Cover: Ghetto: The History of a Word, from Harvard University PressCover: Ghetto in HARDCOVER


The History of a Word

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Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674737532

Publication Date: 09/24/2019

Academic Trade

288 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

20 photos, 2 illus.


From its first use in 15th century Venice to its echoes in cities such as New York and Chicago, Schwartz traces the word’s path to modernity while highlighting its Jewish past—etymology that is often overlooked.The Boston Globe

A thorough etymological, historical, literary, and cultural analysis of an ever-evolving word. Through his all-encompassing approach, Schwartz explores how the term gained substantial emotional weight by showcasing works of literature, news papers’ opinion pieces, poems and journal entries.—Cassandra Gomes-Hochberg, The Jerusalem Post

[An] authoritative survey of how this most malleable of words was understood in different ways over the centuries… [A] rich and nuanced work.—Howard Cooper, Jewish Chronicle

A welcome addition to historians and urbanists alike by providing new insights into conceptions of the term and in so doing, emphasizing the power of language when describing complex phenomena such as segregation.—Laura Vaughan, LSE Review of Books

An interesting and informative study of a word’s travels through centuries of historical, political, and sociological developments that kept affecting and changing its meaning.Mosaic

Charts the development of the term ghetto from its medieval Italian roots through its modern variations… An informative, readable book that illuminates both historical contexts and the evolving use of language.Choice

Schwartz has written a definitive history of the word ghetto, a vital and important term. A fascinating and comprehensive account that will be read and consulted widely.—Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan

Challenging and provocative, Ghetto is to my knowledge the first serious, painstakingly researched, book-length lexical history of this central concept in Jewish history.—David Engel, New York University

If you thought you knew the meaning, origins, and historical implications and migrations of the word ghetto, from the time of the founding of the first ghetto in Venice, in 1516, through the black ghettos of today, this book will open your eyes. It is a must-read.—Kenneth Stow, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History, University of Haifa

Ghetto is a superb history that takes us through the word’s various and contested meanings. From location to location and across the centuries, Schwartz is an expert guide, leading us through a history as complex and entangled as the very streets of which he writes.—John M. Efron, University of California, Berkeley

With emphasis on the last 250 years, Schwartz traces how the word ghetto developed from a clear reference to compulsory, segregated, and enclosed Jewish quarters on the Italian peninsula to a general term that denoted any substantial concentration first of Jews and then also of other groups, especially African Americans. As a result, the word lost its specificity and was used to refer both negatively and positively to many different situations, raising the question ‘What is a ghetto?’ An excellent, nuanced, perceptive, and readable account of the history of Jewish quarters from classical Alexandria to the present.—Benjamin Ravid, Professor Emeritus, Brandeis University

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