Jacob Leib Talmon (Hebrew: יעקב טלמון) (June 14, 1916 – June 16, 1980) was Professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been categorised as a 'Cold War liberal' because of the anti-Marxism which permeates his main works.
He studied the genealogy of totalitarianism, arguing that political Messianism stemmed from the French Revolution, and stressed the similarities between Jacobinism and Stalinism. He coined the terms Totalitarian Democracy and Political Messianism.
Talmon was born in Rypin, a town in central Poland, into an orthodox Jewish family. He left in 1934 to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, then in the British Mandate of Palestine, now Israel. He continued his studies in France but left for London after the Nazi invasion; in 1943 he was awarded a PhD from the London School of Economics. His main works are The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy and Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase. Talmon argued that Rousseau's position may best be understood as "totalitarian democracy"; that is, as a philosophy in which liberty is realized "only in the pursuit and attainment of an absolute collective purpose."
Talmon died in Jerusalem.
- The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, London: Secker & Warburg, vol. 1: 1952, vol. 2: 1960
- The Nature of Jewish History-Its Universal Significance, 1957
- Political Messianism – The Romantic Phase, 1960
- The Unique and The Universal, 1965
- Romanticism and Revolt, 1967
- Israel among the Nations, 1968
- The Age of Violence, 1974
- The Myth of Nation and Vision of Revolution – The Origins of Ideological Polarization in the 20th Century, 1981
- The Riddle of the Present and the Cunning of History, 2000 (Hebrew, p.m.)
- Two Statements on the Mid-East War, 1973
- Arie Dubnov, 'A tale of trees and crooked timbers: Jacob Talmon and Isaiah Berlin on the question of Jewish Nationalism', History of European Ideas, Vol. 34, No. 2
- Arie Dubnov, 'Priest or Jester? Jacob L. Talmon (1916-1980) on History and Intellectual engagement (Introduction essay)', History of European Ideas, Vol. 34, No. 2