Bernard Lazare's controversial magnum opus, originally published in France in 1894, asks why the Jews have aroused such hatred for three thousand years. The journalist, though severed from his Jewish upbringing, was fiercely committed to social justice and could not ignore a shocking antisemitism in the fin-de-siècle circles he knew. In search mg for its historic causes, he was also searching for his own roots and place in the world. As biographer Nelly Wilsonhas noted, young Lazare was "constantly engaged in a dialogue with himself" when he wrote Antisemitism, Its History and Causes.
Lazare begins his "impartial study" by considering whatever in the Jewish character might be to blame for antisemitism. Then he looks outward to those nations among which the Israelites dispersed, examining the different faces of antisemitism from Greco-Roman antiquity to the end of the nineteenth century. Lazare brings his research and study to bear on whatever form antisemitism has taken: ethnic, nationalist, economic, social, literary, philosophical. Recognizing that antisemitism is fundamentally based on fear of the stranger and the need for a scapegoat, Lazare concludes with a surprising scenario for the future. This remarkable book conveys Lazare's own spiritual growth. France's Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s would galvanize him to a passionate battle against antisemitism.
Introducing this Bison Books edition is Robert S. Wistrich, Neuberger Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author of Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred.