf and the Anglo-Russian Entente (1951); Frankel, in: jhset, 20 (1959–61), 161–88; Szajkowski, in: yivo Bleter, 43 (1966), 283–96; idem, in: jsos, 29 (1967), 3–26. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Cecil Roth]