Mr. Kirsch is the not the first to take Disraeli’s Jewish mythmaking seriously, and to explore what it did for him. Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin, both outsiders to English political culture, wrote in a similar vein decades earlier. But Mr. Kirsch is the first to explore at length how these ideas functioned not only imaginatively but also politically, suggesting concrete ways in which Disraeli’s mythmaking informed his conduct of politics, especially his relations with the Tory notables whom he led in Parliament. This is the most speculative part of his book, but also the most original. Historians of British politics may balk, but Mr. Kirsch’s Disraeli is a more human, more complex, and more sympathetic figure than the one they conventionally present.

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