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Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  522 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
From Barbara W. Tuchman, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Guns of August, comes history thru a wide-angle lens: a fascinating chronicle of Britain’s long relationship with Palestine & the Middle East, from the ancient world to the 20th century.Historically, the British were drawn to the Holy Land for two major reasons: first, to translate the Bible into English &am ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 12th 1984 by Ballantine Books/Random House (NY) (first published 1956)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 10, 2010 Trevor rated it liked it
Shelves: history
In the West we like to think that we are somewhat better than the other peoples of the world. At least one of the reasons we give for this, to us at least, self-evident superiority is our Judeo-Christian heritage. This heritage is what we refer to when we need to explain our sense of justice (and it is also often quoted as the actual source of our legal system as well as our systems of government – despite how diverse these are) while also being seen as the sole (soul?) source of our morality. I ...more
Evan Leach
After finishing The Guns of August, which I thought was a real masterpiece, I was overcome with enthusiasm for Barbara Tuchman (Tuch-mania?) and decided to promptly go through her back catalog. Bible and Sword, her first published work, has an unusual (and ambitious focus). The book examines the relationship between England and the Holy Land over the past 2,000 years, and how that relationship led to the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 statement by Britain that it intended for Palestine (recently wr ...more
Marc  A.
Jul 29, 2014 Marc A. rated it it was amazing
This is Barbara Tuchman's first significant published work, released in 1956. For once my unfortunate combination of slow reading speed and propensity to be distracted from my reading by the pursuit of other avocations (e.g. I'm currently trying to use a computer program to teach myself to play the piano), has worked to my advantage as - at he time I started reading Bible and Sword back in April - conflict between Israel and it's Palestinian (and other Arab) antagonists was on the back burner of ...more
Feb 04, 2009 Vince rated it really liked it
The book is a little unfinished for the modern reader as it ends in 1956 and Ms. Tuchman had no way of knowing how the state of Israel would develop. Still the premise and scholarship are both A1. She traces the history of England's connection to Palestine and the Jewish people from mythical pre Roman times right up to the partition of 1947. The twists and turns are fascinating and I recommend this book which is readable even to those who might not go in with a lot of knowledge on the subjects a ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 09, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: British-Zionism fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Having read and enjoyed a number of books by Tuchman I picked this up from a sale shelf at The Amarynth Bookstore in Evanston. Being her first book, it isn't as polished as her later bestsellers.

Basically, the book covers relations between Britain and Palestine from an English perspective. Although mention is made of possible prehistorical connections, more important are myths the British spun about such connections from remotest antiquity (the first Britons were a Lost Tribe) to the Balfour dec
Dec 24, 2012 Damon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. I found it difficult to concentrate on this book, and it was a chore to finish. Some of it was interesting. Some passages hinted at an anti-Arab bias. I'm glad I finished. I hope to move on to more interesting books on the subject.
Apr 20, 2013 James rated it really liked it
Drags a little toward the end, with the murkiness of British politics. Overall, a fascinating read.
Dec 09, 2012 Bryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, an enormous amount of history was covered this book. It effectively starts with the rumor of Joseph of Aramethia's supposed evangelism in England in the 1st century and how this legend helps to bind England to Palestine. It continues all the way up to the Balfour Declaration, which was former prime minister's Lord Arthur Balfour's letter to Baron Walter Rothschild, who was a leader of the British Jewish community. This book was originally written in 1953 and therefore misses out on much o ...more
Kristi Richardson
“It is clearer now that no anti-Semitic government in any country has ever helped its scapegoats to leave by any other door than death.”

This excellent book about the dual history of Great Britain and Israel was enlightening to me. Ms. Tuchman takes the story from the Bronze Age into the Christian era all the way up to the Balfour Declaration.

I have read her many essays on Israel itself and her admiration for the Israeli people shows through. This book however, is more about the British and thei
Kirk Lowery
Aug 26, 2013 Kirk Lowery rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was Barbara Tuchman's first published work, and it shows already her ability to tell a great narrative. In this case, she tells the story of how Great Britain came to be so involved with the reestablishment of the nation of Israel, although the story only goes up to the Balfour Declaration.

