Travelogues of Palestine

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Two notable examples of Travelogues of Palestine, almost 1,500 years apart.

Travelogues of Palestine are the written descriptions of the region of Palestine by travellers, particularly prior to the 20th century. The works are important sources in the study of the History of Palestine and the History of Israel. Surveys of the geographical literature on Palestine were published by Edward Robinson in 1841,[1] Titus Tobler in 1867[2] and subsequently by Reinhold Röhricht in 1890.[3] Röhricht catalogued 177 works between 333—1300CE, 19 works in the 14th c., 279 works in the 15th c., 333 works in the 16th c., 390 works in the 17th c. 318 works in the 18th c., and 1,915 works in the 19th c.[4]

In total, more than 3,000 books and other materials detailing accounts of the journeys of primarily European and North American travelers to Ottoman Palestine.[5] The number of published travelogues proliferated during the 19th century, and these travelers' impressions of 19th-century Palestine have been often quoted in the history and historiography of the region, although their accuracy and impartiality has been called into question in modern times.[6][5]

List of travelogues[edit]

Chronological list by years of travel, also indicating first publication, and/or edition available online.

Until the 18th century[edit]

Date Author Title (with link) Language Editions
333 Anonymous Itinerarium Burdigalense Latin
380s Egeria Itinerarium Latin
518-530 Theodosius De Situ Terrae Sanctae Latin
c.530 Hierocles Synecdemus Greek
570s Anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza Latin
698 Arculf (with Adomnán) De locis sanctis Latin
778 Willibald (with Hygeburg) Hodoeporicon Latin
800s Bernard the Pilgrim Itinerarium Latin
985 al-Maqdisi Description of Syria Arabic
1108 Daniel the Traveller Puteshestive igumena Daniila Russian
1147 John Phokas Ekphrasis Greek
1157 Níkulás Bergsson Leiðarvísir og borgarskipan Icelandic
1160s John of Würzburg Description of the Holy Land Latin
1172 Theoderich Libellus de locis sanctis Latin
1173 Benjamin of Tudela Travels or Itinerary Hebrew
1192 Historia de profectione Danorum in Hierosolymam Latin
1170s-1180s Petachiah of Regensburg Travels of Rabbi Petachia of Ratisbon Hebrew
1210 Menachem ben Peretz of Hebron Hebrew
1217-18 Thietmar Latin
1249 Máel Muire Ó Lachtáin account lost
1300 al-Dimashqi Cosmographia Arabic
1320s Symon Semeonis Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam Latin
1420 Nompar of Caumont Voyaige d'oultremer en Jhérusalem French first published 1858
1400 Al-Maqrizi A history of Mamluk sultans of Egypt Arabic Al-Maqrizi (1840). Histoire des sultans mamlouks, de l'Égypte, écrite en arabe (in French and Latin). 1, part 1. Translator: Étienne Marc Quatremère. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland.
1433 Bertrandon de La Brocquière Travels of Bertrandon de La Brocq́uière French Bertrandon de La Brocquière, Thomas Johnes, Legrand, Translated by Thomas Johnes, (1807): The Travels of Bertrandon de La Brocq́uière, to Palestine: And His Return from Jerusalem Overland to France, During the Years 1432 & 1433. Extracted and Put Into Modern French from a Manuscript in the National Library at Paris, 336 pages
1458 Accounts of the 1458 pilgrimage: Giovanni Matteo Bottigella, Latin; Gabriele Capodilista, Italian Anton Pelchinger, German; Roberto Sanseverino d'Aragona, Italian; William Wey, Latin; an anonymous Dutch account various
1480 Santo Brasca Italian
1486 Georges Lengherand Travel description of Venice, Rome, Jerusalem, Mount Sinai and Cairo French
1486 Conrad Grünenberg Description of a pilgrimage from Konstanz to Jerusalem Alemannic German **Conrad Grünenberg, Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1486), ed. J. Goldfriedrich, W. Fränzel (1912, new facsimile edition 2009); ed. K. Aercke (2005); ed. A. Denke (2010)
1486 Girolamo da Castiglione Description of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land Italian
1486 Anonymous pilgrim from Rennes, possibly Guy de Tourestes of Saintes Description of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Mount Sinai French
1483 Felix Fabri Latin Fabri, Felix (1896). Felix Fabri (circa 1480–1483 A.D.) vol I, part I. Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society.

