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

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  331 ratings  ·  29 reviews
From Barbara W. Tuchman, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Guns of August, comes history through a wide-angle lens: a fascinating chronicle of Britain’s long relationship with Palestine and the Middle East, from the ancient world to the twentieth century.

Historically, the British were drawn to the Holy Land for two major reasons: first, to translate the Bible into Engli...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 12th 1984 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1956)
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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
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
Marc  A.
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
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.
Kirk Lowery
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...more
Marie Fouhey
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
Christian Engler
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
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
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
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
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...more
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.
Interesting but too one sided for my taste
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.
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.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
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.
William J. Shep
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).
Dennis Henn
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.
There was the odd bit of interest near the front, but more than half the book (basically the last half+) was really just people making statements etc that was incredibly boring and I didn't really care for.
Barbara Tuchman usually gets into the fine detail the make bigger things happen. In this book she follows the development of first the concept and then the formation of Israel. Very good read!
Ms Tuchman does a great job with her research. A very readable history and background to the Levant and its relationship with England and why Isreal was created.
Drags a little toward the end, with the murkiness of British politics. Overall, a fascinating read.
Tuchman's sympathetic account of the English role in the re-establishment of the Jewish state.
David Todd
I learned a lot, but some of it was a bit of a slog. Lots of stuff about the Crusades.
Great book-very informative and interesting.
Eli Karetny

what else?
Love BT!
Apr 22, 2011 David added it
Shelves: history, middle-east
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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...
The Guns of August A Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous 14th Century The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam The Zimmermann Telegram

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