The Holy Land in British eyes: sacred geography and the ‘rediscovery’ of Palestine, 1839-1917
Due to the relative weakness of the Porte in the nineteenth century, access to and circulation in the Ottoman Empire were facilitated for European travelers and diplomats. In 1838, Britain opened a consulate in Jerusalem and, soon afterwards, British explorers and geographers began to survey the Holy Land in search for evidence that would allow them to authenticate the biblical narrative whose veracity was then increasingly questioned. ‘Sacred geography’, as such enterprise became known, emphasized the features of modern Palestine that confirmed Scriptures while everything that did not fit in the biblical framework – notably Islam and the Ottoman presence – was either ignored or disparaged as the reasons of the Holy Land’s supposed decline. Such discourse laid the foundations of future imperialist designs on Palestine, notably Zionism, which was to be officially endorsed by Britain in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Maggy Hary, “The Holy Land in British eyes: sacred geography and the ‘rediscovery’ of Palestine, 1839-1917” in Guido Abbattista (edited by), Encountering Otherness. Diversities and Transcultural Experiences in Early Modern European Culture, pp. 339-349.