Jonathan Irvine Israel FBA (/ˈɪzriəl, -reɪəl/; born 26 January
1946) is a British writer and academic specialising in Dutch history,
Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment and European Jews. Israel was appointed as
Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, in January
2001. He was previously Professor of Dutch History and Institutions
at the University College London.
In recent years, Israel has focused his attention on a multi-volume
history of the Age of Enlightenment. He contrasts two camps. The
"radical Enlightenment" founded on a rationalist materialism first
articulated by Spinoza. Standing in opposition was a "moderate
Enlightenment" which he sees as profoundly weakened by its belief in
God. In Israel’s highly controversial interpretation, the radical
Enlightenment is the main source of the modern idea of freedom. He
contends that the moderate Enlightenment, including Locke, Voltaire,
and Montesquieu, made no real contribution to the campaign against
superstition and ignorance.
3 Honors and awards
6 See also
8 External links
Israel's career until 2001 unfolded in UK academia. He did his
undergraduate studies at
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College, Cambridge and his graduate
University of Oxford
University of Oxford and the El Colegio de México, Mexico
City, receiving his D.Phil. from Oxford in 1972. He was named Sir
James Knott Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne
in 1970, and in 1972 he moved to the
University of Hull
University of Hull where he was
first an assistant lecturer then a lecturer in Early Modern Europe. In
1974 he became a lecturer in Early Modern European History at
University College London, progressing to become a reader in Modern
History in 1981, then to become Professor of Dutch History and
Institutions in 1984. In January 2001, Israel became a professor of
modern European history in the School of Historical Studies at the
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA. In 2007, the 375th
anniversary of the birth of Spinoza, he held the
Spinoza Chair of
Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.
Israel has defined what he considers to be the "Radical
Enlightenment," arguing it originated with Spinoza. He argues in great
Spinoza "and Spinozism were in fact the intellectual
backbone of the European Radical Enlightenment everywhere, not only in
the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, and Scandinavia but also
Britain and Ireland", and that the Radical Enlightenment, leaning
towards religious skepticism and republican government, leads on to
the modern liberal-democratic state.
Israel is sharply critical of
Jean-Paul Marat and Maximilien de
Robespierre for repudiating the true values of the Radical
Enlightenment and grossly distorting the French Revolution. He argues,
Jacobin ideology and culture under Robespierre was an obsessive
Rousseauiste moral Puritanism steeped in authoritarianism,
anti-intellectualism, and xenophobia, "and it repudiated free
expression, basic human rights, and democracy."
Honors and awards
He was made a
Fellow of the British Academy in 1992, Corresponding
Fellow of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen
(Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) in 1994, won the
American Historical Association’s
Leo Gershoy Award in 2001, and was
made Knight of the
Order of the Netherlands Lion
Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2004. In 2008, he
Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for history, medicine, environmental
studies and cognitive science.
In 2010 he was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal by the Royal
Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)
for his outstanding contribution to Enlightenment scholarship.
In response to Israel's series on the Enlightenment, writes Johnson
Kent Wright, there appeared ...
a series of in-depth critiques, from leading practitioners of every
stripe, including Theo Verbeek, Harvey Chisick, Anthony La Vopa,
Antoine Lilti, Samuel Moyn, and Dan Edelstein. Though all expressed
admiration for the breadth of Israel's reading and display of sheer
scholarly stamina, they also reached a strikingly unanimous verdict.
In the eyes of his critics, Israel's interpretation of the
Enlightenment is a kind of academic juggernaut, careening
destructively through the discipline, in the service of a false
idol—Spinoza, supposed demiurge of modernity—and an unsustainable
principle—the idea of an umbilical connection between metaphysical
monism and political radicalism.
A Marxist defense of Israel against one critic (Professor Samuel Moyn)
appeared in 2010 on the World Socialist Web Site, particularly in the
article The Nation, Jonathan Israel, and the Enlightenment. The two
defenders also criticize Israel, saying:
There are problems in his argument. The dichotomy between a radical
and moderate Enlightenment, however suggestive and stimulating, tends
at times to overly simplify complex and contradictory processes in the
development of philosophical thought. It is not always the case, as
Professor Israel seems to suggest, that the most significant advances
in philosophical thought were made by individuals who held the most
politically radical views.
