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Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and

Political Theory
Kedourie was a remarkable man far more remarkable than the world, or he himself
acknowledged in his lifetime. Oliver Letwin
Controversy raged over Elie Kedouries radical interpretation of the history of the
Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. He was one of the most influential historians
of the twentieth century. During a long career in the Department of Politics at the
London School of Economics, Kedourie inspired generations of students. A
dedicated scholar and meticulous teacher, he founded Middle Eastern Studies, a
journal which, forty years after its launch, remains one of the leading publications in
the field and a monument to his work.
This collection brings together a range of distinguished scholars to evaluate
Kedouries contribution not only to Middle Eastern history but also to political
thought, and to assess the impact of his scholarship.
The volume contains a bibliography of his writings.
This book was previously published as a special issue of Middle Eastern Studies.

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Elie Kedouries Approaches to

History and Political Theory
The Thoughts and Actions of Living Men

Edited by Sylvia Kedourie

First published 2006 by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
2006 Taylor & Francis
Typeset by KnowledgeWorks Global Limited, Southampton, Hampshire, UK
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, Wiltshire
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any
form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloging in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
A catalog record for this book has been requested
ISBN 10 0-415-39675-1
ISBN 13 978-0-415-39675-2

Sylvia Kedourie
Aspects of Elie Kedouries Work
Sylvia Kedourie


The Cyprus Problem and its Solution

Elie Kedourie


Elie Kedouries Contribution to the Study of Nationalism

Paschalis M. Kitromilides


Elie Kedourie and the History of the Middle East

M. E. Yapp


Philosophy, Politics and Conservatism in the Thought of Elie Kedourie

Noel OSullivan


Elie Kedourie and Henri de Lubac: Anglo-French Musings on the Progeny

of Joachim of Fiore
Michael Sutton


History: Puzzle and People or Prescription and Prophecy?

Peter Roberts


Collected Works




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This book which rst appeared as a special issue of Middle Eastern Studies is
dedicated to the memory of Elie Kedourie, a man of many and varied academic
interests. A number of scholars have written essays, each discussing a dierent aspect
of Elies scholarly contribution. They have all graciously consented to devote
precious time in their overworked schedule to give me the benet of their
understanding of his work. To them all I owe a debt of gratitude.
Thanks are also due to Caroline Steenman-Clarke for her initial sifting of material for
the bibliography which appears at the end of this volume. She sorted out the mass of
cuttings scattered in a variety of boxes and envelopes, which she listed and led. This
initial work enabled our daughter Helen Grubin to rearrange these lists thematically as
the collected works now appear in the bibliography. To her too thanks are due.
The bibliography is now as complete and as up to date as possible. Items in all but
two sections are arranged in chronological order. The two sections, Articles by Elie
Kedourie and Review articles by Elie Kedourie, are arranged alphabetically by
publication with items arranged chronologically below each title. Some entries may
seem incomplete; I could not always nd details of the date and source of
publication. Articles in The Times Literary Supplement which were originally
published anonymously are listed without authorial attribution, although it is now
possible to trace this. Three items which did not appear in the special issue of Middle
Eastern Studies have now been added to the bibliography.
Some Hebrew transliteration of the names of unfamiliar reviewers may not have
been correctly re-transliterated into Roman characters; this is inevitable given the
nature of a Semitic language. All corrections or additions will be gratefully received.
The section on Citations is rather haphazard, no special research having been
undertaken; the items listed there are only those items which happened to come to
our attention.
I am also grateful to the friends and colleagues who have lled me in with various
details, and who are too numerous to be mentioned by name. I thank them all most
kindly. I would also like to thank the friends who have alerted me to some factual, as
well as typographical, errors in the special issue. These mistakes I hope have all been
This work would not have been possible without the forty happy years of cooperation with Frank Cass, the original publisher of Middle Eastern Studies; I would like to
express my appreciation to him. Finally I would like to mention Jonathan Manley who
has so eciently and quietly dealt with all my requests for the past 15 years.
Sylvia Kedourie
Nov. 2005

