It may be somewhat ludicrous that the most powerful countries in the nineteenth century competed for influence in Jerusalem through the colour and size of their post box. Nevertheless postal services offered the opportunity to make revenue in a land lacking in natural resources. The Ottoman postal service had barely existed for inland cities like Jerusalem, before its reform in 1840, and the first European postal services obtained permits to trade in the empire in 1837.Read More
Our assistant editor Joshua Hillis is travelling in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan as part of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship. One of the aims of his Fellowship is the creation of a parallel history of Jerusalem. He is laying the foundations for that history by writing a series of blogs about Jerusalem in the 19th century and the effects of the arrival of the Europeans. We’ll be posting one each week below.
Moses Montefiore was more of a prophet than a reporter when he declared Jerusalem as ‘the city of our forefathers, the great and long-desired object of our wishes and journey’. Montefiore’s grasp of numbers (he had made his millions on the London Stock Exchange) must have escaped him when writing about his trip to Jerusalem in 1827.Read More
“As a child I remember the city gates being closed at sunset every evening by city officials—mainly because there was fear of night raids by Bedouins. Whenever I would forget myself playing with my mates outside the walls, coming back we would find the gates closed. We would re-enter through a broken alcove located by Damascus gate and keep climbing until we reached the ramparts…”Read More
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany paraded into Jerusalem on 31st October 1898. The Dowager Russian Empress thought the parade was ‘revolting, perfectly ridiculous, disgusting’, which shows our present-day British media do not have a monopoly on snobbery towards jumped-up heads of state with a love for ceremony and a disregard for diplomatic conventions.Read More
“The fanatical Mufti of Nablus is not a learned man, and is considered a plebeian parvenu among the old Arab families of that town; at the same time a really learned man is living there whose ancestors for several generations have been muftis of Nablus, and he is a good friend of the Protestants. I intend to recommend him to that office instead of the present man.”
James Finn’s private note about the Mufti of Nablus is a splendid specimen of 19th century Britain imperial hubris…Read More
‘I shall never concede any road improvements to these crazy Christians as they would then transform Jerusalem into a Christian madhouse.’ The Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Faud Pasha, was not straightforwardly calling for discrimination against a minority religion. The great European Christian powers, Britain, Austria, France, Russia, had suddenly decided that Jerusalem was a good location to outsource their rivalries.Read More