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Bible and Sword

England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour
Narrated by: Wanda McCaddon
Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
Categories: History, European
4 out of 5 stars (166 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Two-time Pulitzer Prize - winning historian Barbara Tuchman explores the complex relationship of Britain to Palestine that led to the founding of the modern Jewish state - and to many of the problems that plague the Middle East today.

From early times, the British people have been drawn to the Holy Land through two major influences: the translation of the Bible into English and, later, the imperial need to control the road to India and access to the oil in the Middle East. Under these influences, one cultural and the other political, countless Englishmen - pilgrims, crusaders, missionaries, merchants, explorers, and surveyors - have made their way to the land of the ancient Hebrews.

With the lucidity and vividness that characterizes her work, Barbara Tuchman brings to life the development of these twin motives - the Bible and the sword - in the consciousness of the British people, until they were finally brought together at the end of World War I when Britain's conquest of Palestine from the Turks and the solemn moment of entering Jerusalem were imminent. Requiring a gesture of matching significance, that event evoked the Balfour Declaration of 1917, establishing a British-sponsored national home for the modern survivors of the people of the Old Testament.

In her account, first published in 1956, Ms. Tuchman demonstrates that the seeds of today's troubles in the Middle East were planted long before the first efforts at founding a modern state of Israel.

©1984 Barbara W. Tuchman (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Barbara Tuchman is a wise and witty writer, a shrewd observer with a lively command of high drama." ( Philadelphia Inquirer)
"In her métier as a narrative popular historical writer, Barbara Tuchman is supreme." ( Chicago Sun-Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great historical insight into how we got to today

Once again, Barbara Tuckman has done a fine job of bringing history to life. Her review of the 1900 years of English fascination with the Holy Lands/Palestine leading up to the Balfour Mandate was very interesting. The insight on how all of that history led to the recreation of Israel as a Nation in Palestine was very informative. There is much shared in this book that many miss when considering the current situation of Arab and Jew.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Very informative. Worthwhile listen

I knew the history of the Palestine, but not how woven British history was with it back thousands of years. Well researched and explained. I'm downloading my next Tuchman book now.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Arius
  • Annandale, VA United States
  • 02-05-15

Not Tuchman's finest work

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

It's hard to say who would or even could enjoy it more. This subject was right up my alley but was incredibly dry. So dry that even a reading by McCaddon couldn't save it.

What was most disappointing about Barbara W. Tuchman’s story?

It was not remotely as engaging as Guns of August

Which character – as performed by Wanda McCaddon – was your favorite?

The Narrator

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Bible and Sword?

Hard to say I would have cut anything so much as rearranged it or expanded them.

Any additional comments?

I might give this another try. Maybe the issue is that the book doesn't lend itself to an audio version and the printed work is much easier to follow. The storytelling was lacking for an audible presentation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Margaret
  • West Mifflin, PA, United States
  • 12-31-10

Great Learning History

Again this is a great book to help you understand the history and troubles of the holy land and why the three main world religions have been fighting for 2000 years. I pray that the world could just gain the understand of each others religions could help to bring peace to all. Great book to learn why we do what we do.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kellie
  • Winona Lake, IN, United States
  • 04-25-11

Excellent book, but not quite objective

As usual, Barbara Tuchman offers up a well-written, heavily researched book that is entertaining and informative, but I found the lack of objectivity in places so strong that it made me question her grasp of the subject matter. I get it that she doesn't subscribe to the Judeo-Christian tradition as a personal faith, but it seems like she has so little respect for it that she ended up misinterpreting or just plain missing the finer points of these two religions that she doesn't stoop to understand. The conclusions she draws are weaker for it, I feel. Maybe Nadia May's sneering tone exacerbated this sense... after listening to her narrate three Tuchman books in a row now, I'm starting to dislike her voice quite a lot. Still... the book has MUCH insight to offer, all the same, and I would recommend it for a thorough chronicle of the progression of events and motives that led to the curious position we find ourselves in today.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 11-22-16

Shows its age, but is stately, lyrical, epic

This is music to the ears of certain anglophiles (like me). If the title seems interesting, dive in! I like a sweep through history illuminating various landmarks, some I recognize, some not so much. The story of the Jews in Europe, like the stories of England, are things I will visit repeatedly, all my days. This has a nice punchy pace to it, not bogging down, but lingering just long enough to get crucial glimpses of personalities, places, and deeds. Many quotes come from the original actors, through the particular lenses of their times and prejudices -- the better to reveal them to us.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A very thorough examination.

A very thorough examination of literature over the centuries revealing Britain's and England's peculiar relationship with the Hebrews and Zionism. Good for the amateur; essentail for the scholar.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting Topic

I tried to engage but frequently found my mind wandering. I get the idea that the audience was other scholars, not those just curious about history.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Nowhere near the quality I expect from Tuchman

Put simply, a lesser Tuchman book. While I normally love her work and her mildly cutting voice is present, it's simply not a great historical book. The earlier chapters is more a book of mythology than history, the actual history in some early segments taking up approximately 1/20th compared to myth listing of britain.

The later books sections does increase in quality, but it's quite a slog to get there. The criticality of non integrated eastern Jews was somewhat interesting, given I tend to hear and read so much about the Dreyfus affair as the catalysis as opposed to situational pogroms.

The book does provide some interesting context to indicate just how little power western zionism had, the Rothchilds being the exception(amusingly, while I was reading the book, I had the misfortune to sit next to a man who assured me that the Rothschilds rule the world). It is slightly chuckle inducing when she mentions her own ancestors casually in the integrationist camps.

While she would managed to keep mental seperation from her topics in later years, this early work contains more than a few overreaches and indicates her preferences.

Perhaps she has too much cultural-emotional skin in the game, or perhaps because the book was written in the 1950s, when sympathy was high for Israel and the plight of other peoples was not apparent. I suspect that now that when we have seen distinct arab nations with vastly different ideologies invading each other, he claims of geographical ratios rings more hollow.

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  • jdk
  • 01-22-19

Dated

Ms Tuchman's first foray into a History, to me, is sadly dated and riddled with inadequate analysis and prejudice. She makes little attempt to disguise her contempt for the Turks, most Arabs and other "Mohammadians".

The work, sadly, is a product of the views of its times. Race and its percieved characteristics are given undue prominence and I was left with the impression that management under British Empire was our best hope for The Levant.

I have greatly enjoyed, and learned under Ms. Tuchman's tutelage in the past. Her other works are better, but I suspect I've grown, and my views have a more subtle basis. In this case my learning was obstructed by the anglophone prejudice and nationalist bias of this text.

It is interesting, in this time of Brexit, to hear England and Britian used as synonyms, when we now know, other than through the exercise of power, they are not.

This is the lowest rating I've given an audio book which I not returned unread. Also, I would not suggest others not read this text, but would suggest they keep in mind, that it represents a narrative, perhaps still held by some, of a contructed Truth, as flawed as all such Truths are eventually found to be.

Ms. McCaddon's reading was mercifully brisk and competent. She ably caught Ms. Tuchman's tone, and I found her accent appropriately carried the views the text expressed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful