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 "Messianic democracy/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", a philosophy in which liberty is realized "only in the pursuit and attainment of an absolute collective purpose." Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Talmon engaged in a debate with Arnold J. Toynbee on the role of Jews and Zionism in history.
- 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.)
- Hedva Ben-Israel, "Debates With Toynbee: Herzog, Talmon, Friedman," Israel Studies (Spring 2006), pp. 83ff; and two newspaper reports in Hebrew: Jacob Talmon, "Arnold Toynbee and His Relationship to the Jews," Haaretz, Sept. 5, 1956 and "The Exchange of Letters Between Professor Arnold Toynbee and Professor Y. Talmon following the Six-Day War," Maariv, Aug. 4, 1967.
- David K. Shipler, "J.L. Talmon is dead; an Israeli historian," The New York Times, 18 June 1980, p. 38.
- "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1956 (in Hebrew)".
- The work was unpublished at the time of his death; The New York Times, June 18, 1980, p. 38.
- 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