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Aspects of Elie Kedouries Work

Elie Kedourie, CBE, BSc. Econ. (Lond.), Dr.h.c. (TAU), FBA, was Professor of
Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). A dedicated
teacher and meticulous scholar, he devoted himself wholly to his work. During his
forty years of academic life, he used an assistant only once, when due to ill health, he
had someone to copy for him some references from the Public Records Oce (PRO)
archives. Even while teaching in the USA where most teachers seemed to delegate the
marking of essays to their research or junior assistants, he would, to the surprise of
some colleagues, insist on correcting all the undergraduate essays personally. This
way, he would say to me, I know what I have taught and what they have learnt. I
remember that in one term he had some fty essays to correct.
The precision and concision with which he wrote he attributed to his favourite
French teacher, M. Capon who would admonish his pupils regarding the writing of
essays : Ce nest pas de la pate de guimauve he would say an essay is not marshmallow, that is oversweet but vapid wae. In his writing, always devoid of jargon
and owery phraseology, Elie could be deceptively easy to read. The mastery he had
over his subject, his breadth of learning, his deep familiarity with Arabic, French and
English language and literature, thanks to his early schooling at the Alliance Israelite
Universelle school in Baghdad, coupled with an acute memory and a sharp sense of
observation, gave him a scope and a dimension dierent from that of his colleagues
at the School who mostly came from a purely Western and English-speaking
In this volume a number of scholars discuss various aspects of his work. In my
essay, I shall describe his method of work, and give some background on his study of
nationalism, historiography, Middle East history, conservatism, Jewish themes, and
of course Middle Eastern Studies, as well as his relationship with Michael Oakeshott.
I am also enclosing an unpublished International Seminar Report on The Cyprus
Problem and its Solution which he wrote when he acted as rapporteur at a meeting
in Rome in 1973 at the Center for Mediterranean Studies, American Universities
Field Sta.
A bizarre notion is still circulating that Michael Oakeshott was Elies mentor or
even that Elie went to the School in order to study under Oakeshott and that he
became his student or his disciple. Elie only came to meet Oakeshott shortly before
he applied for a post at the LSE recently vacated by Rufus Davis who was returning
to his native Australia. By that time Oakeshott had been appointed head of the
Government department where the vacancy had occurred. So at no time were the
two of them anything other than colleagues. Although Elie was a much younger
colleague, deep respect not to say aection developed between them. Elie tells of his

Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and Political Theory

rst contact with Michael Oakeshott in his short memorial address which he gave at
the LSE. This is what he said:
Though I did not know Oakeshott personally, in 1951 and 1952, while I was still
a graduate student, I sent him two pieces which he accepted and published in
The Cambridge Journal. The articles deal with subjects with which he could not
have been very familiar, but on the strength of what I sensed from the way he
edited the Journal I felt that what I had to say might strike a responsive chord.
This is what I found when I came to know him as a colleague.1
While Elie was an undergraduate at the LSE, his teachers included K.B. Smellie,
William Robson, William and Dorothy Pickles, I. Reiss, Morris Jones and Harold
Laski, but never Michael Oakeshott who joined the School after Elie had graduated
and was awarded a senior scholarship at St Antonys College, Oxford. From Martin
Wight whom he came to meet when still an undergraduate, but not as one of his
students, he learned what it means to be a historian.2
Another misconception which needs to be corrected is the rumour that Elie came
to Britain as a refugee in 1948. Neither statement is correct. It has also been
suggested more than once that Elie was nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire. Had this
not been a risible notion, I would have detailed his own answer to such a statement.
His point would have been that in spite of the corruption and tyranny which existed
then, the states created to replace the Ottoman Empire imposed more control on
their subjects with all the consequences that that entails.
As a young lecturer in the department of Government at the School, Elie lectured
on the history of political thought, a subject which was a standard requirement for
the degree. His approach was of course dierent from that of other colleagues such
as Michael Oakeshott and Kenneth Minogue who also taught this course. He always
treated political theory in its historical context. To quote Michael Sutton, a
contributor to this volume and a former graduate student: What struck me most
about these lectures, he wrote in a letter to me, was the attention he gave to the
intertwining of political and religious ideas. This was one of the ways in which his
emphasis was dierent. I have all his notes of these lectures, written out in long hand,
but I have not yet been able to look through them in order to decide whether I can
competently publish them in an acceptable form.
This brings me to the question of some of his publications. In the Introduction to
the 4th, expanded edition of Nationalism,3 he writes that when Michael Oakeshott,
the head of the government department, asked him to give a course of lectures on
nationalism, it was as a problem in the history of ideas that he approached the
subject. In his article Paschalis Kitromilides places the book in a broader context.
The subject was not one that Elie had occasion to think much about previously and
he did not then see nationalism as an urgent issue in current aairs. It was in 1953,
the year of his appointment, that he began preparing the course of lectures which he
gave in 195560. The pattern became a familiar one. He would give a course of
lectures and then use them as the basis for a book: such are the later books: Politics
in the Middle East4 and Hegel and Marx5, the latter of which I unfortunately had to
bring out from notes and is therefore incomplete. Elie was adamant against
publishing lectures as they stood. He was emphatic that the spoken word would not

