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Definition of bibliography

Examples of bibliography in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bibliography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

probably from New Latin bibliographia , from Greek, the copying of books, from bibli- + -graphia -graphy

1689, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Articles Related to bibliography

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Cite this Entry

“Bibliography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bibliography. Accessed 11 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of bibliography, more from merriam-webster on bibliography.

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bibliography

Nglish: Translation of bibliography for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bibliography for Arabic Speakers

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Citation Guide

  • What is a Citation?
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  • Paraphrasing and Quoting
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What is a Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography, introduction to the annotated bibliography.

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  • the authors' names
  • the titles of the works
  • the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources
  • the dates your copies were published
  • the page numbers of your sources (if they are part of multi-source volumes)

Ok, so what's an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source. For more, see the section at the bottom of this page.

What are Footnotes?

Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example:

This is an illustration of a footnote. 1 The number “1” at the end of the previous sentence corresponds with the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text? 1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.

When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work.

Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes they simply refer to relevant sources -- they let your reader know where certain material came from, or where they can look for other sources on the subject. To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor or see our section on citation styles.

Where does the little footnote mark go?

Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.

What's the difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?

The only real difference is placement -- footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the end of your document. If you want your reader to read your notes right away, footnotes are more likely to get your reader's attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.

If I cite sources in the Footnotes (or Endnotes), how's that different from a Bibliography?

Sometimes you may be asked to include these -- especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A "works cited" page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A "works consulted" page is a complement to a "works cited" page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.

Isn't a "works consulted" page the same as a "bibliography," then?

Well, yes. The title is different because "works consulted" pages are meant to complement "works cited" pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography "Works Consulted" or "Selected Bibliography" may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.

This information has been freely provided by plagiarism.org and can be reproduced without the need to obtain any further permission as long as the URL of the original article/information is cited. 

How Do I Cite Sources? (n.d.) Retrieved October 19, 2009, from http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_how_do_i_cite_sources.html

The Importance of an Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography is a collection of annotated citations. These annotations contain your executive notes on a source. Use the annotated bibliography to help remind you of later of the important parts of an article or book. Putting the effort into making good notes will pay dividends when it comes to writing a paper!

Good Summary

Being an executive summary, the annotated citation should be fairly brief, usually no more than one page, double spaced.

  • Focus on summarizing the source in your own words.
  • Avoid direct quotations from the source, at least those longer than a few words. However, if you do quote, remember to use quotation marks. You don't want to forget later on what is your own summary and what is a direct quotation!
  • If an author uses a particular term or phrase that is important to the article, use that phrase within quotation marks. Remember that whenever you quote, you must explain the meaning and context of the quoted word or text. 

Common Elements of an Annotated Citation

  • Summary of an Article or Book's thesis or most important points (Usually two to four sentences)
  • Summary of a source's methodological approach. That is, what is the source? How does it go about proving its point(s)? Is it mostly opinion based? If it is a scholarly source, describe the research method (study, etc.) that the author used. (Usually two to five sentences)
  • Your own notes and observations on the source beyond the summary. Include your initial analysis here. For example, how will you use this source? Perhaps you would write something like, "I will use this source to support my point about . . . "
  • Formatting Annotated Bibliographies This guide from Purdue OWL provides examples of an annotated citation in MLA and APA formats.


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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois Library Wordmark

Bibliography and Historical Research

  • Introduction

National Bibliography

  • Personal Bibliography
  • Corporate Bibliography
  • Subject Bibliography
  • Searching the Catalog for Bibliographies
  • Browsing the Catalog for Bibliographies
  • Other Tools for Finding Bibliographies
  • Return to HPNL Website

Ask a Librarian

National bibliographies attempt to describe the publishing output of a specific region of the world. Most national bibliographies will also be circumscribed by a time period. Examples of national bibliographies include:

