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Disraeli: The Political Artist Preview
April 26, 2016
288 P., 5.5" x 8.25"

Disraeli: The Novel Politician

by David Cesarani

Benjamin Disraeli—British prime minister, writer, and Conservative parliamentarian—created a positive Jewish identity for himself that put him on equal terms with Englishmen of the political elite. By inflating the Jewish past and pretending to noble origins, Disraeli was a political artist, a populist for whom structures of power were the proscenium arch for his performances. He moved masses and manipulated elites through his popular writing and his parliamentary rhetoric.

Lauded as a “great Jew,” excoriated by antisemites, and one of Britain’s most renowned prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli has been widely celebrated for his role in Jewish history. But is the perception of him as a Jewish hero accurate? In what ways did he contribute to Jewish causes? In this groundbreaking, lucid investigation of Disraeli’s life and accomplishments, David Cesarani draws a new portrait of one of Europe’s leading nineteenth-century statesmen, a complicated, driven, opportunistic man. While acknowledging that Disraeli never denied his Jewish lineage, boasted of Jewish achievements, and argued for Jewish civil rights while serving as MP, Cesarani challenges the assumption that Disraeli truly cared about Jewish issues. Instead, his driving personal ambition required him to confront his Jewishness at the same time as he acted opportunistically. By creating a myth of aristocratic Jewish origins for himself, and by arguing that Jews were a superior race, Disraeli boosted his own career but also contributed to the consolidation of some of the most fundamental stereotypes of modern antisemitism.
Feature Review: 

“This groundbreaking biography is a passionate and stimulating account of Disraeli as both man and myth. --Bryan Cheyette, author of Diasporas of the Mind

“… [an] absorbing study of Disreali the Jew”—Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

"Superb."—Benjamin Balint, Wall Street Journal

"A focused biography that derives its excellent specificity from Disraeli's writings."—Kirkus Reviews

“This groundbreaking biography is a passionate and stimulating account of Disraeli as both man and myth. With pace and clarity the author, writing at the height of his powers, skillfully and intelligently unravels the enduring mystery of Disraeli's Jewishness.”—Bryan Cheyette, author of Diasporas of the Mind

“A lively, original, and revisionist account of Disraeli.”—Todd Endelman, University of Michigan

"Cesarani, the late noted Holocaust historian and award-winning author, succinctly tells the complex story of Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81) . . . . This readable portrait is a great addition to European history, biography, and Jewish collections."—Dan Kaplan, Booklist

David Cesarani

David Cesarani
Zadig Productions

David Cesarani "was the leading British-based historian of his generation of the modern experience of the Jews. He was also a notable commentator and broadcaster on the Jewish past and present, and took a prominent role in Holocaust education in Britain and abroad." He died on October 26, 2016, and his book on Disraeli was the last book he wrote.

To read the full obituary from The Times Click here