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Book Notes: Pride Versus Prejudice: Jewish Doctors and Lawyers in England, 1890-1990, John Cooper

William D. Rubinstein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Book Notes Pride Versus Prejudice: Jewish Doctors and Lawyers in England, 1890?1990, John Cooper (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, Oxford/Portland, Oregon 2003)ISBN 1 874774 87 o, pp. x + 451, ?37.50. Despite the ever-increasing number of works on the reponse of wider British society in modern times to the presence here of a significant Jewish community, there have been very few, if any, accounts of how in practice Jews adapted to British life and achieved success. As well, there have been only a limited number of studies of the professions and the careers of successful professionals in modern Britain, especially those based on an examination of the life stories of large numbers of professional men and women. It is thus a pleasure to welcome John Cooper's outstanding study of Jewish doctors and lawyers in England in the century between 1890 and 1990, Pride Versus Prejudice. To the best of my knowledge there has never previously been any work quite like it: a detailed, extremely well-informed and sophisticated account of the careers of Jewish doctors and lawyers, based on many interviews as well as a wide range of published sources. The aim of this study is to establish whether Jewish doctors and lawyers in Britain met with much or little anti-Semitic prejudice at any stage of their careers. Cooper sensibly concludes that they probably met with little, although there were exceptions to this pattern in the case of the employ? ment of young general practitioners and solicitors just before the Second World War and possibly, but not certainly, among refugee professionals at that time and later. Furthermore, the record of Jewish success, and the ever broadening record of upward mobility among Jews, among them many from meagre immigrant backgrounds, is so striking that any notion of a general discriminatory pattern seems unreasonable and inaccurate. One of the most important merits of this fine work is the wide range of anecdotes and life stories, the great majority of which will be new even to specialist historians, which Cooper adduces time and again, and which must have required herculean labours to collect. If Pride Versus Prejudice can be criticized, it might be on the fact that it has not sought to place the Jewish experience in any wider context, espe? cially by comparison with any other allegedly downtrodden group, for instance Irish Catholics or aspiring professionals from the working class. It is difficult to believe that the obstacles faced by Jews would be seen to be greater than those faced by other analogous groups, and it is also difficult to believe that their record of success would not be seen to be far more striking and convincing. It should also be noted that in the so-called Tree profes? sions' like medicine and law, practitioners can, albeit sometimes with diffi? culty, operate apart from the well-established and well-organized instrumentalities which might discriminate against them: it is almost always 223</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes possible for a solicitor to establish his own firm, with its particular niche market, or for a doctor to become an independent medical specialist. It is only at those points in the occupational life-sequence of the professional where this is difficult or impossible that discrimination matters much, as for instance in the appointment of senior hospital staff where these appoint? ments are controlled - as they evidently were for many years - by small, self-regarding and unregulated groups which might well discriminate in favour of their own kind and against many others. In the final analysis, talent appears to find its own level, as it does in any reasonably open society, and as John Cooper's important work clearly shows. William D. Rubinstein 224</page></plain_text>