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(cover by Susan Erony)

Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel by Simon Schama (163,000 words, 21 illustrations)

“Simon Schama has re-examined the role of Baron Edmond de Rothschild [1845-1934] and his son James [1878-1957] in the Jewish settlement of Palestine... He refutes Herzl’s charge that the colonies were a ‘rich man’s pastime to while away what would otherwise have been idle hours’ by illustrating how Baron Edmond’s immediate concern in 1882 for the sanctuary of Eastern European pogrom victims was, by the turn of the century, translated into a total commitment to the development of a self-supporting Jewish homeland and finally a state... Along the way, Schama maneuvers skillfully through the cluttered detail of budgets, expenditures, equipment, crop experimentation (with wine, tobacco, and perfume), border disputes, and administrative problems, providing occasional vignettes of local Palestinian conditions under Ottoman rule, Baronial outrage at colonists’ ingratitude toward his centralized regime, agents’ ineptness, and encounters with Herzl, Balfour, and Weizmann. Meanwhile the Baron evolves from a ‘benevolent onlooker’ to an ‘active accomplice’; and, with Schama’s thoroughly documented, incisively written account, he and his family take their significant places in Israeli history.” —

“To its credit Schama’s work records that the re-establishment of large-scale Jewish settlement in Palestine was not only marked by a struggle against its Arab inhabitants and later against its British overlords, but primarily by a struggle against the sandy soil, rocks and swamps which covered so much of the land available for Jewish settlement at the turn of the century... The importance of this study... is that it is the first to be based on the archives of PICA [the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association], which Schama has used extensively. He presents countless details concerning the early Jewish settlements, and many fascinating vignettes of life in Ottoman Palestine... he has written a highly readable account of aspects of life in Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” — Ronald W. Zweig,
The Historical Journal

“Schama’s contributions are remarkable... Schama’s lively and intelligent discussion of the material hardships and economic realities of the resettlement effort... makes... an important contribution... The spare details of the economic problems of the Yishuv take on a sense of immediacy that is found only in the best economic history.” — Todd M. Endelman,
Jewish Social Studies

“[B]iographies of Baron Edmond de Rothschild have been written before... But not until Schama’s book, which evidently had the support of family cooperation, could we rely on a study based on archival as well as more readily available documentation. It is fortunate that this material is now made accessible in the interpretation of a distinguished historian with a broad sweep of social and economic as well as political interests.” — Benjamin Halpern,
Middle East Journal

“[An] important study.” — Raphael Patai,
The American Historical Review