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 was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains and has subsequently been used to refer to several places, including Surrey, Australia, United States, New Zealand, Kerala state, Yorkshire,[1] Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. The phrase has been abbreviated to Godzone or less often Godzown.

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,[2] and in a poem describing the English county of Surrey in 1839.[3] The phrase was also used in its more literal meaning to refer to Heaven, in a poem by Elizabeth Harcourt Rolls Mitchell in 1857.[4]

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.[5] The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s,[6] and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains.[7] None of these remained a widely used to describe a region, though it is still occasionally used to describe the United States overall.[8][9]

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.[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[13][14][15]

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] The phrase "God's Country" is often used to describe the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney[20]


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"[21] too. According to Hindu mythology, Mahavishnu’s sixth incarnation Parasurama fought back the advancing seas. He threw his axe (paraśu) from Konkan to Kanyakumari and the sea gave way, giving rise to present day Kerala. 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.


  1. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/sep/03/yorkshire
  2. ^ Du Bois, E. (1805) My pocket book: or, Hints for "A ryghte merrie and conceitede" tour by "A Knight Errant", p. 23. Google Books.
  3. ^ Hone, W. (ed) (1839) The year book, of daily recreation & information, p. 469. Google Books.
  4. ^ Mitchell, E.H.R. "To The memory of J.C.S." in First Fruits: Poems, p. 79. Google books.
  5. ^ Loring, F.W., and Atkinson, C.F. (1869) Cotton culture and the South considered with reference to emigration, p. 71. Google Books.
  6. ^ Annual report of the State Board of Agriculture, Volume 4, Missouri State Board of Agriculture 1869, p. 468. Google Books.
  7. ^ Speeches, arguments, addresses, and letters of Clement L. Vallandigham 1864, p. 211. Google Books.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Christopher Hitchens (30 September 1998). "Rushdie: Free at last". salon.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  10. ^ http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/goeb5.htm
  11. ^ http://www.worldcat.org/title/usa-nackt-bilddokumente-aus-gottes-eigenem-land/oclc/255345439
  12. ^ http://www.od43.com/USA_Nackt!_1943.html
  13. ^ http://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article118059390/Die-Rassismus-Frage-in-Obamas-Amerika.html
  14. ^ http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/international/us-wahlkampf-gottes-eigenes-land/1316532.html
  15. ^ http://www.zeit.de/2003/21/M__Manson
  16. ^ Project Gutenburg Australia, Bracken, Thomas
  17. ^ Dictionary Of New Zealand Biography
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ "God's Own Country", A Word Picture of Australia
  20. ^ The Sutherland Shire, God's Country
  21. ^ keralaaffairs.com/gods-own-country-kerala/