Palestine in the Victorian Age: Colonial Encounters in the Holy Land

Key information

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
SOAS Main Building

About this event

Narratives of the modern history of Palestine/Israel often begin with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Britain's arrival in 1917. However, this work argues that the contest over Palestine has its roots deep in the 19th century, with Victorians who first cast the Holy Land as an area to be possessed by empire, then began to devise schemes for its settler colonization. The product of historical research among almost forgotten guidebooks, archives and newspaper clippings, this book presents a previously unwritten chapter of Britain's colonial desire, and reveals how indigenous Palestinians began to react against, or accommodate themselves to, the West's fascination with their ancestral land. From the travellers who tried to overturn Jerusalem's holiest sites, to an uprising sparked by a church bell and a missionary's tragic actions, to one Palestinian's eventful visit to the heart of the British Empire, Palestine in the Victorian Age reveals how the events of the nineteenth century have cast a long shadow over the politics of Palestine/Israel ever since.

About the speaker

Gabriel Polley completed his PhD in Palestine studies in the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, UK in 2020, under the supervision of Professor Ilan Pappe and Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab. He previously studied history of art and literature at the University of East Anglia, UK and Palestine and Arabic studies at Birzeit University, and taught in the occupied West Bank. He currently works in London in the translation and international development sectors. Palestine in the Victorian Age is his first book.


This event will take place in-person and will not be recorded. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basisClick here to register.

Chair: Dina Matar (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute and the Centre for Palestine Studies, SOAS

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