In Memoriam: Elie Kedourie (1926-1992)

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Elie Kedourie's passing deprives the world of one of its most distinguished histor? ians, the Society of a treasured associate, the Sephardi community of a prominent member, his family of a devoted husband and parent, and us of a cherished friend and brilliant colleague. In private a sensitive and deeply caring man, Elie eschewed sentimentality in historical and political analysis. In twenty books and countless articles, he maintained the highest standards of scholarship, pursuing the truth as the evidence revealed it. He rejected the imaginative maunderings of Philby, Bell, Lawrence and Toynbee, and insisted that we understand the Middle East for what it was, not for what we wished it to be. He maintained that position at what could have been considerable personal cost. When he was working on a doctoral thesis at Oxford under the supervision of Sir Hamilton Gibb, one of the leading Arabists of his generation, Gibb required that Elie change the thrust of his thesis in order to conform to Gibb's view of Middle Eastern politics. Since this ran contrary to his evidence, Elie withdrew his candidature for the degree. The thesis, however, was soon published under the title Britain and the Middle East, now a standard authority and the book that launched Elie's extraordinary career. Spain and the Jews, which appeared just before his untimely death, evinces the same reverence for facts and disregard of ideological fashion which marked all of Elie's scholarly work.

Elie was a conservative and proud of it. He defended the British Empire as, on balance, beneficial and criticized contemporary educational fads and social activist nostrums as, on balance, harmful. He did not suffer fools gladly, and many an idealist or engage limped away from the literary tiltyard or the debating forum considerably the worse for wear. He believed that learning history mattered and that the recent fashion for 'experiencing' history was at best useless and probably dangerous. His Baghdad upbringing and English training gave him a capacious view of history, polit? ics and Judaism. His rigorous common sense and great erudition brought deserved plaudits to the teacher and an advisory role to Margaret Thatcher.

Elie would always listen, a regrettably rare quality among those as distinguished as he, and he took others as seriously as he wished them to take himself. His wit and warmth heartened students, colleagues, friends and family. We are the poorer for his loss, yet forever enriched for the years he was among us.

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