Fabri, Felix (1896). Felix Fabri (circa 1480–1483 A.D.) vol I, part II. Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society.
Fabri, Felix (1893). Felix Fabri (circa 1480–1483 A.D.) vol II, part I. Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society.
Fabri, Felix (1893). Felix Fabri (circa 1480–1483 A.D.) vol II, part II. Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society., with p. 677: Index

1586 Giovanni Zuallardo Description of a pigrimage to Jerusalem Latin Giovanni Zuallardo (Fr.: Jean Zuallart), Dominique Danesi, Jac Demius, Philippe de Mérode (1595): Il devotissimo viaggio di Gierusalemme: fatto, e descritto in sei libri Published by Appresso Domenico Basa, 351 pages
1608 Kryštof Harant Journey from Bohemia to the Holy Land, by way of Venice and the Sea Czech
1670s Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâme ("book of travels") Ottoman Turkish
1665 Thevenot, J. de Relation d’un voyage fait au Levant French
1703 Henry Maundrell A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem At Easter A. D. 1697 English

Ottoman period, 18th century[edit]

Ottoman period, 19th century[edit]

volume 2

Index p. 643

20th century[edit]

Ottoman period[edit]

British period[edit]

  • Livingstone, William Pringle (1923): A Galilee Doctor: Being a Sketch of the Career of Dr. D.W. Torrance of Tiberias, Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 295 pages
  • Ludwig Preiss, Paul Rohrbach (1926): Palestine and Transjordania Published by Macmillan, 230 pages

Debate over mid-nineteenth century depictions[edit]

During the 19th century, many residents and visitors attempted to estimate the population without recourse to official data, and came up with a large number of different values. Estimates that are reasonably reliable are only available for the final third of the century, from which period Ottoman population and taxation registers have been preserved.[7]

Mark Twain[edit]

In Chapters 46, 39, 52 and 56 of his Innocents Abroad, American author Mark Twain wrote of his visit to Palestine in 1867: "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Palestine is desolate and unlovely – Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition, it is dreamland."(Chapter 56)[8][9] "There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country". (Chapter 52)[10] "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely. We never saw a human being on the whole route". (Chapter 49)[11] "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction. ...One may ride ten miles (16 km) hereabouts and not see ten human beings." ...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness..."(Chapter 46)[12]

These descriptions of the often quoted non-arable areas few people would inhabit are as Twain says, "by contrast" to occasional scenes of arable land and productive agriculture: "The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding"..."We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried"..."Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side.[13]

Author Kathleen Christison was critical of attempts to use Twain's humorous writing as a literal description of Palestine at that time. She writes that "Twain's descriptions are high in Israeli government press handouts that present a case for Israel's redemption of a land that had previously been empty and barren. His gross characterizations of the land and the people in the time before mass Jewish immigration are also often used by US propagandists for Israel."[14] For example, she noted that Twain described the Samaritans of Nablus at length without mentioning the much larger Arab population at all.[15] The Arab population of Nablus at the time was about 20,000.[16]

Bayard Taylor[edit]

In 1852 the American writer Bayard Taylor traveled across the Jezreel Valley, which he described in his 1854 book The Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain as: "... one of the richest districts in the world"..."The soil is a dark-brown loam, and, without manure, produces annually superb crops of wheat and barley."[17][18]

Laurence Oliphant[edit]

Laurence Oliphant, who visited Palestine in 1887, wrote that Palestine's Valley of Esdraelon was "a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands; and it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive."[19]

Ahad Ha'am[edit]

After a visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am wrote:

From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so. In the entire land, it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled; only sandy fields or stony hills, suitable at best for planting trees or vines and, even that after considerable work and expense in clearing and preparing them- only these remain unworked. ... Many of our people who came to buy land have been in Eretz Israel for months, and have toured its length and width, without finding what they seek.[20]

Henry Baker Tristram[edit]

