Jerusalem: The Biography
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Jerusalem: The Biography

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,648 ratings  ·  390 reviews
Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter,...more
Paperback, Trade Paperback Edition, 672 pages
Published October 27th 2011 by Phoenix (first published January 1st 2011)
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Tea Jovanović
This one of those non fiction books that you read as fiction... And the is one of those books that I'm most proud of being its editor... It took us two years to complete it... I don't know anymore how many times I've reread it, worrying about every detail with my team... Beautiful book about biography of Jerusalem, for those who love history... And they don't have to be scholars to enjoy this book...

I can call myself the Serbian editor of Montefiore family, since I'm Santa's editor as well... :)...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
City of the Book

My first sight of Jerusalem was in a taxi, driving up from the airport at Tel Aviv. It was a winter afternoon in late November, with the sun well down on the horizon. The colour tones were all light-grey, not drab, just grey upon grey, dramatically punctuated by a brilliant flash of gold from the Dome of the Rock: it was almost as if I had been allowed the briefest glimpse of the celestial city, Zion itself!

It was the new city we drove into, with the old beyond, the Turkish wal...more
Nick Van der Graaf
Jerusalem: The Biography is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s sprawling history of the world’s holiest and possibly most cursed city. Sacred to the three Abrahamic religions and the current centre of an ongoing religious/political/military dispute which shows no sign of ever being resolved, Jerusalem’s history is a mad mix of devastation, pilgrimage, hucksterism and blood-drenched fanaticism. Montefiore does an excellent job of stringing it all together, weaving a tale of considerable complexity into som...more
Two distinct ideas came to mind as I listened to this one. Since I could not weave them into one coherent treatise I thought I’d share them both.

Commentary #1
- If you like John Lee as a narrator, this book is possibly for you.
- If you like your history dense, this book is probably for you.
- If you wonder why this area continues to be so f*ed up, this book is likely for you.

Sadly, Jerusalem’s history has been determined by dynamite, sword, and blood. It’s violent past has earned it the moniker,...more
This book was an ambitious undertaking. Montefiore, in the end, does an OK job. The book is really slow to start off and there seemed to be a lot of holes in his storytelling. The first 2/3 of the book comes across as choppy and poorly written. There are gaps in the history and, at times, his writing comes across as awkward. In this portion of the book, he is essentially telling a history of war in Jerusalem, which is certainly important, but not the whole story for sure. I would have loved to h...more
'Jerusalem: The Biography', as the name suggest is an in-depth new biographical-history of the 'Holy City of Jerusalem'. It addresses a wide range of themes, other than just pure chronological-historical narrative. Namely, religion (encompassing the rise of faiths, and their battle for the city), politics, trade, population booms and declines etc... In other words, it examines all the facets required to get a picture of the city at any given time in its long history, and it does this with remark...more
Wow. This book was intense. It was an incredible overview of the history of Jerusalem, beginning with King David and wrapping up with Zionism in the 20th Century. It is a long book, coming in at 650 pages, after the bibliography and notes, but I actually wish it had been longer, or a set of several volumes. There is so much history here, and the thought of all the research that Montefiore must have put into writing this makes me exhausted, but I felt like I was barely skimming the surface. One e...more
This is a very in depth overview of the history of Jerusalem. The great benefit of the book is gaining a better understanding of the catalyst for current conflicts in Jerusalem today. The historical claims to the City (and parts of the City) are so diversified as to diminish the hope for sustained peace. The fervent nature of diversified worship is quite amazing, especially when read from an overview, or broad perspective. It is quite amazing that so many people put so much of their worship ener...more
Jérusalem est la ville universelle, la capitale de deux peuples, le lieu saint de trois religions. Du roi David à Ben Gourion, de la naissance du judaïsme, du christianisme et de l’islam au conflit israélo-palestinien, voici l’histoire de Jérusalem, la cité universelle : trois mille ans de foi et de fanatisme, de conquête et d’occupation, de guerre et de coexistence entre diverses croyances. Simon Sebag Montefiore raconte les batailles, mais aussi les histoires d’amour et de haine des hommes et...more
Overall a good read. History is always partial and I expected the author to be biased towards Jews, as a book written by a Muslim or a Christian writer on such a sensitive topic would be equally susceptible to bias in favor of their own communities. Was this book biased? Not flagrantly so. It may have been, but it was done so subtly that I couldn't really tell. A reader better acquainted with the history of Judaism, Islam and Christianity can perhaps identify better. Regardless, the story itself...more
Hard to pick up. Hard to put down. It presents an exhaustive history of the city of Jerusalem from earliest times up through the 20th century, written by a learned person with personal ties into the history of the past century.