  • La imprenta en México (1539-1821) by José Toribio Medina Call Number: Q. 015.72 M46me Publication Date: 1907-1912 8 volumes.
  • American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets, and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from the Genesis of Printing in 1639 down to and including the Year 1820 by Charles Evans Call Number: 015.73 ONLINE Publication Date: 1941-1959 Should be a standard reference work for anybody wanting to find early American published primary sources. 12 exhaustive volumes, organized by year. Each volume includes an author index, subject index, and printer index, with a cumulative index composing the final volume.
  • Bibliography of American Imprints to 1901 by American Antiquarian Society Call Number: Q. 015.73 B4712 ISBN: 3598333404 Publication Date: 1992 Despite being seven times as large (92 volumes), this work never achieved the status of Charles Evans's American Bibliography . Still, for anybody interested in finding American, published primary sources from after 1820 (where Evans's bibliography ceases), this reference work is indispensable. Entries are organized alphabetically by title, with multi-volume indexes for author, subject, and date.

National bibliographies will usually include an introductory essay on the printing history of the nation or region covered. They will be organized either alphabetically by author, chronologically by date of publication, thematically by broad subject, or some combination of the above. A really good national bibliography will include at least some indexes, such as a general subject index, an author index, and maybe an index of printers and publishers. However, national bibliographies vary widely in scope, detail, and quality.

National bibliographies are useful to the historian in helping him or her establish the publishing output of a nation or region: in the search for primary sources, they help to answer the question, "what documents were actually published in a given place at a given time?" Without this knowledge, a historian could waste hours, days, weeks, and even months searching for publications that were never produced in the first place.

Not all national bibliographies cover the publishing output of an entire nation. Some national bibliographies will cover an entire continent, while others will cover a region within a nation. For example:

  • Biblioteca hispanoamericana, 1493-1810 by José Toribio Medina Call Number: 016.98 M46BI1958 Publication Date: 1958-1962 Bibliography of works printed in Spanish America, or works about Spanish America. Organized by year of publication, and then alphabetically by title. Includes book-length introductory essay and an author index. Many of the titles in this bibliography are available in a microfilm set called Medina's Biblioteca hispano-americana , available from CRL through Interlibrary Loan.
  • A Bibliography of Illinois Imprints, 1814-58 by Cecil K. Byrd Call Number: 015.773 B99B Publication Date: 1966 Entries arranged chronologically. Index includes authors, subjects, genres (e.g. almanacs, periodicals), and titles.

To learn much more about national bibliographies, see the guide created by the Slavic Reference Service on National Bibliography .

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  • bibliography

a complete or selective list of works compiled upon some common principle, as authorship, subject, place of publication, or printer.

a list of source materials that are used or consulted in the preparation of a work or that are referred to in the text.

a branch of library science dealing with the history, physical description, comparison, and classification of books and other works.

Origin of bibliography

Other words from bibliography.

  • bib·li·o·graph·ic [bib-lee- uh - graf -ik], /ˌbɪb li əˈgræf ɪk/, bib·li·o·graph·i·cal, adjective
  • bib·li·o·graph·i·cal·ly, adverb
  • min·i·bib·li·og·ra·phy, noun, plural min·i·bib·li·og·ra·phies.

Words Nearby bibliography

  • bibliograph
  • bibliographer
  • bibliographic control
  • bibliographic utility
  • biblioklept
  • bibliolatry
  • bibliomancy
  • bibliomania

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bibliography in a sentence

He’s toyed with Collatz for about fifty years and become keeper of the knowledge, compiling annotated bibliographies and editing a book on the subject, “The Ultimate Challenge.”

Some readers might prefer more background science for each question — for a book that aims to crush pseudoscience, a bibliography or at least footnotes would have been useful.

Kalb makes the disclaimer in his preface that “memoirs, by definition, are not works of history — no footnotes, no bibliography .”

Otlet began modestly in the 1890s, creating a bibliography of sociological literature.

Lop off the endnotes and bibliography , and The Measure of Manhattan is barely 300 pages.

Tyler does not provide us with a bibliography , although his extensive notes include many books on Israel and its neighbors.

For full bibliography (to 1904) see Ulysse Chevalier, Rpertoire des sources hist.

Punctuation has been normalized for the stage directions and the play listings in the bibliography .

