Hasidism is believed to be one of the most important factors in the history of the Jews in Eastern Europe during the past two and a half centuries. In Hasidic historiography the most investigated issue was the emergence of the movement and its alleged rapid conquest of East European Jewry. In other words: what made Hasidism so successful? What were the mechanisms of the Hasidic conquest? The starting point for the lecture will be an essential question about the nature of the sources which gave rise to the presumption about the rapidity of the process and parameters adopted in evaluating the speed of the rise of Hasidism. After the most general outline of the dominating tendencies and their broader historiographical implications I will suggest my own criteria and sources for the analysis of this conquest.
Marcin Wodzinski is Professor of Jewish history and Polish literature and head of the Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wroclaw. His research focuses on history of Polish Jews in the 19th century (esp. Haskalah and Hasidism), sepulchral art and aspects of regional history. His publications include more than 60 articles, six books (one of them co-authored) and two books co-edited. The books include: Bibliography on the History of Silesian Jewry II. München, Saur-Verlag 2004; Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland: A History of Conflict. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization 2005.