It is now more than seventy years since the creation of the state of Israel, yet its origins and the British Empire’s historic responsibility for Palestine remain little known. Confusion persists too as to the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. In Legacy of Empire, Gardner Thompson offers a clear-eyed review of political Zionism and Britain’s role in shaping the history of Palestine and Israel.
Thompson explores why the British government adopted Zionism in the early twentieth century, issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then retaining it as the cornerstone of their rule in Palestine after the First World War. Despite evidence and warnings, over the next two decades Britain would facilitate the colonisation of Arab Palestine by Jewish immigrants, ultimately leading to a conflict which it could not contain. Britain’s response was to propose the partition of an ungovernable land: a ‘two-state solution’ which – though endorsed by the United Nations after the Second World War – has so far brought into being neither two states nor a solution.
A highly readable and compelling account of Britain’s rule in Palestine, Legacy of Empire is essential for those wishing to better understand the roots of this enduring conflict.
About the Author
Gardner Thompson is a historian of British colonialism and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He earned a BA in History from Cambridge University, an MA in East African History and Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a PhD on the British Colonial Rule in Uganda from London University. Thompson taught History in Uganda, and then in London where he was Head of the History Department and the Academic Vice-Principal at Dulwich College. His other publications include Governing Uganda: British Colonial Rule and its Legacy and African Democracy: Its Origins and Development in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
‘Gardner Thompson throws a cool light on a very hot topic … This illuminating book is an essential primer on the historical roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict.’
Nicholas Rankin, author of Churchill's Wizards: the British Genius for Deception
‘An excellent, well-researched and timely book.’
Nur Masalha, author of Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History
‘An illuminating account of both the emergence of Israel and of British policy during the three decades of the British Mandate in Palestine. It is a sobering and engrossing story of Britain’s betrayal of the Palestinians from the Balfour Declaration to the present day.’
Avi Shlaim, author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
‘An incisive and thorough analysis … Thompson methodically and convincingly describes how the British Empire allowed and assisted the colonisation of Palestine and in so doing planted the seeds for a conflict that still rages today.’
Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
‘Thompson examines how the settler-colonial Zionist project in Palestine is intertwined with the designs of imperial Britain. That such an issue can still be disputed is testimony to the power of ideology: Legacy of Empire cuts through the noise to show what really happened.’
Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives
‘A persuasive, if provocative, analysis … a welcome addition to existing literature on this subject … full of useful analysis’
‘An eloquent account … Thompson has brought an unbiased historian’s eye to this inexplicable chapter of British and imperial history.’
The Balfour Project