Dr. Jonathan Sar­nas newest book, When Gen­er­al Grant Expelled the Jews, is now avail­able. He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

You are work­ing on what?” most of the peo­ple I met in Jerusalem asked while I was writ­ing When Gen­er­al Grant Expelled the Jews. Jerusalem is not where schol­ars gen­er­al­ly go to write a book on the Civ­il War, even if it involves Jews. The major­i­ty of Israelis, in fact, know noth­ing about Ulysses S. Grant (one of them asked me how he felt about Israel and the Jew­ish set­tle­ments on the West Bank). Still, my wife and I con­sid­er Jerusalem our sec­ond home; my wife’s research can best be done in Israel’s Nation­al Library; and the Man­del Foun­da­tion offered me a senior fel­low­ship dur­ing my sab­bat­i­cal. So it was that I found myself writ­ing When Gen­er­al Grant Expelled the Jews in Jerusalem, even as my thoughts cen­tered on such Civ­il War sites as Hol­ly Springs, Mis­sis­sip­pi and Pad­u­c­ah, Kentucky.

Any­one who writes about Ulysses S. Grant depends upon the mag­nif­i­cent­ly edit­ed 31 vol­umes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, edit­ed by the pre-emi­nent Grant schol­ar, John Y. Simon. No com­plete set of those papers may be found in all of Israel. Any­one who writes about the Civ­il War also depends upon the 130 vol­umes of the Offi­cial Record of the War of the Rebel­lion, pub­lished by the Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Office. I could find no set of those records in Israel either. Once upon a time, that would have doomed my project as sim­ply not doable in Israel. But no longer. For the Grant Papers, the Offi­cial Record of the War of the Rebel­lion and numer­ous oth­er pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary sources required for my study have in recent years all become avail­able via the inter­net. A high speed con­nec­tion brought them direct­ly to my desk-top in Jerusalem. Once, when I need­ed unique mate­ri­als from the Jacob Rad­er Mar­cus Cen­ter of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Archives in Cincin­nati, they kind­ly scanned them for me and sent them to my inbox the next day.

In time, all of the imped­i­ments to research­ing the Civ­il War while liv­ing in Jerusalem dis­ap­peared. To me, of course, this proved a great relief. I actu­al­ly man­aged to sub­mit my man­u­script to the pub­lish­er a few months ear­ly. At a deep­er lev­el, the expe­ri­ence rein­forced for me how the glob­al­iza­tion of infor­ma­tion is democ­ra­tiz­ing knowl­edge by mak­ing once inac­ces­si­ble mate­ri­als avail­able to any­one with an inter­net con­nec­tion. Where one phys­i­cal­ly resides and the qual­i­ty of local libraries make far less dif­fer­ence today than they used to.

Nowa­days, as my book demon­strates, one can research even the his­to­ry of Gen­er­al Grant’s Civ­il War order expelling Jews from his war­zone, while liv­ing in an Israeli apart­ment. My Jerusalem neigh­bors my not have appre­ci­at­ed what I was study­ing, or why, but I feel con­fi­dent that Amer­i­can read­ers will.

Dr. Jonathan Sar­na is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry at Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty, and Chief His­to­ri­an of the new Nation­al Muse­um of Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry. His new book, When Gen­er­al Grant Expelled the Jews, is now available.

Dr. Jonathan D. Sar­na is the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry at Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. He has writ­ten, edit­ed, or co-edit­ed more than twen­ty books and is best known for the acclaimed Amer­i­can Judaism: A His­to­ry, which received the Jew­ish Book Council’s Everett Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Jew­ish Book of the Year Award in 2004. He lives in Massachusetts.