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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 September 2021

‘Lay in Egypt's lap each borrowed crown’

‘Lay in Egypt's lap each borrowed crown’

Gerald Massey and Late‐Victorian Afrocentrism

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

Brian H. Murray

Oxford University Press

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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