The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism

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The dream of building Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land has long been a quintessential part of English identity and culture: but how did this vision shape the Victorian encounter with the actual Jerusalem in the Middle East?

The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917 offers a new cultural history of the English fascination with Palestine in the long nineteenth century, from Napoleon's failed Mediterranean campaign of 1799, which marked a new era in the British involvement in the land, to Allenby's conquest of Jerusalem
in 1917. Bar-Yosef argues that the Protestant tradition of internalizing Biblical vocabulary--"Promised Land," "Chosen People," "Jerusalem"--and applying it to different, often contesting, visions of England and Englishness evoked a unique sense of ambivalence towards the imperial desire to possess
the Holy Land. Popular religious culture, in other words, was crucial to the construction of the orientalist discourse: so crucial, in fact, that metaphorical appropriations of the "Holy Land" played a much more dominant role in the English cultural imagination than the actual Holy Land itself.

As it traces the diversity of "Holy Lands" in the Victorian cultural landscape--literal and metaphorical, secular and sacred, radical and patriotic, visual and textual--this study joins the ongoing debate about the dissemination of imperial ideology. Drawing on a wide array of sources, from
Sunday-school textbooks and popular exhibitions to penny magazines and soldiers' diaries, the book demonstrates how the orientalist discourse functions--or, to be more precise, malfunctions--in those popular cultural spheres that are so markedly absent from Edward Said's work: it is only by
exploring sources that go beyond the highbrow, the academic, or the official, that we can begin to grasp the limited currency of the orientalist discourse in the metropolitan center, and the different meanings it could hold for different social groups. As such, The Holy Land in English Culture
1799-1917 provides a significant contribution to both postcolonial studies and English social history.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherClarendon Press
Number of pages319
ISBN (Electronic)9781423753209
ISBN (Print)0199261164, 9780199261161
StatePublished - 2005

Publication series

NameOxford English Monographs
PublisherOxford University Press


  • Middle East
  • Civilization
  • Great Britain
  • International relations
  • Public opinion, British
  • Orientalism
  • Palestine


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