Pride Versus Prejudice. Cooper, John (9781906764425). Paperback.

Pride Versus Prejudice. Cooper, John (9781906764425). Paperback.

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This pioneering study is a treasure trove of new information, illustrating the lives and professional experiences of the people involved in such a way as to demonstrate clearly both the obstacles they faced and the status they achieved. Its wealth of detail, in many cases fleshing out the careers of leading Jewish professional figures for the first time, makes engaging reading.

The narrative proceeds chronologically with careful attention to social context, starting with the Victorian and Edwardian eras. For the medical profession, the account of subsequent changes begins with the influx of Jews into medical schools after 1914. John Cooper goes on to describe the problems these Jewish medical students, most of them from immigrant families, encountered. Finding employment even as general practitioners was problematic, and almost insurmountable barriers confronted aspirants to consultant status. Afraid of antisemitic claims that Jews were flooding the market, the leaders of Anglo-Jewry even tried in the 1930s to dissuade young Jews from becoming doctors and lawyers. In this context, Cooper also considers the position of refugee doctors before and during the Second World War. The establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 resulted in fundamental changes, particularly in the way in which consultants were selected, and Cooper shows how this permitted Jewish doctors to enter specialties from which they had previously been excluded and to climb to the highest rungs within the medical hierarchy. He summarizes the careers of many prominent Jewish doctors.

The experience of Jews in the legal profession, both as solicitors and barristers, is examined in similar detail. Cooper sets the context with a discussion of the treatment of Jewish litigants in the early years of the twentieth century in the Whitechapel County Court and the criminal courts. He shows how the persistence of an anti-Jewish bias in the inter-war period limited opportunities for Jews and dissuaded them from entering the law; he also considers the position of Jewish refugee lawyers who came to England during the 1930s and 1940s. After the war, major changes in the economy and legal system allowed Jewish law firms to expand rapidly, challenging the dominance of the City law firms in the commercial world. Many of these firms consequently began to admit Jewish partners for the first time, and Jewish barristers, hitherto confined to the less remunerative areas of civil and criminal law, were likewise able to enter the more lucrative pastures of company and tax law. From the late 1960s, Jews were also promoted in increasing numbers to position on the High Court Bench. As well as giving a detailed picture of these mainstream developments the book also looks at the careers of Jewish communist, socialist, and maverick lawyers.

The story John Cooper tells will appeal not only to readers with a general interest in the subject but also to social historians. It is based on a wide range of sources, including newspapers and professional journals, archival material, law reports, and interviews conducted by the author, and there are detailed indexes of names and subjects. As well as providing an illuminating account of recent Jewish social history, the book makes a valuable contribution to the history of the medical and legal professions and to the scholarly debate as to whether or not antisemitism was of peripheral or central importance in Anglo-Jewish history.

'John Cooper's excellent book is a notable contribution to British history, as well as to the history of the British Jewish community. The work is well-researched, perceptive, and is most handsomely produced.'
Judge Israel Finestein
'The book's main strength is its qualitative, rather than quantitative, approach, which results in a richly textured narrative of the challenges, failures, and successes of dozens of Jewish men and women, both native born and immigrant ... recommended.'
F. Krome, Choice
'A remarkable book based upon genuinely extraordinary researched. It is a detailed examination of the experience of Jewish doctors and lawyers (barrister and solicitors) in the century after the late Victorian period, drawn from evidence in a comprehensive array of sources of every kind ... Such a degree of detail has never been provided in any study of Anglo-Jewry before (nor, indeed, in many studies about English professionals of any kind) ... deserves to become known beyond the ranks of historians of Anglo-Jewry.'
William D. Rubinstein, English Historical Review
'Monumental ... the historical perspective is fascinating.'
Keith Feldman, Jewish Chronicle
'Outstanding ... To the best of my knowledge there has never previously been any work quite like it: a detailed, extremely well-informed and sophisticated account of the careers of Jewish doctors and lawyers.'
William D. Rubenstein, Jewish Historical Studies
'A remarkable work of scholarship ... There are abundant footnotes ... His Introduction is succinct and the book is written in clear grammatical prose while the proofreading has been admirable-a very rare achievement nowadays ... The list of lawyers and doctors (whose careers he describes briefly or at some length) is most extensive ... In every case with which I was personally acquainted, I found his description of the professional individual's background, career, and personal characteristics to be fair and perceptive.'
Judith Freedman, Jewish Journal of Sociology
'The painstaking research ... contributes to social history in this area ... It would make a fine retirement gift.'
Janet Levin, Jewish Renaissance
'Full of fascinating accounts of prominent-and not so prominent-individuals as well as many general observations about English Jewry ... The author has impressive mastery of the field and used both written sources and oral interviews. This book is very readable. It is an important addition to the literature on English Jewish social history and should be very useful for comparative purposes as well.'
Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review
'Thorough, but always entertaining ... Cooper brings alive a host of personalities, legal and medical, many of them untreated elsewhere ... As instructive as it is entertaining, Pride versus Prejudice fills an important gap in Anglo-Jewish historiography. It is written in a plain and lucid style ... valuable and wholly absorbing.'
Michael Fox, Studies in Contemporary Jewry

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