Within six months, if you're not sandbagged or jailed on fake libel suits, you'll have a unique bibliography of swindles.

There is a very inadequate bibliography in the Introduction.

His ample bibliography leaves no point necessary for elucidation untouched.

British Dictionary definitions for bibliography

/ ( ˌbɪblɪˈɒɡrəfɪ ) /

a list of books or other material on a subject

a list of sources used in the preparation of a book, thesis, etc

a list of the works of a particular author or publisher

the study of the history, classification, etc, of literary material

a work on this subject

Derived forms of bibliography

  • bibliographer , noun
  • bibliographic ( ˌbɪblɪəʊˈɡræfɪk ) or bibliographical , adjective
  • bibliographically , adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for bibliography

A list of the written sources of information on a subject. Bibliographies generally appear as a list at the end of a book or article. They may show what works the author used in writing the article or book, or they may list works that a reader might find useful.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of bibliography in English

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bibliography noun ( LIST OF BOOKS )

  • She has included a bibliography so that readers can refer to the primary sources .
  • The extensive bibliography provides ample guidance for readers who want to make a deeper study of the subject .
  • Most books on art materials and techniques also include excellent bibliographies for further reading .
  • The center has compiled a bibliography of scientific research on meditation .
  • The authors provide bibliographies of the poets ' works and lists of useful , up-to-date anthologies and criticism .
  • acknowledgment
  • acknowledgments phrase
  • bibliographic
  • bibliographically

bibliography noun ( STUDY OF BOOKS )

  • He cataloged books for the booksellers Pearson & Co. and was a professor of bibliography at Cambridge University.
  • In the early 1930s he turned his attention toward bibliography, and became a professor of librarianship.

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Bibliography | intermediate english, examples of bibliography, translations of bibliography.

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bibliography historical meaning

  • Referencing
  • Bibliographies

How to create a bibliography or reference list

Monks historical bookends

A list of all cited source materials, known as a bibliography or reference list , must be included at the end of your essay.

They are divided into two sections: primary sources and secondary sources . Each of these sections need to be in alphabetical order .

Each bibliographical reference needs:

  • the author's last name followed by their first initial(s)
  • the year of publication
  • the name of the work (in italics)
  • the publication details

What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?

Depending on the assessment task, you will either be asked to create a bibliography or a reference list. Here are the differences between the two:

  • A bibliography lists all of the materials that have been consulted during your research, regardless of whether or not you've quoted from them
  • A reference list  states only the sources that you've quoted in your assignment

Regardless of which you're required to create, you must follow the formatting shown below.

Correct Format for Different Source Types

These examples use the popular APA (American Psychological Association) referencing style. 

Required Elements:

Author's Surname, First Initials. (Year of Publication).  Name of book . City of Publication: Name of Publishing Company.

Academic Journal Articles

Author's Surname, First Initials. (Year, Month day OR Season - if known - of publication). Article title.  Name of Journal the Article Appeared In ,  Journal Volume Number (Issue or Part Number), page number(s) of the article.

Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Author's Surname, First Initials. (Year, Month day of publication). Article title.  Name of Newspaper/Magazine , page number(s) of the article.

Speaker's Surname, First Initials. (Year, Month Day Speech was Given). Title of Speech.  Institution, City the Speech was Given at/in.

Author's Surname, First Initials. (Year of Publication). Name of webpage.  Retrieved from URL.

Ancient Sources

Ancient Author's Name.  Name of Ancient Work.  (Name of Modern Translator that You're Using, trans.). Location of Modern Translation's Publisher: Name of Modern Translation's Publishing Company, Year of Modern Translation's Publication.

Referencing a Source Found in Another Source

On some occasions you find a source in the pages of different source. Your first task should be to try and quote the source you have found separately from the book that it is in. Do this, look in the bibliography of the book in order to gain the necessary details.

However, if you cannot find the information necessary to create a separate bibliographical entry, you will need to create a bibliographical entry that acknowledges the book that the source was found in.

To do this you will need:

  • as many of the details that you can find of the source you are using. (Anything you don't know is left out).
  • the full bibliographical details of the book it was found in, along with the page number in the book where the source was found. This is preceded by the phrase "As found in" and the entire bibliographical reference is placed in brackets.

