The movement from tradition to modernity engulfed all of the Jewish communities in the West, but hitherto historians have concentrated on the intellectual revolution in Germany by Moses Mendelssohn in the second half of the eighteenth century as the decisive event in the origins of Jewish modernity. In The Jews of Georgian England , Todd M. Endelman challenges the Germanocentric orientation of the bulk of modern Jewish historiography and argues that the modernization of European Jewry encompassed far more than an intellectual revolution.
His study recounts the rise of the Anglo-Jewish elite—great commercial and financial magnates such as the Goldsmids, the Franks, Samson Gideon, and Joseph Salvador—who rapidly adopted the gentlemanly style of life of the landed class and adjusted their religious practices to harmonize with the standards of upper-class Englishmen. Similarly, the Jewish poor—peddlers, hawkers, and old-clothes men—took easily to many patterns of lower-class life, including crime, street violence, sexual promiscuity, and coarse entertainment.
An impressive marshaling of fact and analysis, The Jews of Georgian England serves to illuminate a significant aspect of the Jewish passage to modernity.