Elie Kedouries Work

make well rounded reading which explored all the issues. He was in fact still ordering
newly published books on Hegel, most of which have remained unopened, in order
to complete his reading before sitting down to turn the lectures into a book. I am
greatly indebted to the late Shirley Letwin who read the hand written lectures during
her long and nal illness and who encouraged me to publish them though unnished.
This, as I said, became a familiar method of his, courses of lectures, public
lectures, conference or seminar papers would often later serve as the foundation for
books or published articles. I have already explained elsewhere how he worked. But
at the risk of plagiarizing myself, I decided that without the same explanation this
essay would be incomplete.6 So here it is again.
Elie wrote all his work by hand and did not make more than one draft. He only sat
down to write when he had the whole argument from beginning to end clearly set out
in his mind. When he was taking quotations and references from books, he did not
do it on a card index, but on quarto paper cut in half which he kept in brown
envelopes. His own notes, which consisted of page numbers and faintly marked
notations, were usually made on the back of recycled paper which he would have cut
up into smaller pieces and on which he would have scribbled page numbers. These
numbers he would cross out as he went along. To start with, he would send the one
and only handwritten manuscript to the publisher; eventually, when he used the
services of a secretary, he sent a typed manuscript, again without keeping a copy.
He would work on several projects at the same time as he was teaching. He would
however only start writing, as I have already mentioned, when he had complete in his
head, the whole work from its introductory questions to the resolution of these that
he had reached.

Historiography has become a regular discipline and it would be instructive, before I
give an indication of the extent of Elies scholarship, to discuss how historiography
relates to his work.
I would like to start by quoting from H.E. Bell who, writing about F.W. Maitland
said that his canon law studies amounted to a frontal attack on orthodox opinion.
Bell starts his book on Maitland with a discussion of the word historiography:7
Historiography the study of the ways in which men have applied themselves
to the problem of writing history has become fashionable, perhaps too
fashionable a subject. For the professional, in history or in any other craft,
there must always be an interest in seeing how the greatest practitioners have
gone about their business: but whether that interest is sucient to justify the
mass of work that has recently appeared on historiography is not so certain.
In particular, an extended study of an individual historian would seem to be
justiable only in one of two circumstances: he must either have been, in some
sort, a public gure in his own age, whose historical writing inuenced
political action of his time, or alternatively he must have introduced and
developed ideas and techniques of permanent signicance in the writing of

Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and Political Theory

I shall not dwell on the point of the public gure. Although Elie was consulted by
public gures, he was much too private and reserved a man to use or even mention
such contacts. Whether he made any impact on public aairs, I leave to others to
determine. Those interested can usefully read the essay by Peter Roberts who
discusses this point among others. It is in Bells latter category, that of the signicant
contribution to the study of history that Elies work deserves an extended study. His
approach and method of writing Middle Eastern history was not only punctilious in
its details, but revolutionary in its interpretation, approach and impact.
On reading Elie, one discovers that he wrote the most interesting historiography of
his own work. I would like to concentrate on two of his essays: his Introduction to
the 1987 edition of England and the Middle East9 and Genesis of a History.10 In
order to dene the meaning of diplomatic history, a category within which he
reckoned his In the AngloArab Labyrinth11 might be classed, he stresses that
diplomatic history had fallen into disrepute due to the growth of the Annales
(dhistoire economique et sociale) school of history with its emphasis on social and
economic factors for the writing of history, and the view that this was the only way
to make history interesting.
Many reasons may be cited to explain the high regard for social history . . . It is
widely believed that such history deals with activities and events which in some
sense are more real, more fundamental, than the political transactions between
states which are the usual concern of diplomatic historians. This belief in the
primacy of social history is no doubt one outcome of Marxist ideas and of their
wide dissemination. For if it is assumed that the particular mode of production
prevalent in a society determines the character of all other activities, then social
history, or a variant thereof, must assume a commanding position. As is well
known the Annales school has done a great deal to endow social history with its
newly found prestige, and as it happens, one reason why two of the principal
founders of the school, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, became attracted to
social and economic history was their belief that the real history of a society
must begin with and be based upon the history of its economic activity. The rest
was dismissed and damned as mere histoire evenementielle, as so much frothy
gossip about Cleopatras nose, the Ems telegrams and sealed wagons speeding
towards the Finland Station.12
With reference to the Annales school, Elie quotes the very categorical editorial by
Immanuel Wallerstein, the Tasks of Historical social science, which he published in
1977 in the rst number of Review, the Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center for
the Study of Economics, Historical Systems and Civilizations at the State University
of New York at Binghampton.13 Annales, he wrote, stood for the economic and
social history against the political and diplomatic facade, for the quantied trends
against the chronological narrative, for the social sciences against historical
uniqueness, for the global man against fractional man, for Braudels longue duree
against the evenementielle [sic].
Elie asks whether it is so easy to distinguish between root and facade in the ow of
historical events, and remarks that a social historian, like a diplomatic historian,
could be a mediocrity. The choice of the subject is not in itself a guarantee of the

Elie Kedouries Work

genius or lack of it in a historian. Both social and diplomatic historians could be

mediocrities. That diplomatic history has fallen into disrepute is undoubted; it had
come to be widely taken to be in reality no more than a precis, more or less
methodical, of diplomatic correspondence. If the idea of diplomatic history, he
continues, involves no more than this, then the disrepute would be well merited.
But, he goes on, all good history, good diplomatic history, starts with a heap of
materials which it aspires to put into some kind of order, but with a sense of
puzzlement. . . . The history which an historian undertakes is an enquiry. An enquiry
is a question, and the historian is an enquirer, an asker of questions.14 In other
words, the subject is in some ways immaterial; it is the approach and the questions
posed which determine its interest.
There is the story of the eminent Talmudic scholar who would be expounding his
weekly text which would always lead to the vital question he wanted his students to
ask. The correct question was the essence of his hour long discourse. One day as
soon as he arrived in class, one of the young disciples stood up and put a question to
him. This most eminent man closed his books and announced that there was no need
for a lesson that day as the boy had arrived at the right question. Likewise with Elies
sense of puzzlement. It always led to a question, and it was the question asked which
determined the course of the research and its nal completion. The essence was all in
the question.
It was a question therefore that dictated his choice of subject for England and the
Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire 19141921. The question arose
because of the discrepancy between the political world conjured by Ronald Storrs in
his memoirs, Orientations, and Elies personal experience and observations of the
Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s.
Elie undertook the research before the Foreign Oce archives were transferred to
the PRO, and the published accounts of Middle East history, as he found them, were
unsatisfactory. He became aware, however, of the existence of a large literature of
memoirs, eye-witness accounts and military histories, as well as an accumulation of
Arabic chronicles and memoirs with a great deal of documentation, of the existence
of which practically no historian had hitherto shown himself aware. These and other
private papers formed the bulk of his source material.15 He is undoubtedly a pioneer
in making the study of Arab political memoirs into a major source for the writing of
history. The archives, when they were opened in 1966, only conrmed what he had
already concluded.
Elie of course made detailed use of the then newly available material. As he
explained in the Introduction to the 1987 edition of the book, had this material
been available to him when he was writing England and the Middle East in the early
1950s, it would not have altered the structure or the nal conclusions of the book.
The newly available material enabled him to elaborate questions which he had to
leave obscure. He nonetheless published over the years a large number of articles
which supplemented his early account and helped to clarify these obscurities.
To go back to the label diplomatic history as may be applied to the Labyrinth
which deals with the HusaynMcMahon correspondence, Elie wrote that the book is
also an enquiry into the genesis of a bunch of letters and of the successive
metamorphoses such that what the correspondence was understood to signify in
1939 was far removed from what its authors had in mind in 19141915.16 Tracing this

Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and Political Theory

change in meaning involved careful reading, noting subtle and imperceptible shifts in
Alain Silvera met Elie at the Quai dOrsay where they were both reading in the
early 1970s. On learning that Elie was concerned with the HusaynMcMahon
material he questioned the need for that, since he remarked that Elie had already
written it all in England and the Middle East, Elies answer was: Cest pour avoir le
coeur net, in order to have a clear conscience. It was typical of Elie not to leave any
avenues unexplored.
Elies lifelong interest in the idea of Conservatism remains unfortunately unfullled.
His article Diversity in Freedom: Conservatism from Burkean Origins to the
Challenge of Equality, published in The Times Literary Supplement (TLS)17
encapsulates his work and mature reections on a subject which concerned him
for decades. Because of his method of working which I have explained, I do not have
any notes on which I could work in order to bring his thoughts together in book
form. He read widely and would marshal his arguments mentally before sitting down
to write a book. He told me that all he needed was another six months at home and
his book on Conservatism would be ready for the printer.
It is clear from his earlier article Conservatism and the Conservative Party rst
published in 1970, then included in The Crossman Confessions, that he had already
done some very solid work as a basis for understanding the Conservative Party since
1832. It is necessary to have a detailed knowledge of the relevant transactions within
the party, and between it and its rivals, he wrote.18 His article Lord Salisbury and
Politics of 1972 also in Confessions argued that, since there does not exist a
systematic and coherent body of Conservative doctrine, understanding Conservatism has to start with examining the utterances and the record of a succession of
Conservatives, who are articulate and aware of what being a Conservative implies
and . . . in some fashion exemplary for their time and place.19 Noel OSullivan
explores the conservative philosophy which inspires Elies response to the impact of
western modernity on both western and non-western societies.
Articles he published over the next twenty years indicate that he was still engaged
on what he described as the laborious and dicult task of collecting such material.20
Thanks also to his contact with politicians, he had more that an outsiders
knowledge of the transactions of the Party and records of its leaders. Such contact
gave him insight, retrospectively, into the concerns and methods of working
politicians in earlier periods.
The TLS article again dened this direct but demanding methodology.
Conservatism is no more than what Conservatives have said and done since they
began to make an identity for themselves, and to be aware of it. Here I am either
quoting or drawing on a summary that Peter Roberts, whose article goes into detail
on this point, has made of Elies piece in the TLS:
Elie Kedourie was a political philosopher who placed theory rmly in its
historical context. His lectures on Greek thought presented it in the political and
historical setting of the Polis and its surroundings. His detailed interest in