In 2004, in response to a Historisch Nieuwsblad survey, which asked
members of the Royal Netherlands Historical Society what were the
classic works about Dutch history, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise,
Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806 came in second place.
Race, Class and Politics in Colonial Mexico, 1610–70. Oxford
Historical Monographs. 1975. ISBN 0-19-821860-5 HB.
Dutch Republic and the Hispanic World, 1606–61. 1982.
ISBN 0-19-826534-4 HB; ISBN 0-19-821998-9 PB.
European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750. 1985.
ISBN 0-19-821928-8 HB; ISBN 1-874774-42-0 PB.
Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585–1740. 1989.
ISBN 0-19-821139-2 PB.
Empires and Entrepots: The Dutch, the Spanish Monarchy and the Jews,
1585–1713. 1990. ISBN 1-85285-022-1 HB.
The Anglo-Dutch Moment: Essays on the Glorious Revolution and Its
World Impact. 1991. (editor). ISBN 0-521-39075-3 HB;
ISBN 0-521-54406-8 PB.
From Persecution to Toleration: Glorious Revolution and Religion in
England. 1991. (co-editor) ISBN 0-19-820196-6 HB.
The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806. Oxford
History of Early Modern Europe. 1995. ISBN 0-19-873072-1
HB; ISBN 0-198-20734-4 PB. Documents the golden age of the United
Provinces of the Netherlands and its historical context.
Conflicts of Empires: Spain, the Low Countries and the Struggle for
World Supremacy, 1585–1713. 1997. ISBN 1-85285-161-9 HB.
Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity,
1650–1750. 2001. ISBN 0-19-820608-9 HB;
ISBN 0-199-25456-7 PB. Emphasizes the role of 17th century
Spinoza in particular, in the Enlightenment.
Diasporas Within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews and the World of
Maritime Empires (1540–1740). Brill's Series in Jewish Studies.
2002. ISBN 90-04-12765-8 HB.
Dutch Jewry: Its History and Secular Culture (1500–2000). Brill's
Series in Jewish Studies. 2002. (co-editor)
ISBN 90-04-12436-5 HB.
Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation
of Man, 1670–1752. 2006. ISBN 0-19-927922-5 HB.
A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual
Origins of Modern Democracy. 2009. ISBN 978-0-691-14200-5
Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights
1750–1790. 2011. ISBN 978-0-199-54820-0 HB.
Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution
from The Rights of Man to Robespierre. 2014.
ISBN 978-0-691-15172-4 HB.
The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World,
1775-1848. 2017. ISBN 978-0-691-17660-4 HB.
(Radical Enlightenment (2001), Enlightenment Contested (2006), and
Democratic Enlightenment (2011) constitute a monumental trilogy on the
history of the Radical Enlightenment and the intellectual origins of
modern democracy. A Revolution of the Mind (2009) is a shorter work on
the same theme.) The list above is complete as of
Comments by Margaret Jacob in "
Spinoza Got It", London Review of Books
(8 November 2012): 26–27. Israel used the title (but not subtitle)
of her book, "The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and
Republicans", paperback, 2006 (first edition 1981). Also by Jacob:
"The Radical Enlightenment and Freemasonry: Where we are now",
Philosophica 88 (2013) pp. 13–29.
^ "Jonathan Israel". Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. 5
December 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
^ Jeremy Popkin, review of Jonathan Israel, Revolutionary Ideas: An
Intellectual History of the
French Revolution from The Rights of Man
to Robespierre H-France Review online June 2015; Israel's rebuttal
Jonathan Israel Appointed to Faculty of Institute for Advanced
Study". Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. 17 January 2001.
Retrieved 21 September 2011.
^ Israel, J. (2001). Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making
of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
pp. vi. ISBN 0-19-820608-9.
^ Chamberlain, Lesley (8 December 2006). "When freedom fought faith".
The Independent. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
^ Israel, Jonathan (2014). Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual
History of the
French Revolution from The Rights of Man to
Robespierre. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
p. 521. ISBN 978-0-691-15172-4.
