He was the son of Edward Wolf, a London pipe manufacturer, and his wife Céline (born Redlich). Wolf's father was a Bohemian Jew who came to England as a political refugee after the 1848 revolution, and his mother was Viennese.
Wolf began his career in journalism as early as 1874, at the age of 17, becoming a writer for the Jewish World and remaining at this position until 1894; from 1905 to 1908, he would later serve as its editor. In 1877, he became assistant director of the Public Leader. From 1890 to 1909, he was foreign editor of the Daily Graphic, writing under the pseudonym Diplomaticus. From 1895 to 1905 he wrote under the same pseudonym for the Fortnightly Review. As indicated by his pseudonym, Wolf's writings dealt primarily foreign affairs and diplomacy and he became a respected expert in these fields.
The outbreak of the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia in 1881 sparked his interest in Jewish affairs. He became a sharp critic of the Czarist regime and attempted to draw attention to the plight of Russian Jews. In 1912, Wolf wrote a supplement named Darkest Russia to the Jewish Chronicle. With the outbreak of World War I, Wolf's preference for the more liberal German government to the Russian practically ended his career in journalism, as the British were allied with Russia against Germany.
In 1893, Wolf was one of the founders and the first president of the Jewish Historical Society of England.
From 1903 Wolf served on the Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. He served for over 20 years, effectively as "Foreign Secretary" representing Anglo-Jewry. The "Conjoint Committee" had been formed in 1878. Author Sharman Kadish, citing Chimen Abramsky, says that he was regarded as "Public enemy number one of the Tsarist Government" in England.
Wolf was opposed to political Zionism, although he was one of the first people to formally propose the British government incorporated an aspiration for a Jewish home in Palestine into its war aims during the First World War. He later came to favour a model of national cultural autonomy, similar to that proposed by the Jewish Bund, for Jewish communities in Eastern and Central Europe.
Wolf was part of the Anglo-Jewish delegation to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. He helped draft the minority treaties, which guaranteed rights for the ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority populations. The Jewish delegations to the conference were split along different ideological lines. Eastern European delegates were generally diaspora nationalists, American delegates Zionists, and the Western Europeans mostly opposed both Zionism and diaspora nationalism, wanting Jews to be integrated into the societies they live in.
Works by Lucien Wolf
- Notes on the Diplomatic History of the Jewish Question, by Lucien Wolf (1919: Jewish Historical Society of England) Project Gutenberg EBook#31385 available at ManyBooks
- The Myth of the Jewish Menace in World Affairs, by Lucien Wolf, 1920
- This is an edited compilation of articles - published previously in various periodicals - denying the authenticity of "The Protocols."
- Jews in the Canary Islands, Being a calendar of Jewish cases extracted from the records of the Canariote Inquisition in the collection of the Marquess of Bute
- (London: Jewish Historical Society, 1926)
- Report on the "Marranos" or Crypto-Jews of Portugal (London: Anglo-Jewish Association, 1926)
- Guide to the Papers of Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) and David Mowshowitch (1887-1957), (1708-1963) (bulk 1880-1930). Retrieved January 30, 2006.
- Bolsheviks and British Jews: The Anglo-Jewish Community, Britain and the Russian Revolution by Sharman Kadish. (London: Frank Cass & Co., Ltd: 1992)
- "Wolf, Lucien" in the Jewish Encyclopedia
- Levene, Mark, Wolf, Lucien (1857–1930), journalist and lobbyist in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
- Levene, Mark, Jews and the new Europe: the diplomacy of Lucien Wolf, 1914–1919 (1992)
- Lucien Wolf (1921). The Myth of the Jewish Menace in World Affairs. The Macmillan company.
- Works written by or about Lucien Wolf at Wikisource
- Works by Lucien Wolf at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Lucien Wolf at Internet Archive
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