Elie Kedouries Work

British political history for the last two centuries and even before is therefore
not surprising: it went hand in hand with his interest in the gradual development
of a Conservative political theory.
At the beginning of his TLS article, Elie writes that Conservatives had to
measure themselves against the intellectual claims and electoral attraction of the
Liberal and then the Labour Party. The Conservatives had to address issues
raised by the other two parties which attracted the electorate, issues such as
theodicy, Marxism, natural rights, delegitimization of property, contract, welfare,
empowerment, planning, positional good and the enforcement of equality, among
It was therefore in the course of a long period of dialectical reaction with its two
main rivals, the Liberal and the Labour Party, that the Conservative political
identity gradually rmed up. Elie considered the Conservatives to be the heirs of the
Whigs and not as it is wrongly assumed of the Tory Party. Mr Pitts friends, he
wrote dened their . . . politics in dialectical relation to the powerful ideological
current which the French revolutionaries got going. Further and fuller, selfdetermination followed . . . the variety of political contingencies to which, as long as
they have life in them, Conservatives have to respond. Some very signicant
Conservative ideas derived from Whig politics before Pitt. The divine right of
kings, the legitimist claims of the Stuarts, the inuence of the Church of England,
absolutist attempts to curb parliamentary liberties, sensitivity to all these factors
have become part of Conservatism.
The summation of his Idea of Conservatism may be found in the text he presented
to the Woodrow Wilson Center when he applied for a Fellowship in 1990:
The student of Conservatism faces a diculty which does not face the student
of, say, Liberalism or Socialism. These latter are political ideologies in the full
sense of the word; that is, they constitute articulated systems of thought in
which conclusions about desirable political ends and the manner of attaining
them are based on what purport to be rst principles, from which are derived
seemingly logical conclusions. A case in point is J.S. Mills On Liberty and
Representative Government, and the corpus of Karl Marxs writings where the
practical recipes of The Communist Manifesto are buttressed by the complex
arguments deployed in Capital.
Conservatism is in a dierent case. There is, of course, no lack of writers who
have tried to expound what a Conservative politics must include and exclude,
and on what grounds. But the arguments remain diuse and by no means
constitute anything like a systematic and water-tight doctrine. An historian of
the idea of Conservatism has to tease out from a large body of miscellaneous
works what writers have understood by Conservatism in various periods, and
the reasons for change in this understanding reasons which may have to do
with varying social and political conditions to which Conservative thinkers have
to respond; or alternatively, reasons which arise from within a given body of
thought and the intellectual problems or obscurities which it may come to

Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and Political Theory

To give one or two examples of the miscellaneous, unsystematic character of
writings which are commonly accepted as being, in some sense Conservative;
Edmund Burkes voluminous writings and speeches over many decades were
composed in response to a variety of very dierent situations confronting
someone deeply involved in parliamentary and factional politics. The problem
to the historian of Conservative thought is to nd whether, and if so to what
extent, there is continuity in Burkes thought on political matters and a
coherent, event if only implicit, stance over government and society, political
prudence and public morality.
Another example of a body of writings which can be usefully examined in this
way is that of which the author is the third Marquis of Salisbury. They are
miscellaneous in the same sense as Burkes writings, consisting of articles
contributed to The Quarterly Review and other periodicals, and the subjects of
which were usually dictated by current aairs and preoccupations. What can be
done in order to tease out a coherent, almost systematic approach to politics
from these writings is shown by an essay of mine on Salisbury and Politics,
included in a book published in 1984, The Crossman Confessions and other
Essays in Politics, History and Religion.
This book also contains other chapters (chapters 2, 3 and 5) which exemplify my
approach to this enquiry. The subject indeed has been of continuing interest to
me for quite a long time.
Conservatism has another aspect which its historian would also have to
consider. This is not so much its character as a body of thought, but rather as a
complex of attitudes, expectations and traditional behaviour which may be
discerned in approaches to political problems and styles of political action.
What is under consideration here is not the articulate and the reective, but
rather that which can be gathered from the way in which, say, a minister
confronts or deals with problems and predicaments during the course of his
political career. This is to say that the task of a historian of Conservatism is very
complex, and fraught with diculties and pitfalls.
The Conservatism which I wish to examine is that to be found in the Englishspeaking world, and particularly in Great Britain. The scene on the continent of
Europe is a very dierent one, alike, in its historical context and its assumptions
and idioms. I wish also to dierentiate Conservatism from what is called
Toryism. Toryism makes sense in the context of a society which has hardly been
touched by modernity, and in which questions about monarchical legitimacy
and religious uniformity are at the forefront of politics.
Conservatism moves in a quite dierent intellectual and political world. There
are a great many books about various aspects of Conservative thought, and
transition, but I do not know of a work which approaches the issue in the way
described above. The interest of any enquiry of this kind is two-fold: rst as an
exercise in doing the history of ideas, and second in mapping out the contours of

