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African AthenaNew Agendas$
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Daniel Orrells, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595006

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595006.001.0001

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‘Lay in Egypt's lap each borrowed crown’

‘Lay in Egypt's lap each borrowed crown’

Gerald Massey and Late‐Victorian Afrocentrism

Chapter:
(p.293) 17 ‘Lay in Egypt's lap each borrowed crown’
Source:
African Athena
Author(s):

Brian H. Murray

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595006.003.0018

In A Book of Beginnings (1881) the English poet and radical Gerald Massey (1828‐1907) combined the findings of evolutionary biology with his own comparative study of language and myth to argue that Egyptian religion and mythology were the roots of European civilisation. Massey's use of comparative philology and mythology has much in common with Martin Bernal's own methodology in Black Athena and fittingly Massey – who also insisted on treating Egypt as an indigenous African civilisation – has recently found a new audience among radical North American Afrocentrists. However, in stark contrast to the political context of later Afrocentrism, Massey was a colonial enthusiast who lauded the achievements of empire in his often jingoistic verse. The ideological gulf between Gerald Massey and his twentieth‐century African American appropriation demonstrates how strikingly similar Afrocentric discourses can arise from conflicting contexts and can be used for conflicting ends.

Keywords:   Afrocentrism, Victorian poetry, jingoism, Central Africa, Egyptian religion, mythology, Martin Bernal, evolutionary biology, empire

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