However the book has a more broad coverage than just the city of Jerusalem, for it includes the military, political and sociological influence of Jerusalem on all of Western civilization. So although the city is the central character in the drama, the story-teller includes...more
Noel Burke
I listened to this on my iPod. There was great historical insight into this account of the city. Several areas including Christ, Paul's missionary journeys, and Martin Luther and the other reformers were given barely any mention. And at times, what mention was given was weak or not entirely accurate. It was very apparent that the author was not a Christian as he would provide lengthy details about other things that seemed not as important, while one of the three main "religions" in Jerusalem (Ch...more
Mark Gilroy
Most of us know that in 1493 Christopher Columbus sailed the "deep blue sea." But one of his key motivations for sailing west to secure the riches of India never made it to our childhood textbooks. It can be found in a section of his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella that is often redacted: "before the end of the world all prophecies have to be fulfilled - and the Holy City has to be given back to the Christian Church." It is usually taught that the Spanish monarchs commissioned Columbus to beat...more
Hmm. This was a nicely flowing layman's history of Jerusalem, over the 4,000 or so years from the time King David consecrated it as his capitol until 1967. The writing was easy to read, and Sebag Montefiore peppered the narrative with a healthy dose of salacious historical gossip to keep the reader going when things ran dry.

It was, however, a very long and detailed read, a mixture of the more relevant and the less relevant, and a non-academic work which means it needs to be taken with a grain of...more
I have to say I was a mite disappointed in this. On the plus side Sebag Montefiore's research and always interesting footnotes come to the fore here, but it is not a cohesive narrative, it reads highly episodic and lacks the sweeping scope of his Russian books, ending up with a litany of the slaughter of various esoteric religious and sectarian groups. Worth a read - his books always are - but Karen's Armstrong's history of Jerusalem is by far its superior.
Laurence O'Bryan
Ok, I am 250 pages in and I love every word. This is a book I will be sorry to finish.

I'm on page 410 now. I have to force myself to stop reading, as I want to eek out the last 100 pages slowly... very slowly.

It is that good.

I have now completed the book. It is, by far, one of the best books I have ever read. It is also only the second book I have ever read which I wanted to read again as soon as I finished it!

Every page was a delight.
This is technically a DNF, but yeesh, reading 3/4 of a behemoth book like this deserves a proper rating and a place on my Read shelf on Goodreads. I went through two lending periods with this book and still couldn't make it all the way through. Near the end, I found that I wasn't even looking forward to reading it anymore, especially as the narrative entered the more modern era (and thus more familiar ground).

ANYWAY. I've never read a "biography" of a place before, and it took some getting used...more
Seems like a miracle that Jerusalem remains standing. An all-encompassing flight through thousands of years.
Tema Merback
Jerusalem considered the heart of the world to Jews and Christians and of great import to Muslims is the star of this brilliant biography. An overwhelming history of the holy city from its earliest Canaanite settlements to Bethlehem born David's conquering of Zion and establishing the City of David. This books travels from the ancient Jerusalem to Jerusalem in its current incarnation. Jerusalem, a city that glitters differently in the eyes of each beholder has changed immeasurably over the mille...more
Simcha Wood
Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: The Biography traces the history of the world's most storied city from the age of King David up until the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War, concluding with a brief epilogue detailing the current geopolitical complexities of the city that still haunts the dreams of the three Abrahamic faiths and the nationalist aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis. This is a considerably broad scope, even for a 544-page volume, but Sebag Montefiore does an incredible...more
Marc  A.
"If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning" - Psalm 137

"Next year in Jerusalem", words recited at the end of the Yom Kippur service and the Passover Seder
ever since the Romans expelled the Jewish people from their homeland and their sacred temple ca.70 A.D."

