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Jerusalem: The Biography

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  8,261 ratings  ·  923 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
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published 2011 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Terry Very entertaining writer but well documented references. Montefiore seems to be one of those gifted writers who teaches you history with his story tel…moreVery entertaining writer but well documented references. Montefiore seems to be one of those gifted writers who teaches you history with his story telling.(less)

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 ·  8,261 ratings  ·  923 reviews

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Tea Jovanović
This is one of those non-fiction books that you read as fiction... And this 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..
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
Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but:

-Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city'
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Jerusalem is a masterpiece. 10 stars. Read this book.

In Jerusalem Simon Sebag Montefiore presents not just a history of the city but of the region and much of the western world. One finds that virtually every prophet and charlatan, king, queen, prince and despot, priest, politician, conquerer and crusader in recorded history has some connection to the city and has often trod its streets. Jerusalem is the center of three of the world’s religions yet until the 1900s was rarely larger than a small

Jerusalem is a fascinating city. Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims it has at times been the center of internaational intrigue, conflict, and reverence and at other times a forgotten backwater pile of rocks. Its history stretches over thousands of years and has been the subject of countless prayers, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It has inspired awe of the divine and hatred for our fellow human. Its history is the history of East meeting West, of religion and realpolitik, of imperialism and
E. G.
List of Illustrations
List of Family Trees
List of Maps
Notes on Names, Transliterations and Titles


Family Trees

(The full and extremely extensive references for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author's website at:
In order to make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include the notes in the paperback. We hope readers will a
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very detailed, in-depth history of one of the most complex, troubled, emotionally and religiously intense cities of the world, the ideological center of all three Abrahamic religions.

An emotionally exhausting tour, spanning across millennia of war, pilgrimage, cooperation and coexistence, fanaticism, corruption, mysticism and enlightenment. The history of Jerusalem is the history of the World, it has been stated, and I definitely see some merit in this statement. The weight of history feels o
To try and tackle the history of one of the most famous cities in the world, in one book, is not the easiest of writing challenges, but Montefiore has had a pretty good go at it. He has tried to cover from the very earliest references to relatively recent events, and this has made this a very substantial book indeed.

I won't try and surmise all 600 plus pages into a couple of paragraphs would be nigh on impossible, but suffice to say Montefiore has filled these pages with immense amounts of deta
Aug 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Review to follow...when I have the energy to compile all my feelings, beyond the fact that i didn't like it.

A month later...I still don't have the energy to write a full review for this book.

There are some good points:
- the sheer amount of research,
- the wealth of facts,
- the non bias of religion.

The bad points:
- it reads like a textbook,
- there is too much information at times and it needed condensing,
- other parts felt dealt with too swiftly and left me wanting more,
- the bits I enjoy
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars actually. This book was massive in it's scope and reach, the best sentence to summarize it and get a sense of The amount of work and the nuances that went into this book comes from the book itself "Jerusalem's history is a chronicle of settlers, colonists and pilgrims, who have included Arabs, Jews and many others, in a place that has grown and contracted many times. During more than a Millennium of Islamic rule, Jerusalem was repeatedly colonized by Islamic settlers, scholars, Sufis ...more
Nick Van der Graaf
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 monike
If there's one city that needs a biography, it must be Jerusalem. In a highly readable style, Simon Sebag Montefiore takes us on a tour from the earliest recorded history to today's Jerusalem.

The history of Jerusalem is a chronicle of colonists and pilgrims, whether they are Arab, Jew or Christians. The city itself witnessed a large amount of different masters, each with their own beliefs and each thinking they were the true and only religions. Nowhere in the world did so many people die on acco
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A striking history of a city from it's inception in prehistory, through its trials and tribulations, colonists, pilgrims and invaders up to its current precarious position.
It's mainly the story of the main players calling Jerusalem their home, or having a major role to play in the story, and as such there is a whistle stop feel to the book (11th Century? Oh, Crusades...) but so long as you're happy to accept that further reading will be required you'll be fine.

So... where it was good - it cove
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This is one of those books with so much sheer information packed into such a small space (even running at 600+ pages) that it is enough to induce mental whiplash. The narrative is relatively readable, but for such a high-profile work I was actually surprised at the occasional sloppiness with well known facts and even the number of editing errors that it contained. Trying to pack whole life stories into a page and a half is never easy and gets rather tiresome for the reader after about 300 pages. ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Susanna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simon Sebag-Montefiore's acclaimed and bestselling history of Jerusalem is an intriguing read, full of interesting lesser known facts, personages and new angles. At times, it reads almost like a well-paced novel, and is as hard to put down. Certainly, it provides a timely, as well as carefully balanced, account of this extraordinary city's long history, from the earliest times to the present day.

The prologue of this heavy volume begins with the destruction of the Second Temple and genocide of Je
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jerusalem: The Biography is a sweeping and meticulously researched biography and history of Jerusalem from the early biblical times of King David, Moses and the Canaanites, including the history and significance of Jerusalem to Judaism and Christianity as well as the Muslims over the expanse of history and time through the administration of President Barack Obama. This is an engrossing and all-encompassing narrative of the sweeping and volatile history of Jerusalem including the genesis and imp ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A very interesting read which encompasses pretty much the entire historical scope of this unique city.
The main downside was pretty much due to that. Montefiore tried to write little about lots of events, even those who are not that important when looking on Jerusalem's broader history. It would have been better to write only about the major events and times.

That being said, this book is quite an achievement, and though I`m familiar with a lot of the history regarding Jerusalem this was quite a
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
A hard look at a very turbulent city, learned quite a bit of its history, and the politics on the situation of today.
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
'Jerusalem: The Biography', as the name would suggest, is an in-depth 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 rema ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was mostly really good. I'm going to review this by sections.


So, for a lot of this section, Sebag Montefiore's only or most important source is the Bible, helped along by a little archaeological evidence - though not as much as I'd wish. As a Christian who takes the Bible's claims more seriously than the secular Jewish author does, I thought this section could have been a lot better. Look, I know how academic history works. If I was reading someone else's holy book as the pri
Laurence O'Bryan
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very readable, I was surprised at the quality of the writing. I expected it to read more dry but it's just as interesting and well-written as any novel. My biggest complaint is that the maps, pictures, and family trees are at the back of the book so I didn't realize they were there until I was finished reading, which wasn't very helpful. I wish they had been closer to the chapters they dealt with.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lyn Elliott
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I listened to an abridged version this as an audiobook when I was driving on my own over the last three weeks or so. Despite the difficulties imposed by this regime (sometimes five minute snatches) I have been interested most of the way and will retain a memory of thousands of years of violent warfare as armies marched through Israel/Palestine laying waste to everything as they went, as well as the vicious battles over Jerusalem itself since the first of the Crusades launched by Western European ...more
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Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the global bestsellers 'The Romanovs' and 'Jerusalem: the Biography,' 'Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter and "Red Sky at Noon." His books are published in 48 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He has won prizes in both non-fiction and fiction. He read history at Gonville and Caius Colleg ...more

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“Necessity is very often the mother of romance.” 12 likes
“Jerusalem has a way of disappointing in tormenting both conquerors and visitors. The contrast between the real and heavenly cities is so excruciating that a hundred patients a year are committed to this city's asylum, suffering from the Jerusalem Syndrome, a madness of anticipation, disappointment and delusion.” 7 likes
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