Levant Antiquarianism in European History and Literature (1500-1850)

The group, “Levant Antiquarianism in European History and Literature (1500-1850)”, has been approved by HCMH academic committee in June 2021. The group is led by Dr. Zoe Beenstock, Dept. of English Language and Literature, and Dr. Zur Shalev, Dept. of General History, University of Haifa. The group is currently forming its international team of researchers and schedule of meetings for the next two years.


European presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, between Greece and Egypt, significantly increased and diversified in the early modern period. While the New World may have been more exciting in terms of discovery and the observation of completely novel phenomena, the Old World still firmly held its attraction for the European scholarly community, and moreover, was seen as an active repository of pertinent scientific knowledge about the west. Levant antiquarianism provided Europeans with what they considered to be evidence of their own past. Antiquarian writers often enlisted imaginary fictional modes such as conjecture and speculation to posit these relations, undercutting the empirical focus of their methods. From the second half of the eighteenth century onwards, writers of literature adapted these aspects into works of poetry and prose.  The research of the group aims to produce a nuanced understanding of the historical and literary aspects of antiquarian accounts of the Levant by examining:

  • What literary modes antiquarian writers used to conceive of the relationships between past and present and east and west? What are the boundaries between history and fiction in these accounts?
  • What antiquarian modes did literary writers adopt in their representations of the past; and – conversely – what literary modes did antiquarian writers adopt?
  • How did antiquarian travel narratives feed into “armchair travel” – the rewriting of these texts by writers who never left Europe? What social networks connected travelers to writers who based their work exclusively on conjecture?
  • How did the traditional modes of pilgrimage interact with commerce in antiquarian representations of the Levant?
  • What is the status of women travelers writing about the antiquarian Levant?
  • How did Levant antiquarianism pass from the area of historiography to literature in the transition between the early modern and modern periods?