Jerusalem. The very name of holiest city of the three great Abrahamic faiths has stirred the spirits of numerous peoples and must be one of the longest continuously inhabited places on the face of the earth. The very...more
Despite the fact that Montefiore and I clearly stand on the opposite banks of a philosophical divide, I still very much enjoyed this surprisingly concise and readable biography of Jerusalem, a city with one of the most complex, turbulent, and hyper-analyzed histories of all time. I found that although this book went a long way toward sating my passion for wry descriptions of some beautifully bloodthirsty and unhinged rulers, it only began to help me put the city's sprawling, unwieldy, and often...more

At times a surprisingly violent read that I brought on the spur of the moment, mostly on the strength of my love of another of the author's works: Stalin, court of the Red Tsar. Much to my surprise I have to say I don't regret this for one moment.

I was dimly aware of the importance of the city in world history but only once it was all laid out in this tomb of a book did I realize just how it really has in many ways truly been the centre of the world. Many names from pre history you may have only...more
Marius van Blerck
An excellent book, covering the history of this most fascinating city over the many thousands of years of its history, told by a cosmopolitan author with a strong family connection to its more recent history. Ultimately though, the story depressed me, with seemingly endless cycle of peoples taking turns to slaughter each other ... initially the various tribes of the area (with incursions by the various empires as they waxed and waned), then the three Abrahamic religions taking up the cudgels ove...more
Simon Sebag Montefiore, a British historian and writer, chronicles the tumultuous evolution of a city claimed as its holy land for three monotheistic religions. Related to Sir Moses Montefiore, the 19th century British banker and philanthropist who influenced the settlement of Palestine, the author exhaustively yet cogently presents the battles within a city that both divide and unite Western theology, the political fighting, and the underlying primal quests by monarchs and their empires as well...more
I would recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in Jerusalem. The book is fast-paced and immensely informative to the casual reader. Every period covered is brimming with fascinating facts. It seems that any gigantic world-history figure has at one or other point been attracted to this city. There's wars, massacres, decadence, pain and suppression, but also peaceful co-existence, endless devotion, and at times amusement. Additionally, we get maps, photographs, family trees and...more
A good book that provides an exhaustive account of Jerusalem. While I found the cycle of religous strife and repression punctuated by massacre and war depressing it was interesting. Especially when the book sheds light on some of the lesser covered (at least from someone who was educated in the English system - there was a city before Richard the III amazing) parts of Jerusalem`s history. I found the post crusade period leading up to 1947 particualrly interesting. The book made me extremely glad...more
This is one of my favorite non-fiction books to date and I have read many - studying Roman history for many years at university. Jerusalem is exhausting in its scope and even in its length, finishing it felt like a personal achievement. Not to suggest I didn't enjoy the journey or that the writer made it tedious, but to truly digest the content and understand its significance to our world required much energy from me and made moments of pause and research necessary.

I love this book. I found the...more
A 2012 Sophie Brody honorable mention title.

This book provides an in-depth and balanced history of Jerusalem up to the Six-Day War. Montefiore covers the origins and evolutions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which have claims to the city, as well as the struggles that each group has faced throughout history. While the book is highly informative, its accessible style keeps the reader engaged.

For the complete list of 2012 Sophie Brody honor titles, please visit RUSA Awards 2012
Gaylord Dold
Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Jerusalem: The Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (650pp.$35)

Hughes, Robert. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, Personal History, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (498pp.$35)

On the 8th of the Jewish month of Ab in A.D. 70, the armies of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, commanded by his son and heir Titus and numbering some 60,000, were camped before the walls of Jerusalem. Inside the walls, perhaps half a million starving Jews survived the diabolical conditions and were still, mostly defi...more
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Imprinted Lives: ...: Jerusalem: a biography / Simon Sebag Montefiore 12 10 Apr 30, 2014 08:59AM  
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Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the prize winning books Jerusalem: the Biography' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and now One Night in Winter. His books are published in over 40 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD).

The novel One Night in Winter is out now i...more
More about Simon Sebag Montefiore...
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Young Stalin Sashenka One Night in Winter: A Novel Speeches That Changed the World

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“Necessity is very often the mother of romance.” 4 likes
“The Jews had a love-hate relationship with the Greek culture. They craved its civilization but resented its dominance. Josephus says they regarded Greeks as feckless, promiscuous, modernizing lightweights, yet many Jerusalemites were already living the fashionable lifestyle using Greek and Jewish names to show they could be both. Jewish conservatives disagreed; for them, the Greeks were simply idolaters.” 2 likes
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