The short answer to that question is that Britain was deeply influenced culturally by the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) since the Middle Ages. Indeed, she makes a case for the Old Testament being more impo
Christian Engler
Sep 18, 2013 Christian Engler rated it it was amazing
Barbara Tuchman's first work of history, Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age To Balfour, is vast in historical, religious, diplomatic and political scholarship. From the early times of the Beaker people and Caliphates to the first crusades and pilgrimages, all the way down to the creation of the Jewish homeland by the aristocratic and willowy former British Prime Minister Authur James Balfour and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as well as the often overlooked Palestine Man ...more
Michael Nash
Jul 11, 2012 Michael Nash rated it it was ok
As always, Tuchman's narrative prose is pleasant and her methodology is a bit problematic. However, where usually the strength of her narrative outweighs her other flaws, something about Bible and Sword just doesn't come together correctly. Rather than being a history of Zionism, this book is more of a panoramic history of the British intellectual debate over the idea of of Jewish state in Palestine; which is how you get a massive chapter on the history of the crusades and exactly no chapters on ...more
Marie Fouhey
Dec 20, 2011 Marie Fouhey rated it liked it
I had always heard of the Balfour declaration and the Palestine Mandate but didn't understand what they were, and this book clarifies that. Although the mandate officially came from the League of Nations, it was written by the British and gave them the right to take over Palestine which they had in fact already done after WWI when the former Turkish Empire was divided. I also had never understood why the British meddled so much in the middle east. Apparently it was to protect their trade routes ...more
Bob Lamothe
Oct 26, 2015 Bob Lamothe rated it liked it
The Bible and the Sword is a comprehensive look at the formation of the Jewish homeland in Israel. The author takes us to the beginning in Roman times when both London and Jerusalem under occupied by Roman legions. From there it builds the relationship between the nascent British Empire and the holy land starting with the crusades and ending with the United Nations recognizance of the modern state of Israel.

Unlike "Lost to the West" which was lively and engaging, "The Bible and the Sword" often
Jan 20, 2016 Michel rated it did not like it
This is what you get when a hater writes a book. big fail for Barbara Tuchman. I really dont even understand how could she write books like "guns of august" if she researches her books same way she did here.

I don't understand how a "historian" says that the crusades were against the turks,, or how "portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.." from McMahon–Hussein Correspondence becomes Palestine (all you need is some knowledge in Geography to figure
Very interesting book. If you read her later books, you can tell this is her first attempt, but its still very good. I thought it was interesting how Christianity's importance ebbed and flowed- in in the 1600s, out in the 1700s, in in the 1800s, back out toward the end of the century. Barbara Tuchman wrote this from a Jewish perspective, and writes about 30 times that the Christians were crazy for ever thinking Jews would convert to Christianity (thereby fulfilling New Testament prophecy), but t ...more
Aug 15, 2016 Spectre rated it it was amazing
This is an important book to read as the eminent historian traces the religious and political relationships between Great Britain and Palestine culminating in the 1917 Balfour declaration and mandate. Add to the mix other national interests (i.e. the Turks/Ottomans, the French, the Russians, the Germans, other Middle Eastern nations); the three religions; the competition for trade routes and ports including the Suez Canal; and various wars including WWI all which force the reader to conclude tha ...more
Ben Pashkoff
This is one of the best reads in a while. Barbara Tuchman (and much of the 19th and early 20th century British Government were more "Zionistic" than many even in Israel today.
According to Tuchman, due to British evangelical aspersions and political machinations, were caught in their own trap and HAD to accept Mandatory Palestine as a home for the Jews and even according to the Mandatory treaty (as drafted by the British Government and accepted by the League of Nations), with no mention of the Ar
cannot fathom how this author won a pulitzer for general non-fiction. taking comfort that it was only the 2nd year the prize was awarded, but still.

