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Chapter Summary

Almost inevitably, discussions of Moses Mendelssohn’s relationship to the German Enlightenment’s burgeoning interest in history and historicism begin by invoking his 1765 correspondence with Thomas Abbt. This chapter seeks to reassess Mendelssohn’s reflections on history and historicism by looking primarily at his Jerusalem, a work that was an integral part of the debates over the “civic improvement” of the Jews unleashed by Christian Wilhelm Dohm’s 1781 treatise. Mendelssohn may indeed have been indifferent to the particulars of historical scholarship. He was, however, keenly aware of the political and ideological uses of historical writing, particularly when it came to the writing of Jewish history. The chapter also considers some of the unique challenges Mendelssohn had to face in issuing his defense of Judaism.

Keywords: historicism; Jerusalem; Jewish history; Judaism; Moses Mendelssohn



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