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Mendoza the Jew: Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism, a Graphic History

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Inspired by the resounding success of Abina and the Important Men (OUP, 2011), Mendoza the Jew combines a graphic history with primary documentation and contextual information to explore issues of nationalism, identity, culture, and historical methodology through the life story of Daniel Mendoza. Mendoza was a poor Sephardic Jew from East London who became the boxing champ Inspired by the resounding success of Abina and the Important Men (OUP, 2011), Mendoza the Jew combines a graphic history with primary documentation and contextual information to explore issues of nationalism, identity, culture, and historical methodology through the life story of Daniel Mendoza. Mendoza was a poor Sephardic Jew from East London who became the boxing champion of Britain in 1789. As a Jew with limited means and a foreign-sounding name, Mendoza was an unlikely symbol of what many Britons considered to be their very own national sport. Whereas their adversaries across the Channel reputedly settled private quarrels by dueling with swords or pistols--leaving widows and orphans in their wake--the British (according to supporters of boxing) tended to settle their disputes with their fists. Mendoza the Jew provides an exciting and lively alternative to conventional lessons on nationalism. Rather than studying learned treatises and political speeches, students can read a graphic history about an eighteenth-century British boxer that demonstrates how ideas and emotions regarding the nation permeated the practices of everyday life. Mendoza's story reveals the ambivalent attitudes of British society toward its minorities, who were allowed (sometimes grudgingly) to participate in national life by braving pain and injury in athletic contests, but whose social mobility was limited and precarious.


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Inspired by the resounding success of Abina and the Important Men (OUP, 2011), Mendoza the Jew combines a graphic history with primary documentation and contextual information to explore issues of nationalism, identity, culture, and historical methodology through the life story of Daniel Mendoza. Mendoza was a poor Sephardic Jew from East London who became the boxing champ Inspired by the resounding success of Abina and the Important Men (OUP, 2011), Mendoza the Jew combines a graphic history with primary documentation and contextual information to explore issues of nationalism, identity, culture, and historical methodology through the life story of Daniel Mendoza. Mendoza was a poor Sephardic Jew from East London who became the boxing champion of Britain in 1789. As a Jew with limited means and a foreign-sounding name, Mendoza was an unlikely symbol of what many Britons considered to be their very own national sport. Whereas their adversaries across the Channel reputedly settled private quarrels by dueling with swords or pistols--leaving widows and orphans in their wake--the British (according to supporters of boxing) tended to settle their disputes with their fists. Mendoza the Jew provides an exciting and lively alternative to conventional lessons on nationalism. Rather than studying learned treatises and political speeches, students can read a graphic history about an eighteenth-century British boxer that demonstrates how ideas and emotions regarding the nation permeated the practices of everyday life. Mendoza's story reveals the ambivalent attitudes of British society toward its minorities, who were allowed (sometimes grudgingly) to participate in national life by braving pain and injury in athletic contests, but whose social mobility was limited and precarious.

30 review for Mendoza the Jew: Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism, a Graphic History

  1. 4 out of 5

    ShamSham

    Exciting to see this as part of the rise of the sub genre of "graphic history" and hope to see more of this to come in the near future. Disappointing that the historian author looks to classify the book as part of the half-baked, critical theory "history from below" school. Definitely a stretch and kind of an insult to Daniel Mendoza who rose to the pinnacle of his sport. Exciting to see this as part of the rise of the sub genre of "graphic history" and hope to see more of this to come in the near future. Disappointing that the historian author looks to classify the book as part of the half-baked, critical theory "history from below" school. Definitely a stretch and kind of an insult to Daniel Mendoza who rose to the pinnacle of his sport.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    I really like the idea of this book as an exercise in historiography. Daniel Mendoza’s story is one that, as Ronald Schechter rightly notes, opens up all manner of significant issues about late 18th century Britain. It poses questions the idea of the nation and of nationally defining characteristics, about ‘race’ and ethnicity although invoking both concepts is decidedly anachronistic, about gender, leisure and popular culture, about money, wealth and power and about ideas of status and celebrit I really like the idea of this book as an exercise in historiography. Daniel Mendoza’s story is one that, as Ronald Schechter rightly notes, opens up all manner of significant issues about late 18th century Britain. It poses questions the idea of the nation and of nationally defining characteristics, about ‘race’ and ethnicity although invoking both concepts is decidedly anachronistic, about gender, leisure and popular culture, about money, wealth and power and about ideas of status and celebrity. What’s more, I really like the design of this: a graphic history of Mendoza, who left both a significant public record as a fighter and public figure, and in the form of a memoir – in this he is a rarity for a late 18th century working class figure. In addition there are essays on the historical context of Mendoza’s boxing celebrity exploring issues of nation, antisemitism, sport and so on, as well as on the production of the book. On top of that, there is a great selection of primary sources (newspapers and the like reporting on some of Mendoza’s fights) and student exercises. The book is extremely ell produced – my only real gripe there is that some of the text in the graphic history was small and hard to read (but that might just be late middle age cutting in…..). So, I should be full of praise, and I am, except I can’t work out how and where it might be useful in teaching. I’m unclear about the target market – upper level high school students perhaps, or under graduates. It might work for both, but context is everything. I don’t run an undergraduate sport history class anymore (the victim there of programme redesign and student interest elsewhere in tough economic times) but I can’t see my undergraduate sport studies students engaging with this. It might work for a class in a history programme – but again I am not sure, in part because the events and analysis traverse much of Mendoza’s long life (1764-1836) making it quite hard to focus in on. The book was inspired by Albina and the Important Men which had the advantage of being a single discrete event that opened up a much wider set of issues about slavery. I might be being harsh; it might resonate in ways I can’t anticipate – and it certainly is a great way into historical methods and historiography, and it does open up some major issues about both the beginnings of modern British history and provide the resources to explore them. I also really like the idea of doing more graphic history where there is good material and setting – sport is good for that, and aside from the lettering issue Liz Clarke’s graphics are fabulous. Somehow, however, it just doesn’t hold together for me; I so wanted this to be better, and would love to be told by those who've used this, especailly in sports history programmes that I am wrong..