^ "Jonathan Israel" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and
Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
Jonathan Israel (biographical details)". Princeton Institute for
Advanced Study. Archived from the original on 21 September 2009.
Retrieved 21 September 2011.
Jonathan Israel Awarded 2010 Benjamin Franklin Medal". Princeton
Institute for Advanced Study. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 21 September
^ Wright, Johnson Kent. "Review essay" (PDF). H-France Forum. 9 (1):
1. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
^ Talbot, Ann; North, David (9 June 2010). "The Nation, Jonathan
Israel, and the Enlightenment". World Socialist Web Site.
International Committee of the Fourth International. Retrieved 15
^ "De vijftien klassieke werken over de Nederlandse geschiedenis".
^ "Review: Banishing the dark". The Economist. 30 November 2006.
Retrieved 21 September 2011.
^ Moyn, Samuel (12 May 2010). "Review: Mind the Enlightenment". The
Nation. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
^ Bell, David A. (8 February 2012). "Review: Where Do We Come From?".
The New Republic. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
Seeing reason: Jonathan Israel's radical vision
Winners of the Wolfson History Prize
Michael Howard / Keith Thomas (1972)
W. L. Warren /
Frances Yates (1973)
Moses Finley /
Theodore Zeldin (1974)
Frances Donaldson /
Olwen Hufton (1975)
Nikolaus Pevsner /
Norman Stone (1976)
Denis Mack Smith /
Simon Schama (1977)
Alistair Horne (1978)
Richard Cobb /
Quentin Skinner /
Mary Soames (1979)
Robert Evans /
F. S. L. Lyons (1980)
John Wyon Burrow (1981)
John McManners (1982)
Martin Gilbert /
Kenneth Rose (1983)
Antonia Fraser /
Maurice Keen (1984)
Richard Davenport-Hines / John Grigg (1985)
J. H. Elliott /
Jonathan Israel (1986)
Rees Davies / John Pemble (1987)
Richard Evans /
Paul Kennedy (1988)
Richard A. Fletcher /
Donald Cameron Watt
Donald Cameron Watt (1989)
Colin Platt (1990)
John Bossy /
Allan Bullock (1991)
Linda Colley /
Robert Skidelsky (1992)
Robert Bartlett /
Barbara Harvey (1993)
Fiona MacCarthy /
John C. G. Röhl (1994)
H. C. G. Matthew (1995)
Orlando Figes (1996)
John Brewer /
Patricia Hollis (1997)
Antony Beevor /
Amanda Vickery (1998)
Joanna Bourke / Andrew Roberts (1999)
Ian Kershaw /
Mark Mazower /
Roy Porter (2000)
Barry Cunliffe / Jerry White (2001)
William Dalrymple /
Robert Gildea (2002)
Frances Harris /
Julian T. Jackson /
Diarmaid MacCulloch (2003)
Richard Overy / David Reynolds (2004)
Evelyn Welch /
Christopher Wickham (2005)
Chris Clark /
Vic Gatrell /
Adam Tooze (2006)
John Darwin /
Rosemary Hill (2007)
Mary Beard /
Margaret M. McGowan (2008)
Dominic Lieven /
Jonathan Sumption (2009)
Ruth Harris /
Nicholas Thomas (2010)
Susie Harries /
Alexandra Walsham (2011)
Susan Brigden / Christopher Duggan (2012)
Cyprian Broodbank /
Catherine Merridale (2013)
Richard Vinen / Alexander Watson (2014)
Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox /
Nikolaus Wachsmann (2015)
Christopher de Hamel (2016)
Biochemistry and Biophysics
De Duve (1973)
Van Deenen (1976)
Julesz & Reichardt (1985)
De Lange (2012)
Van Rood (1990)
De Wied (1996)
BirdLife International (1994)
Van der Wee (1992)
De Vries (2000)
Le Goff (2004)
C. Visser (1992)
Van de Pavert (1998)
Van Golden (2004)
B. Visser (2008)
Van Oldenborgh (2014)
Dröge Wendel (2016)
ISNI: 0000 0001 1031 8264
BNF: cb12019899x (data)