The Perennial Conspiracy Theory : Reflections on the History of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion book cover
1st Edition

The Perennial Conspiracy Theory
Reflections on the History of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

ISBN 9781032060156
Published November 23, 2021 by Routledge
148 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Perennial Conspiracy Theory is a collection of essays on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fake document which has created a pernicious antisemitic conspiracy theory.

The author analyses the murky origins of this notorious forgery and the contested claims of authorship. He explores the impact of the Protocols on various countries during the interwar years including Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Nazi Germany, and the United States. He also profiles figures closely associated with the dissemination of antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as Sergei Nilus and Leslie Fry, as well as examining the controversies arising from the famous Bern trial related to the Protocols. The book concludes with an assessment of the ongoing influence of the Protocols in post-Soviet Russia.

This volume will be of interest to researchers and students working in the fields of antisemitism, conspiracy theories, the far right, Jewish studies, and modern history.

Table of Contents

1. A Fake Conquers the World: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

2. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Court: The Bern Trials 1933−1937

3. On the Early History of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: The Lost Copy of the Lenin Library

4. The American Connection: Leslie Fry and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

5. "The Antichrist as an Imminent Political Possibility": Sergei Nilus and the Apocalyptical Reading of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

6. The Third Rome Against the Third Temple: Apocalypticism and Conspiracism in Post-Soviet Russia

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Michael Hagemeister has lectured in Russian (Intellectual) History at universities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.


"I marvel at Michael Hagemeister’s capacity to shed light on the darkest, the most consequential of all conspiratorial works of the modern age. He knows so well how to make sense of the resonance of nonsense, its persuasiveness and troubling persistence."

Steven J. Zipperstein, Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University, USA, and author of Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History

"This collection of studies by the intellectual historian Michael Hagemeister sheds penetrating light on the many puzzles and myths surrounding The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which since its first publication in Russia in 1903 has become a staple of antisemitic and conspirological discourse worldwide. Each of his articles, based on extensive archival research and displaying an enviable mastery of the vast polemical and scholarly literature devoted to the notorious forgery, deals with a different aspect of the Protocols: these range from when and by whom they were produced, what happened at the famous Bern trial in the 1930s, to the place of the document in apocalyptic speculations in today’s Russia. In particular, Hagemeister shows that the theory favored by Norman Cohn and many others, according to which the Protocols were created by the Tsarist secret police, is deeply flawed, and the biography of Sergei Nilus, a key early editor and publisher of the Protocols, has been vastly distorted in recent fictional and other treatments. Hagemeister’s book is a significant contribution and will be of great interest to scholars in many fields."

Henryk Baran, Professor of Slavic Literature at the University at Albany, SUNY, USA

"Michael Hagemeister is certainly the best specialist on the Russian and German history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most famous forgery in Western history. But, as the studies gathered in this book show, he has also explored the field of the international circulation of the forgery and analysed its various political uses. This historian and philologist, author of a large number of works of exceptional rigour and erudition, has done pioneering work in showing that, concerning the origins and worldwide dissemination of the Protocols, the elementary norms of historical research had been ignored in favour of a multitude of fictional accounts, constructed from 1921 onwards on the basis of the recollections of various supposed witnesses, many of whom were false witnesses. Through his unparalleled research on the best- and long-selling conspiracy and apocalyptic literature, based on a demystifying critique of carefully contextualised texts and documents, Michael Hagemeister has brilliantly contributed to a scientific history of modern political myths and utopias."

Pierre-André Taguieff, philosopher and historian of ideas, Director of Research at the CNRS, France, and author of Les Protocoles des Sages de Sion: Faux et usages d’un faux

"[Hagemeister] presents in a matter-of-fact and sober way what can be said about [The Protocols] without mystifying the text or attributing things to it that are not in it but are attached to it through the history of its impact and reception."

Till Kinzel, in IFB [translated from German]