  3. 5 out of 5

    Miroku Nemeth

    I am interested in bare-knuckle boxing, so I really bought the graphic novel for that reason--learning about a bare-knuckle boxer through the medium of a graphic novel. The narrative featured several bare-knuckle matches, primarily between Mendoza and Humphreys, but focused quite a bit on his identity as a Jew (very much a small minority at the time) in England and what this meant at the time. There are several sections to the book, and only two are in comic book form: one dealing with Mendoza's I am interested in bare-knuckle boxing, so I really bought the graphic novel for that reason--learning about a bare-knuckle boxer through the medium of a graphic novel. The narrative featured several bare-knuckle matches, primarily between Mendoza and Humphreys, but focused quite a bit on his identity as a Jew (very much a small minority at the time) in England and what this meant at the time. There are several sections to the book, and only two are in comic book form: one dealing with Mendoza's life, and another on the process the author went through to write the book. I frankly lost interest when I got to this section, and only just finished the book after putting it down for months. A great portion of the book is actually just prose, and reprints some of the primary source material for the fights (which actually get a bit repetitive) and also deals with historiography and AGAIN with the author's process of researching and developing the graphic novel. I have mixed feelings about this. As a teacher, I can kind of see its merit, but as a reader of graphic novels, I found it pedantic in the extreme, and don't really think most readers will be that interested in perhaps half or more of the book. I gave it a 4 because it dealt with bare-knuckle boxing, the treatment of Jews and the overall time period very well in the graphic novel itself, and that deserves recognition. I am an academic, a professor, etc., so I understand trying to teach the research process and all, but it was really over the top, and it will probably turn most readers off. I think it's reasonable to think that most readers do not want to read about the author and his process of developing the book in a way that competes with the actual titular subject of the book. I do wish it actually had much more of a focus on bare-knuckle boxing, and there are many greats in bare-knuckle boxing whose stories would lend themselves very well to the graphic novel format.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    1-25-2015 Chosen for this months LMU Jewish Book Club. Mendoza was a boxer in England 220 years ago. I haven't read many graphic novels nor creative non-fiction graphic novels but this was absolutely terrific. It was a wonderful way to get history in an entertaining yet informative way. very engaging. I gave it a rare 5 stars. I also listened to the Youtube of the author and recommend that, as well. 1-25-2015 Chosen for this months LMU Jewish Book Club. Mendoza was a boxer in England 220 years ago. I haven't read many graphic novels nor creative non-fiction graphic novels but this was absolutely terrific. It was a wonderful way to get history in an entertaining yet informative way. very engaging. I gave it a rare 5 stars. I also listened to the Youtube of the author and recommend that, as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roland Cooper

    Really solid look at the life and times of one of Britain's boxing greats, along with reams of supporting material (primary sources and behind the scenes stuff). Only loses points for the graphic novel bit being a bit too "academic." I think it would have benefitted from a further editing pass by someone better acquainted with the medium. Highly recommended, nonetheless. Really solid look at the life and times of one of Britain's boxing greats, along with reams of supporting material (primary sources and behind the scenes stuff). Only loses points for the graphic novel bit being a bit too "academic." I think it would have benefitted from a further editing pass by someone better acquainted with the medium. Highly recommended, nonetheless.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gunnar Brooks

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rocky

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heath Smith

  10. 4 out of 5

    Devorah

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mack

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter H.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Buxton

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Kogan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erik

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shane Newsome

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zak

  18. 5 out of 5

    Avi Fine

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tabish

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Davis

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Summary: A historiographical graphic novel following Daniel Mendoza, a Jewish bare-knuckle boxer in 18th century Great Britain. The reader gets insight into Mendoza's life, and his experiences in a society that loves what he does, but not who he is. Review: This book would be for a young adult audience. History can often be a dry subject to teenagers, but this book is able to tell a story in an interesting way, while delivering excellent commentary of the social and political conditions of Great Summary: A historiographical graphic novel following Daniel Mendoza, a Jewish bare-knuckle boxer in 18th century Great Britain. The reader gets insight into Mendoza's life, and his experiences in a society that loves what he does, but not who he is. Review: This book would be for a young adult audience. History can often be a dry subject to teenagers, but this book is able to tell a story in an interesting way, while delivering excellent commentary of the social and political conditions of Great Britain, layered into a finely told story of hard work and determination, mixed with let down and heartbreak. Book Connection: Students for a Democratic Society Quote: "You're an admirable boxer, Mr. Mendoza. A credit to your people. 'I'm a Briton, sir.' 'Yes, that's what I mean.'" I would use this book to teach about the persecution of people viewed as outsiders in a society that may value the role and entertainment value a person fills and provides, without appreciating or accepting the person.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Dolinger

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ayu Tar

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dan Passner

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julian Laresch

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristian Purcell

  27. 4 out of 5

    ellenbutnotdegeneres

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elena

  29. 4 out of 5

    Houston

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hailey

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