The cultural historian Gertrude Himmelfarb has arguably done more than anyone to shape our understanding of Victorian Britain. She has also written books on the 18th-century Enlightenment as well as numerous essays on the formation of 20th-century American culture and on contemporary politics and society. Her work, based on the careful and extensive accumulation of textual evidence, is a paragon of history-writing in the old style. Reviewing in Mosaic her latest collection, Past and Present, Peter Berkowitz has acutely pointed out the degree to which the body of her work stands as a powerful reproach to the writings of today’s postmodernist historians, whose accumulating misconstruals and distortions she has steadily and trenchantly criticized.
Gertrude Himmelfarb, historian of Victorian Britain and of the 18th-century Enlightenment, has lately devoted special attention to Jewish history and culture. What’s the connection?