Elie Kedouries Work

a political outlook which has proves remarkably robust and durable in the
modern world.
Elie concludes that Conservatism, which he distinguishes from right wing politics
an erroneous modern identication, is to be distinguished by scepticism about what
politicians accomplish. It cannot be concerned with enforcing right opinions or a
moral code, and it does not work towards a theodicy. . . .It is also suspicious of the
impulse to use politics for accomplishing the good.
Further indications of how he was viewing the subject may be garnered from a
paragraph he wrote in his autobiographical note for the Wilson Center:
During my visit to the Wilson Center, I wish to look into the history of the idea
of conservatism. As with any other subject on which I have written, the impulse
to examine the idea of Conservatism has arisen out of a puzzlement. Unlike say
Socialism or Liberalism, Conservatism cannot easily be said to arise out of a
theory or a philosophy either of politics or of human nature. There have been,
to be sure, many attempts to theorize a conservative mode or style of politics,
but these attempts came, as it were, after the event after a conservative politics
had been practised for quite a time. It is the relation between the earlier
Conservative practice and the later theorizing which I hope principally to
This emphasis on his interest in Conservatism may give the impression that he was a
member of the Conservative Party. On the contrary, he never joined a political party
and was highly critical of some policies of the Conservative Government.
One may well ask why I dwell at such length on a topic which remains incomplete:
because it was to be his magnum opus, but it was not to be. How well I remember my
amusement in 1953 when, upon his return from the interview for the job at the LSE,
he recounted to me what took place at the interview. If I remember correctly, that
rst post which he applied for was Government and British Administration. He was
then completing England and the Middle East for a D.Phil. at Oxford. At the
interview he was asked why he was applying for that post when he was writing
Middle Eastern history. His answer? Political philosophy is my subject, Middle East
history is my hobby. And I have been forever grateful that he did not have to earn
our living in Middle Eastern history.
How he himself viewed his two specialities is best expressed in the same
autobiographical note which every new fellow at the Wilson Center (he spent Oct.
1991June 1992 there) had to prepare:
My writing, all through my academic career, has revolved around two poles: the
history of the Middle East in modern times, and the history of European
political thought. To judge by the titles of the largest number of my books,
modern Middle East history might be thought to be my chief interest. This,
however, is not the case, for to judge by the amount of time devoted to the
teaching of the history of poitical thought during my thirty-seven years at the
London School of Economics, both at the undergraduate and at the graduate
level, one could easily conclude that this indeed was my main scholarly interest.


