Chosen peoples

The Bible, race and empire in the long nineteenth century

Edited by Gareth Atkins, Shinjini Das and Brian Murray

Chosen peoples


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6020-1
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: September 2021
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, RELIGION / History, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / History of religion, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


Chosen peoples demonstrates how biblical themes, ideas and metaphors shaped racial, national and imperial identities in the long nineteenth century. Even as radical new ideas challenged the historicity of the Bible, biblical notions of lineage, descent and inheritance continued to inform understandings of race, nation and empire. European settler movements portrayed 'new' territories across the seas as lands of Canaan, but if many colonised and conquered peoples resisted the imposition of biblical narratives, they also appropriated biblical tropes to their own ends. These innovative case-studies throw new light on familiar areas such as slavery, colonialism and the missionary project, while forging exciting cross-comparisons between race, identity and the politics of biblical translation and interpretation in South Africa, Egypt, Australia, America and Ireland.


'The flag follows the cross and in this case reaffirms it. The received understanding is that the Age of Enlightenment put to rest the dominance of religion in modern Western cultures. This collection proves Christianity and its political avatar nationalism truly underscored the age of empires. The impact was as profound on indigenous nationalisms, with subordinated societies discovering their distinct identities in the wake of first contact with colonizing Christians. Among the many case studies is Khoisan national renewal in the Cape Colony: Jared McDonald examines Christian liberation as a means to racial equality (albeit short-lived) in British South Africa. The Bible as 19th-century political testament echoed the late medieval struggle between an imperial, all-powerful church and the desire for national congregations to access the word of God in their national languages. Centralization was at odds with dissemination, a conflict the Russian czarist confessional state experienced rather keenly. Atkins (history, Queens' College, Cambridge, UK), Das (modern extra-European history, Univ. of East Anglia, UK), and Murray (19th-century literature, King's College London, UK) clearly establish that the Bible was alive and well in the long 19th century.'
--J. L. Meriwether, Roger Williams University
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association.


Introduction - Gareth Atkins, Shinjini Das and Brian H. Murray
Part I: Peoples and lands
1 'A bad and dangerous book?': the biblical identity politics of the Demerara Slave Rebellion - John Coffey
2 Babylon, the Bible and the Australian Aborigines - Hilary M. Carey
3 'The Ships of Tarshish': the Bible and British Maritime Empire - Gareth Atkins
4 Jeremiah in Tara: British Israel and the Irish past - Brian H. Murray
Part II: The Bible in transit and translation
5 The British and Foreign Bible Society's Arabic Bible translations: a study in language politics - Heather J. Sharkey
6 Empire and nation in the politics of the Russian Bible - Stephen K. Batalden
7 Contested identity: the Veda as an alternative to the Bible - Dorothy Figueira
8 'The Bible makes all nations one': Biblical literacy and Khoesan national renewal in the Cape Colony - Jared McDonald
9 Distinction and dispersal: the nineteenth-century roots of segregationist folk theology in the American South - Stephen R. Haynes
10 Afterword/afterlife: identity, genealogy, legacy - David N. Livingstone
Select bibliography


Gareth Atkins is Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Queens' College, Cambridge

Shinjini Das is a Lecturer in Modern Extra-European History at the University of East Anglia

Brian Murray is Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at King's College London

Chosen peoples

Edited by Gareth Atkins, Shinjini Das, Brian Murray

Paperback £25.00 / $36.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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