In 1856 Henry Baker Tristram said of Palestine "A few years ago the whole Ghor (Jordan Valley) was in the hands of the fellaheen, and much of it cultivated for corn. Now the whole of it is in the hands of the Bedouin, who eschew all agriculture…The same thing is now going on over the plain of Sharon where….land is going out of cultivation and whole villages rapidly disappeared….Since the year 1838, no less than twenty villages there have thus erased from the map, and the stationary population extirpated."[21]

Interpretations[edit]

Norman Finkelstein said in an interview with Adam Horowitz in Mondoweiss about the travel accounts: "... as you can imagine you are coming from London and you are going to Palestine, Palestine looks empty. That's not surprising. You've been to the occupied territories and even now if you are traveling on roads to the West Bank, most of it looks empty and this is now, the population in the West bank is about two million. Back then the population in the whole of Palestine — meaning the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan, the whole of Palestine — the population was about 300,000. So of course it's going to look empty".[22]

See also[edit]

Secondary literature[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Biblical Researches in Palestine, volume 3, First Appendix, pages 3-28
  2. ^ Bibliographia Geographica Palaestinae. Zunächst Kristiche Übersicht Gedruckter und Ungedruckter Beschreibungen der Reisen ins Heilige Land ("Geographical Bibliography of Palestine. The First Critical Overview of Printed and Unprinted Descriptions of Travels to the Holy Land"), 1867
  3. ^ Reinhold Röhricht Bibliotheca Geographica Palaestinae: Chronologisches Verzeichniss der auf die Geographie des Heiligen Landes bezüglichen Literatur ("Geographical Bibliography of Palestine: Chronological Index of Literature relating to the Geography of the Holy Land"), Berlin: Reuther und Reichard, 1890
  4. ^ Zur Shalev (14 October 2011). Sacred Words and Worlds: Geography, Religion, and Scholarship, 1550-1700. BRILL. p. 79. ISBN 978-90-04-20938-1.
  5. ^ a b Ilan Pappe (31 July 2006). A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge University Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-0-521-68315-9. The foreign visitors were prolific writers. More than three thousand books and travelogues on Palestine were written by Europeans throughout the nineteenth century, all painting a picture of a primitive Palestine waiting to be redeemed by Europeans... We cannot quantify misery or joy, but Palestinian biographies from a short time later, and subsequent anthropological research, tell us that this picture represents the distorted view of European colonists.
  6. ^ Johann Büssow (11 August 2011). Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872-1908. BRILL. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-90-04-20569-7.
  7. ^ J. McCarthy, The population of Ottoman Syria and Iraq, 1878–1914, Asian and African Studies, vol. 15 (1981) pp. 3–44. K. H. Karpat, Ottoman population 1830–1914 (Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1985).
  8. ^ Chapter 56.
  9. ^ Lester I. Vogel. To See a Promised Land: Americans and the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century. Pennsylvania State Univ Print. ISBN 978-0-271-00884-4.
  10. ^ Chapter 52.
  11. ^ Chapter 49.
  12. ^ Chapter 46.
  13. ^ Mark Twain – Travellers abroad"The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding" "We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried" "Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side"
  14. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p16.
  15. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on US Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p. 20.
  16. ^ B. B. Doumani, The political economy of population counts in Ottoman Palestine: Nablus, Circa 1950, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol 26 (1994) 1–17.
  17. ^ "The Lands of the Saracen, by Bayard Taylor". Gutenberg.org. 1 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  18. ^ The Lands of the Saracen By Bayard Taylor – Page 32 "We rode for miles through a sea of wheat, waving far and wide over the swells of land. The tobacco in the fields about Ramleh was the most luxuriant I ever saw, and the olive and fig attain a size and lust' strength wholly unknown in Italy, Judea cursed of God! what a misconception, not only of God's mercy and beneficence, but of the actual fact!"
  19. ^ Abu-Lughod, 1971, p. 126.
  20. ^ Alan Dowty, Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's "Truth from Eretz Yisrael", Zionism, and the Arabs, Israel Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2000) 154–181.
  21. ^ H.B. Tristram, The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels Through Palestine, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1865, p. 490
  22. ^ "Finkelstein on Joan Peters's legacy (and Dershowitz's legal troubles)". Mondoweiss. 28 January 2015.