Call for Papers: The Bible, Race and Nation

Chosen Peoples, Promised Lands

The Bible, Race, and Nation in the Long Nineteenth Century 

July 14-16 2014 at CRASSH, University of Cambridge

Speakers include:

  • Stephen Haynes (Rhodes College)
  • Anthony D. Smith (LSE)
  • Stephen K. Batalden (Arizona State)
  • Alex Bremner (Edinburgh)
  • Hilary M. Carey (Bristol)
  • John Coffey (Leicester)
  • Hephzibah Israel (Edinburgh)
  • Halvor Moxnes (Oslo)

Chosen Peoples, Promised Lands will bring together scholars from across a variety of disciplines to throw new light on the biblical themes, ideas, and metaphors that undergird ideas about racial and national identity in the modern world. More specifically, we seek to explore the how biblical notions of lineage, descent, and inheritance continued to inform ideas of race and nation in the increasingly secular and scientific atmosphere of the long nineteenth century. Notwithstanding the publication of several recent works on religion and nationhood, nationalism and race are still often considered in secular terms. The aim of this conference is to explore the means through which a range of nations and races have forged their identities in conversation with the textual traditions of the Abrahamic religions.

Conference organisers: Dr Gareth Atkins, Dr Shinjini Das, Dr Brian Murray.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Race and the Noachic tradition  (Semites, Hamites, Japhites)
  • Nation as covenant
  • New Israel and Modern Babylon
  • Zionism
  • National Bibles: translation, criticism, scholarship, distribution
  • National (and transnational) Missions
  • Resistance to the Bible in anticolonial and nationalist contexts
  • The postcolonial Bible
  • The contested antiquity of nations/races
  • New worlds and promised lands
  • Exile and Exodus

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from researchers to fill a limited number of slots in two open panels. Please send your proposal (max. 250 words) with a brief biography to by 11 April 2014. If accepted, finished papers will be precirculated on 27 June. Informal enquiries may also be directed to the above address.

This event is hosted by The Bible and Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Culture project at CRASSH and supported by the European Research Council.


Cities of God

New publication by project members:

The history of archaeology is generally told as the making of a secular discipline. Cities of God: the Bible and Archaeology in Nineteenth-century Britain (2013) argues however that archaeology in this period was enmeshed with questions of biblical authority and so with religious as well as narrowly scholarly concerns. In unearthing the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean, travellers, archaeologists and their popularisers transformed thinking on the truth of Christianity and its place in modern cities. This happened at a time when anxieties over the unprecedented rate of urbanisation in Britain coincided with critical challenges to biblical truth. In this context, cities from Jerusalem to Rome became contested models for the adaptation of Christianity to modern urban life. Using sites from across the biblical world, this book evokes the appeal of the ancient city to diverse groups of British Protestants in their arguments with one another and with their secular and Catholic rivals about the vitality of their faith in urban Britain.

Dissent and the Bible in Britain c.1650-1950

New publication by project members:

The claim that the Bible was ‘the Christian’s only rule of faith and practice’ has been fundamental to Protestant dissent. Dissenters first braved persecution and then justified their adversarial status in British society with the claim that they alone remained true to the biblical model of Christ’s Church. They produced much of the literature that guided millions of people in their everyday reading of Scripture, while the voluntary societies that distributed millions of Bibles to the British and across the world were heavily indebted to Dissent. Yet no single book has explored either what the Bible did for dissenters or what dissenters did to establish the hegemony of the Bible in British culture. The protracted conflicts over biblical interpretation that resulted from the bewildering proliferation of dissenting denominations have made it difficult to grasp their contribution as a whole. Dissent and the Bible in Britain c.1650-1950 (2013) evokes the great variety in the dissenting study and use of the Bible while insisting on the factors that gave it importance and underlying unity. Its ten essays range across the period from the later seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century and make reference to all the major dissenting denominations of the United Kingdom. The essays are woven together by a thematic introduction which places the Bible at the centre of dissenting ecclesiology, eschatology, public worship and ‘family religion’, while charting the political and theological divisions that made the cry of ‘the Bible only’ so divisive for dissenters in practice.