Simon Sebag Montefiore A Family History of Humanity
About the event

Simon Sebag Montefiore A Family History of Humanity


Few writers can claim the sweep or acclaim of Simon Sebag Montefiore:

  • Eight biographies, published in 48 languages and optioned for the screen, including one of Jerusalem
  • Five gripping thrillers that weave matchless storytelling with encyclopedic knowledge of Russian history
  • Five BBC series written and hosted
  • Winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Jerusalem, which also won the Wen Jin Prize in China, where it sold 600,000 copies
  • Global bestseller for his biography of the Romanovs

Now, Sebag Montefiore has tackled the greatest challenge of his career: to tell the story of humanity over the span of a million years … without any academic jargon or lifeless prose that leaves the past devoid of energy or humanity.

In The World: A Family History of Humanity, Sebag Montefiore limns human history as the tales of 23 families who shaped humankind, from the five people who left behind the oldest family footprints ever discovered to the beggar who founded the Ming dynasty; the Medicis; a Moroccan pirate queen; the female defender of the Hawaiian gods … straight through to the Nehrus, Saudis, Churchills, Obamas, Trumps and Putins.

These are not cozy portraits of human families drinking tea. They remind us that history was shaped by the Egyptian pharaoh “Fatso” Ptolemy VIII, who dismembered his son and sent the parts to his child’s mother; by the French queen Catherine de’ Medici, who orchestrated a massacre at her daughter’s wedding; and by their contemporary counterparts like Kim Jong-un, who had his half-brother assassinated at an airport in Malaysia and Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, who engaged in a bloody feud with his sisters’ husbands and had them murdered.

Simon Sebag Montefiore joins us to discuss his simultaneously serious, witty and raucous tale of how little humankind has changed, the dangers of dividing people into “good guys” and “bad guys” and the challenge of capturing the whole human story in a single narrative.

A descendant of Moses Montefiore, who built the first planned Jewish settlement outside the old walls of Jerusalem, Simon Sebag Montefiore holds a doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge and has worked as a banker and foreign affairs journalist. He is currently a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor of Humanities at the University of Buckingham.

In-Person & Virtual Event

At Temple Emanu-El, we encourage our members, young and old, to gather in an atmosphere both warm and awe-inspiring, as we share our moments of joy as well as our times of sadness, immerse ourselves in the richness and beauty of our tradition, and act upon our tradition’s values in the world around us.