to call this book non-fiction is a giant stretch. nice footnotes. nice references. great story-telling abilities but absolute FAIL as a history book. historical fiction, sure. she writes like she was alive during the bronze age- which would be truly impressive, but isn't the case. do not ever use as a reference book. your professor/peers will laugh
Dec 02, 2011 Ross rated it liked it
Very well written like all her books. It is only 3 stars for me, however, as the subject matter is not of great interest for me. But well worth reading for everyone with an interest in world history.
The book is mainly about the efforts over the centuries to find a homeland for the Jewish Diaspora.
The book ends with the Balfour declaration during WW I pledging Palestine as the homeland to be created under British auspices. Sadly the British then reneged after the end of the war.
"Bible and Sword" is a history book about England and the Jewish State. It is well written and kept my interest throughout. It is a bit of an "old lady" book like... helping an old lady across the street. The author is making a lot of assumptions about where I want to cross the street and how fast I need to go. The title narrowed the subject but we were moving pretty fast through it all. Nevertheless, she is a good writer.

It was worth reading.
Dec 31, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Tuchman has a knack for writing readable, incisive, and pithy history. Bible and Sword focuses on England's relationship with Palestine from the Roman Empire to the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It was an unusually broad topic but quite a fascinating one. As the title suggests, both religious affinity toward Judaism and imperial interests in securing a pathway between the British Isles and India drove British involvement in the region as Zionism was taking root.
Jun 01, 2013 Ohr rated it liked it
I disagree almost entirely with the politics, but setting aside some of Tuchman's more egregiously false assumptions, privileged political presumptions, and bigoted religious biases regarding the issues, this book is still an essential tool for learning about and understanding the complicated history behind the relationship between Britain and Israel.
Richard Mailloux
Dec 03, 2014 Richard Mailloux rated it really liked it
I would probably give this a 3.5 if I could. It wasn't the kind of book I could just sit and read for long stretches which is why it took me so long to get through it. On the other hand, it really does a wonderful job of explaining how we got to the Israel/Palestine situation we have today--thanks primarily to the Brits! If the history of this area interests you, this is a good read.
Jan 22, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it
As always, Tuchman is simply brilliant. I would give it five stars except that as her first book, it suffers a bit style wise compared to the others. It is as much a history of the Reformation as it is a history of the Jews' struggle to survive in Europe without a homeland of their own. An amazing story about diplomacy, politics and war. Read this first and then Exodus.
William  Shep
Jun 12, 2009 William Shep rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of the ties between England and the Holy Land ranging from the Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade in the 12th Century to the First World War and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 establishing a Jewish Homeland (the basis of modern Israel).
May 08, 2016 RICHARD CLARK rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How Can You Not Love This?

Barbara Tuchman is the most readable history writer I have enjoyed, on a par with Shelby Foote. Read Guns of August and The Proud Tower twice. Significant, informative, gripping. A great read.
Dennis Henn
Apr 01, 2013 Dennis Henn rated it liked it
Not Tuchman's most engaging work. Still, she writes an accessible history of Britain's entanglements in the Middle East that culminated in the Balfour Declaration. Think Suez Canal and an affinity of key players with the Old Testament.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
Jan 06, 2014 Andrew Obrigewitsch rated it really liked it
Another great book that all should read today with it's relevance to the middle east. I think it would clear up a lot of the insanity that we call politics. But alas people are profiting off of keeping people uninformed and frothing at the mouth.
Apr 13, 2016 Johanne rated it liked it
Good but frustrating / understandable that it cuts off at the Balfour declaration. But lays out the history of Israel and the middle east clearly and undrestandably. Tuchman is particularly gifted at making the complex, straightforward and human
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...

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“But with that burst of the fairness that he can never repress, he admits that conversion is unlikely as long as Christians exclude Jews from the community: “There must be first conversing with them before there can be converting them.” 0 likes
“It is clearer now that no anti-Semitic government in any country has ever helped its scapegoats to leave by any other door than death.” 0 likes
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