Simon Sebag Montefiore - Jerusalem


“Spectacular. [Montefiore] really tells you what the life of the city has been like and why it means to much to everyone… You fall in the love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can’t make peace over it… It’s a treasure. It’s a wonderful book.”
– Former US President Bill Clinton, The Today Show (NBC)

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, fanaticism and coexistence.

How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the ‘centre of the world’ and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a dazzling narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient city of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia.

Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that is believed will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.

JERUSALEM was first published in the UK on 27th January 2011 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and in the USA on 25th October 2011 by Knopf.

“Ambitious and arresting, Jerusalem: the Biography is a powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology… In the matter of the competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect…Jerusalem: the Biography is double-headed: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force.”
– Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books

“Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced.”
– Jackson Diehl, Washington Post

“Already a classic – a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose religious, political, and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of 3000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity, and a keen eye for entertaining historical detail.’
– Tony Barber, Financial Times

“This vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.”
– Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times

“A master story-teller.”
– Jane Shilling, Evening Standard

“Astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic, tautly gripping, this marvellous book. The achievement in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. A book with its gaze fixed on the stars (but) also with its feet firmly in the gutter.”
– Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph

“There have been many histories of Jerusalem . . . but Mr. Montefiore’s book is the city’s first “biography”— a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints. In 550 pages, Mr. Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city’s story with compelling, breathless tension.”
– Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal

“Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story . . . For a book that spans 3,000 years, it does a remarkably inclusive job.”
– Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review

“Montefiore is that rarest of things: an historian who writes great weighty tomes that are as page-turning as the best thrillers. His biography of Stalin read like a successful HBO series. His new ‘biography’ of Jerusalem is no less readable. Sebag has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. He manages to bring people who have been dead for two millennia alive again and make them breathe. Sebag seems to have an insight into the mind of psychopathic tyrants that makes you wish he was working for the US Secretary of State.”
– Philip Kerr, Newsweek

“Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike.”
– Henry Kissinger

“The must-read history. A masterwork. ”
– David Sexton, Evening Standard

After his acclaimed biographies of Stalin, Catherine the Great and Potemkin, Montefiore has finally turned to the book he was born to write.”
The Economist

“One of the most ambitious and breathtakingly realised books of the year, Jerusalem the Biography. The world’s greatest city has found its perfect biographer in Montefiore. The city is brought to life not only through its wars but the people who made it. Spiritual, beastly and heroic, this is a gripping tale from first page to last.”
– Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph

“This wonderfully vibrant account… Balanced fair and above all colourful, Montefiore’s narrative does justice to every religious tradition and confirms his reputation as one of our finest popular historians”
– Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

“Packed with fascinating and grisly detail, a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality. Montefiore’s narrative is remarkably objective. A reliable and compelling account.”
– Antony Beevor, Guardian

“Gripping. Supremely ambitious. This Meisterwerk… Montefiore has a novelist’s eye for detail, a great journalist’s nose for human frailty, and a great historian’s touch in selecting the right primary source to bring the past alive. Judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive. When a history is written this way, one can never have too much.”
– Michael Gove, The Times