God's Own Country

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For the film, see God's Own Country (film).

God’s Own Country, is a phrase that has been used to refer to several places, such as Australia, United States, New Zealand, Kerala state, Yorkshire, Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. Abbreviated to Godzone or less often Godzown, the term has been used for more than 100 years by New Zealanders to describe their homeland. It has subsequently been adopted by some other countries, notably Australia.

Early uses[edit]

Ireland and England[edit]

The expression was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland by Edward du Bois, writing under the pseudonym "A Knight Errant" in 1807,[1] and in a poem describing the English county of Surrey in 1839.[2] The phrase was also used in its more literal meaning to refer to Heaven, in a poem by Elizabeth Harcourt Rolls Mitchell in 1857.[3]

United States[edit]

The phrase later found sporadic use to describe several American regions. Most known is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Also was used by the Confederate army to describe parts of Tennessee in the 1860s.[4] The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s,[5] and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains.[6] None of these remained a widely used to describe a region, though it is still occasionally used to describe the United States overall.[7][8] Potter County in Pennsylvania is known as "God's Country."[citation needed]

During WWII, German Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels sarcastically mocked the USA as "Aus Gottes eigenem Land" (From God's Own Country) in an essay that appeared in the German newspaper Das Reich on August 9, 1942.[9] Goebbels ridiculed America as a young land that lacked culture, education and history in contrast with Germany. In 1943, the Nazis published an anti-American, anti-semitic propaganda book written by Erwin Berghaus called "USA - nackt!: Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land" (USA naked! Photo documents from God's own country) which also mockingly characterized the USA with the phrase.[10][11] Several modern German newspapers such as Die Welt, Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit have also used the phrase "Gottes eigenem Land" (God's own country) to criticize American culture and society. [12] [13] [14]

New Zealand[edit]

The earliest recorded use of the phrase as applied to New Zealand was as the title of a poem about New Zealand written by Thomas Bracken.[15] It was published in a book of his poems in 1890, and again in 1893 in a book entitled Lays and Lyrics: God's Own Country and Other Poems.[16] God's Own Country as a phrase was often used and popularised by New Zealand's longest serving prime minister, Richard John Seddon. He last quoted it on 10 June 1906 when he sent a telegram to the Victorian premier, Thomas Bent, the day before leaving Sydney to return home to New Zealand. "Just leaving for God's own country," he wrote. He never made it, dying the next day on the ship Oswestry Grange.[17] Bracken's God's Own Country is less well known internationally than God Defend New Zealand which he published in 1876. The latter poem, set to music by John Joseph Woods, was declared the country's national hymn in 1940, and made the second national anthem of New Zealand along with God Save the Queen in 1977.


In Australia, the phrase "God's own country" was often used to describe the country in the early 1900s, but it appears to have gradually fallen out of favour.[18] The phrase "God's Country" is often used to describe the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney[19]


The phrase "God's own country" was heard during the 1970s in Rhodesia (formerly: Southern Rhodesia, now: Zimbabwe), where most people perceived the land as beautiful despite the ongoing Bush War of the time. Evidence of the phrase being used earlier in reference to Rhodesia is found in Chartered Millions: Rhodesia and the Challenge to the British Commonwealth by John Hobbis Harris, published 1920 by Swarthmore Press (refer to page 27). The phrase "Godzone" is distinctly different and was not used in Rhodesia.

Kerala, India[edit]

Official logo of the Kerala Government Tourism Department.

Kerala is a state in south-west India, known as God's own country[20] too. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Maha Vishnu’s sixth incarnation Parasurama fought back the advancing seas to save/create the land. He threw his Axe (paraśu) from Konkan to kanyakumari and Sea gave way, which is present day Kerala and Parasurama used the land for prayers. Its God’s own land hence the name. In recent years the phrase has been adopted as a slogan by the tourism department of the Kerala state government in India as people started to explore more places outside the traditional tourist spots.

United Kingdom[edit]

Yorkshire, England[edit]

In the United Kingdom the phrase is commonly used by people to describe Yorkshire, England's largest county.[21][22][23] This is used interchangeably with God's Own County.[24][25][26]

The phrase is used by the British author Ross Raisin as the title of his debut 2008 novel, which is set in the Yorkshire countryside.[27]


Often Scotland is referred to as God's country,[28] this can be for many reasons, most recently it has been due to the natural beauty of the country, in times gone past it was believed that Scotland was home to many gods and this is where the name came from.


  1. ^ Du Bois, E. (1805) My pocket book: or, Hints for "A ryghte merrie and conceitede" tour by "A Knight Errant", p. 23. Google Books.
  2. ^ Hone, W. (ed) (1839) The year book, of daily recreation & information, p. 469. Google Books.
  3. ^ Mitchell, E.H.R. "To The memory of J.C.S." in First Fruits: Poems, p. 79. Google books.
  4. ^ Loring, F.W., and Atkinson, C.F. (1869) Cotton culture and the South considered with reference to emigration, p. 71. Google Books.
  5. ^ Annual report of the State Board of Agriculture, Volume 4, Missouri State Board of Agriculture 1869, p. 468. Google Books.
  6. ^ Speeches, arguments, addresses, and letters of Clement L. Vallandigham 1864, p. 211. Google Books.
  7. ^ For example, in the title of Stephen Bates' book God's Own Country: Power and Religion in the USA: Religion and Politics in the USA.
  8. ^ Christopher Hitchens (30 September 1998). "Rushdie: Free at last". salon.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  9. ^ http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/goeb5.htm
  10. ^ http://www.worldcat.org/title/usa-nackt-bilddokumente-aus-gottes-eigenem-land/oclc/255345439
  11. ^ http://www.od43.com/USA_Nackt!_1943.html
  12. ^ http://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article118059390/Die-Rassismus-Frage-in-Obamas-Amerika.html
  13. ^ http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/international/us-wahlkampf-gottes-eigenes-land/1316532.html
  14. ^ http://www.zeit.de/2003/21/M__Manson
  15. ^ Project Gutenburg Australia, Bracken, Thomas
  16. ^ Dictionary Of New Zealand Biography
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ "God's Own Country", A Word Picture of Australia
  19. ^ The Sutherland Shire, God's Country
  20. ^ keralaaffairs.com/gods-own-country-kerala/
  21. ^ Ward, David (24 October 2007). "An ark park for God's own country". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  22. ^ Duncan, Hannah (10 August 2012). "Yorkshire back up to 12th in Olympic medal table after Nicola Adams's gold". Metro. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  23. ^ "Yorkshire 10th in Olympic medal table". Yahoo Eurosport. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  24. ^ "God's own county". London: Guardian Unlimited. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  25. ^ "What's so special about Yorkshire?". BBC News. 1 August 2006. 
  26. ^ "Ee bah gum! If Yorkshire was a country, it would be higher in the Olympic medal table than South Africa, Japan and Australia". Daily Mail. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  27. ^ Raisin, Ross (2008). God's Own Country. Penguin. ISBN 978-0141-03352-5. 
  28. ^ http://www.simonlowe.org/post/83714113805/scotland-gods-country-but-not-an-independent