Elie Kedouries Approaches to History and Political Theory

The truth is that it is very dicult to say which of these two subjects

Just to digress: A lot has been said and is being said about Elies Oxford experience.
The episode, going back to 1953, did in no way aect his personal or professional
life, and it was soon ignored by him. It is interesting, however, that no mention is
made of the Statutes of the university which require for a work to be passed to be
suitable for publication. In Elies case, not only was his original thesis published
without so much as a coma or full stop being altered, but the edition was quickly
sold out. Our one and only copy, borrowed by a relative, was lost on the
underground, and no second hand copy came onto the market. The copy in the local
public library had also disappeared. To nd a copy for the second edition we had to
go the round of friends to beg for a copy. The copy I have now is inscribed by Elie
With love, but I no longer remember who was the original recipient.
Studies on Jewish Themes
Since Maurice Cowling published his Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern
England21 and devoted a chapter to Elies work in which he picked up elements of a
religious thread running through his work, people have been concentrating, in my
view much too strongly, on Elies religious view of history and its importance for
his political thought. When Elie read this chapter by Cowling he remarked to me in a
rather puzzled way that Cowling had seen elements in his writing of which he was
not aware. This, I believe, set him thinking more consciously about the meaning of
Jewish history and the way Judaism has seen divine purpose in its long and often
tragic history.
It was around that time that Mrs Neurath of Thames and Hudson, apparently at
Isaiah Berlins suggestion, pressed him to edit a book on the Jewish World as part of
their World Religion Series. (The World of Islam by Bernard Lewis is another such
book). Elie spent a couple of months researching the eld before he nally agreed to
the proposal. The book is not only beautiful but is a scholarly survey of Jewish
history. Although it presents a chronological story it aims at interpretation rather
than narrative. At the launch in Antwerp of the Dutch edition of The Jewish World
in 1980, he gave the following address which I am publishing for the rst time:
The idea of a work dealing with Jewish history which was put to me by the
London publishers struck me, to start with, I must confess, as full of
diculties and drawbacks. I thought that there would surely be an abundance,
not to say a superuity of books on the subject. A little research however was
sucient to persuade me that I had been mistaken. A very large number of
books on various aspects and periods of Jewish history did undoubtedly exist,
but I could not discover a work in English which was of reasonable length and
comprehensive, accessible to the ordinary educated reader, and at the same time
authoritative in the sense of taking account of the existing state of scholarship.
Given then that there seemed to be ample scope for a work which would survey
the whole course of Jewish history, and which would be intelligible and coherent

Elie Kedouries Work


as well as possessing scholarly authority the question which arose was how to
When I began to plan the book one thing was clear to me. This was to be a book
about Jewish history. By this I meant that it was to be a book not so much
about what happened to the Jews and heaven knows a lot of things, many of
them disagreeable, and some absolutely horrible, have happened to them as
about what the Jews made at dierent times of the variety of circumstances they
happened to encounter. In other words the articulation of the book had to
follow the inner articulations of Jewish history itself.
Another strategic decision about the shape of the book related to another aspect
of these articulations. If the book was to be true to the experience of Jews and
Judaism across the centuries, what had to be shown was not only how the Jews
coped with the various emergencies which faced them, but also how they
understood themselves as Jews what form their self-identity took and what
successive changes this self identity underwent through the long centuries in
which this group managed in exile and dispersion, to preserve their
cohesiveness. In other words, the book was to be a history not only of events
but also of ideas. The aim was that as far as possible the history of events and
the history of ideas should mesh in with one another as in fact events and ideas
mesh in with one another in life itself.
These were the organizing ideas of the book, and I think that the nished article,
with its eighteen chapters, does form a coherent whole. The book also may serve
to mark the state of scholarship today on Jewish history in its various branches.
It shows what a representative cross-section to put it no higher of scholars
concerned with Jewish history consider the state of the subject to be. The book
may thus serve to indicate how these studies stood in the last third of the
twentieth century.
The book covers a very wide span. It attempts to follow the fortunes of a small
group of people who, small as they are, have had an enormous impact on
history, and whose character and fate continues to preoccupy the rest of the
world even those parts of the world which have had little to do with Jews or
Judaism. Here I have particularly in mind Japan where interest in Jews and
Judaism is, so surprisingly, very strong.
But the reasons for the general fascination with Jewish history are not
particularly mysterious. Jews provide in their history a conspectus or summary
of what has been a central human pre-occupation. This is the setting-up, the
safeguard, and the failure of political order. Pre-exilic Jewry with its duality or
authority shared between Ruler and Prophet is a distinctive departure from the
kind of polity which was the rule all over the ancient world. The political
experience of the pre-exilic period has had enormous reverberations not only
among Jews in successive centuries, but also among all those for whom the Bible
was Holy Scripture. Again the encounter between the small Jewish polity and