Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2010, Peter Temin (PDF)

Fall 2009, Peter Temin (PDF)

Fall 2008, Peter Temin (PDF)

Fall 2007, Peter Temin (PDF)

Course Description

This subject provides a comprehensive overview of Jewish history from Biblical times to today. The discussion will focus on two questions. First, how do we “know” what we think we know of Jewish history? This of course is a central question of all history. Since the subject ranges over a wide range of times and places, it is not surprising that the readings are based on a wide range of evidence. Second, how have Jews survived as a continuous ethnic/religious group? They are unique in the length of time they have existed with a continuous history. We will seek to discover what is durable about the Jewish experience that has led to this longevity.

The subject uses recent scholarship in English to suggest answers to these questions. Only English is required for this subject, but there is a lot of reading and writing. Readings should be done before the relevant class to make the class discussion relevant to the comprehension of the reading and the readings relevant to the class discussion. The dates on the syllabus show when the assigned readings will be discussed; they should be read completely by those dates.

This subject is funded by a gift from the Dennis W. and Jane B. Carlton Foundation.

Course Requirements

The subject requires two types of written exercises: papers and exams. Credit will be given for papers, class participation, and exams in that order.


This course requires two essays of about eight to ten pages each, due on Week #4 and Week #11. The first essay will be methodological, about the methods and sources of history. It is appropriate to write this paper early in the subject because the readings on the early years reveal the most varied historical evidence. The second paper will be an attempt for each student to answer the second question of the course: Why have Jews survived as a group? The paper should also discuss each student’s relationship to a religion (whatever it may be), with attention to the long-term attractiveness of this religion as well as its current appeal. For more detailed instructions for the papers, please see assignments.


There will be two exams on the readings in class time as shown on the syllabus.

Grading Criteria

Two papers (30% each) 60%
Two exams (20% each) 40%


1 The Torah  
2 The bible as history  
3 Life in biblical Israel  
4 Jewish revolts Paper 1 due
5 Religoius change in Roman times  
6 The first millennium and Maimonides  
7 Exam on readings Exam 1
8 Medieval Jews  
9 Early modern Jewry  
10 Jews in interwar Europe  
11 The Holocaust Paper 2 due
12 The Mandate and Israel  
13 Jews in the United States

Exam on readings

Exam 2
14 Review, summary, and discussion  

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Written Assignments