Matthias Lehmann, professor of history and Teller Family Chair in Jewish History, has long been intrigued by Maurice de Hirsch, a nineteenth century Jewish entrepreneur and benefactor whose name frequently appeared in contemporary Jewish newspapers from across the world. Yet as famous as Hirsch was during his lifetime, his story has remained elusive and he has since been largely forgotten.

Now, a prestigious and highly competitive Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship will take Lehmann to Tel Aviv University where he will continue his research project—a biography of Maurice de Hirsch.

Lehmann’s biography will offer a fresh perspective on modern Jewish history, moving beyond the usual paradigms of emancipation and enlightenment. He will show how Jewish people often resisted the demands of the modern nation state and navigated a world transformed by the rise of modern capitalism.

“Hirsch was a major personality in Europe and beyond; one of the wealthiest individuals involved in Jewish philanthropy and with ties to European royalty. Aside from being referenced in archival documents, his story has remained elusive until now,” said Lehmann.

“My hope is that this book will make an important contribution to our understanding of the global nineteenth century from the unique vantage point of a minority group that both suffered the consequences of European modernization and benefited from its extra-European manifestations.”

This summer, Lehmann conducted research on de Hirsch in Jerusalem, Paris and Brussels. He will begin his fellowship in fall 2016.

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