Beginning in the mid-19th century, a large wave of Westerners - mostly French and British first, followed closely by Germans and Americans - arrived at the shores of Ottoman Palestine.

Some were representatives of their respective states or of commercial interests; almost all were at least partially motivated by a newfound fascination with the “Holy Land,” a fascination that drew both on the religious-awakening movements of the West at the time and on new visions of colonial and industrial “progress.” A surprisingly large number of these travellers also left accounts of their experiences - a 1973 bibliography** lists approximately 500 published English accounts of Holy Land travel (Bevis, Bibliotecha Cisorientalia). These accounts range widely in their structure and style, from puritanical poems of exaltation to collections of geological investigations; few of them take the contemporary social fabric of Palestinian society as a major focal point. Nonetheless, when considered as a group these travel accounts offer a valuable source from which we may track some of the momentous changes - and much of the everyday continuity - experienced by Palestinian communities throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

The attached table offers a way to utilize some of these travel accounts to construct a variety of glimpses into the Palestinian past. For each account, the table presents a list of sites described in the published text, the dates in which the description is said to apply to (if stated), and the page-number for the description. To each description there is also an “extant” number attached, signifying how detailed the description is - with 1 representing merely the mention of the site’s name and 4 representing a several-page account of a visit. The user may decide to track a particular site through several consecutive accounts; or she may want to focus on a particular region and time-frame. We invite users to make their own path through one particular archive of evidence.

* Omer Sharir is working towards a PhD in the Department of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

** Richard Bevis (1973). Bibliotecha Cisorientalia: An Annotated Checklist of Early English Travel Books on the Near and Middle East. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall & Co.