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HIST6093 Jewish Society and Culture in Eastern Europe

Module Overview

Eastern Europe was one of the great centres of Jewish civilisation in the early modern and modern periods. This module explores the society that Jews created, a world unto itself but also one that was closely interlinked with the surrounding, non-Jewish society. Starting in early modern Poland-Lithuania, it moves on to examine Jewish life in the Russian Empire as well as Galicia within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Finally, it explores Jewish society in the Soviet Union and the 'Eastern Bloc'. Throughout, the module seeks to analyse and understand the major building blocks of East European Jewish life - community, religion, literature, politics, and economic structure.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Develop your understanding of the distinctive Jewish civilisation that developed in Eastern Europe from the 16th to the 20th centuries • Introduce you to the wide range of primary sources associated with the study of Jewish history • Develop your familiarity with the historiographical literature and debates of the field

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the social and cultural history of East European Jews in the early modern and modern periods
  • the wider East European context that impacted upon Jewish life
  • the types of source material and how historians interpret them
  • the historiography on the subject
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather, assess, and synthesise information
  • communicate effectively as a leader and as a participant in groups discussions
  • Use relevant bibliographical and archival resources to identify and engage with your chosen sources
  • Write a well researched and developed essay
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • perform electronic bibliographical searches to support your research in Jewish Studies, East European and other databases
  • identify major source collections pertaining to Jewish history and reflect on the social and political circumstances of their creation
  • recognise and apply different methodological and interpretive approaches to primary and secondary evidence
  • argue persuasively and cogently in written coursework and oral presentations
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse the relevance of a range of primary sources with regard to the context in which they were produced
  • identify and engage critically with the major historiographical texts on the subject
  • reflect on controversial issues in Jewish history and formulate your own solutions to them
  • understand the continuities and breaks that can be traced between different periods in East European Jewish history

Syllabus

Eastern Europe was one of the great centres of Jewish civilisation in the early modern and modern periods. This unit explores the society that Jews created, a world unto itself but also one that was closely interlinked with the surrounding, non-Jewish society. Starting in early modern Poland-Lithuania, it moves on to examine Jewish life in the Russian Empire as well as Galicia within the Austro-Hungarian Empire; for comparison, it also looks at the Jews of Romania and Bulgaria. Finally, it explores Jewish society in the Soviet Union and the 'Eastern Bloc'. Throughout, the unit seeks to analyse and understand the major building blocks of East European Jewish life – community, religion, literature, politics, and economic structure

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • seminar discussion of selected texts • close analysis of a variety of primary sources of different genres in translation Learning activities include • presentations by course members and their discussion by the group • each student formulating a set of questions on that week’s topic so as to encourage personal engagement with the historical material • independent study and research • viewing and analysis of a number of Yiddish films from twentieth-century Eastern Europe

TypeHours
Independent Study130
Teaching20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Rogger, Hans (1986). Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia. 

Freeze, Chaeran (2001). Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia. 

Kochan, Lionel, ed (1978). The Jews in Soviet Russia Since 1917. 

Hundert, Gershon, ed (1991). Essential Papers on Hasidism. 

S. Dubnow (1914-16). History of the Jews in Poland and Russia. 

Ezra Mendelsohn (1983). The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars. 

Klier, John D (1995). Imperial Russia's Jewish Question, 1855-1881. 

Pinkus, Benjamin (1988). The Jews of the Soviet Union: The History of a National Minority. 

Levin, Nora (1988). The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917. 2 vols. 

Stanislawski, Michael (1983). Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews. 

Baron, Salo W. (1976). The Russian Jew under Tsars and Soviets. 

M. Rosman (1990). The Lord's Jews. 

Eisenbach, Arthur (1991). The Emancipation of the Jews in Poland, 1780-1870. 

Klier, John D., and Shlomo Lambroza, eds (1991). Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History. 

B. Nathans (2002). Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia. 

L. Dawidowicz, ed (1967). The Golden Tradition. 

Z. Gitelman (2000). A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present. 

Polonsky, Antony, ed (1993). Studies from Polin: From Shtetl to Socialism. 

Frankel, Jonathan (1981). Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback ? an oral presentation by each student, with lecturer and peer response ? the tutor will be available to provide feedback on plans for the assessed essay The secondary reading that is assigned for each session, as well as independent reading that you will choose from the supplied bibliography, will provide you with both the context in which to place the assigned primary sources as well as the critical information you need to understand the sources fully. They will also introduce you to the ways in which historians have approached and interpreted primary sources relating to Jewish history. The primary sources to be discussed and analysed in depth each week will acquaint you with the wide range of primary sources available to the historian of Jewish civilisation – legal, rabbinic, communal, literary, etc.— as well as help you to gain a grasp of the continuities and dissimilarities among the periods and regions covered in the unit. The bibliography and class discussions will help you to understand the major historiographical schools and debates within this field, which will in turn inform your essay, which will be a sophisticated exercise in research and critical thinking based in large measure on primary sources. The optional study tour to Poland will enable you to view the material culture (such as synagogues and gravestones) of the Jewish society you have explored within the framework of the course.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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