For example:

Nixon, R. (1969). (As found in US Government Printing Office 1969, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon , Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office, pp. 903).

Example Reference List

Reference List

Primary Sources

Appian.  The Civil Wars .  (John Carter, trans). New York: Penguin, 1996.

Department of Defence. (1959). Strategic basis of Australian defence policy . Canberra: Department of Defence.

Department of Defence. (1976). Defence White Paper . Canberra: Department of Defence.

Millar, T. (1979). The political-military relationship in Australia . Strategic and Defence Studies Centre Working Paper , 6, p. 12.

Nixon, R. (1969). (As found in US Government Printing Office 1969, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon , Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office, p. 903).

Secondary Sources

Dibb, P. (2007). The self-reliant defence of Australia: The History of an Idea . (As found in   Huisken, R., & Thatcher., M. (eds). History as policy: Framing the debate on the future of Australia’s defence policy . Canberra: ANU Press and Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, p. 11-26).

Horner, D. (1997). Security objectives . (As found in Mediansky, F. (ed). Australian foreign policy: Into the new millennium . South Melbourne: Macmillan, p. 73-92).

Lawson, E. (2009). The Australian defence environment . Australian Defence Force Journal , 179, p. 70-81.

White, H. (2007). Four decades of the defence of Australia: Reflections on Australian defence policy over the past 40 years . (As found in Huisken, R & Thatcher, M. (eds). History as policy: Framing the debate on the future of Australia’s defence policy . Canberra: ANU Press and Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, p. 163-187).

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bibliography historical meaning

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  • What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

Published on March 9, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 23, 2022.

An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that includes a short descriptive text (an annotation) for each source. It may be assigned as part of the research process for a paper , or as an individual assignment to gather and read relevant sources on a topic.

Scribbr’s free Citation Generator allows you to easily create and manage your annotated bibliography in APA or MLA style. To generate a perfectly formatted annotated bibliography, select the source type, fill out the relevant fields, and add your annotation.

An example of an annotated source is shown below:

Annotated source example

Table of contents

Annotated bibliography format: apa, mla, chicago, how to write an annotated bibliography, descriptive annotation example, evaluative annotation example, reflective annotation example, finding sources for your annotated bibliography, frequently asked questions about annotated bibliographies.

Make sure your annotated bibliography is formatted according to the guidelines of the style guide you’re working with. Three common styles are covered below:

In APA Style , both the reference entry and the annotation should be double-spaced and left-aligned.

The reference entry itself should have a hanging indent . The annotation follows on the next line, and the whole annotation should be indented to match the hanging indent. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

APA annotated bibliography

In an MLA style annotated bibliography , the Works Cited entry and the annotation are both double-spaced and left-aligned.

The Works Cited entry has a hanging indent. The annotation itself is indented 1 inch (twice as far as the hanging indent). If there are two or more paragraphs in the annotation, the first line of each paragraph is indented an additional half-inch, but not if there is only one paragraph.

MLA annotated bibliography

Chicago style

In a  Chicago style annotated bibliography , the bibliography entry itself should be single-spaced and feature a hanging indent.

The annotation should be indented, double-spaced, and left-aligned. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

Chicago annotated bibliography

Scribbr Citation Checker New

The AI-powered Citation Checker helps you avoid common mistakes such as:

  • Missing commas and periods
  • Incorrect usage of “et al.”
  • Ampersands (&) in narrative citations
  • Missing reference entries

bibliography historical meaning

For each source, start by writing (or generating ) a full reference entry that gives the author, title, date, and other information. The annotated bibliography format varies based on the citation style you’re using.

The annotations themselves are usually between 50 and 200 words in length, typically formatted as a single paragraph. This can vary depending on the word count of the assignment, the relative length and importance of different sources, and the number of sources you include.

Consider the instructions you’ve been given or consult your instructor to determine what kind of annotations they’re looking for:

  • Descriptive annotations : When the assignment is just about gathering and summarizing information, focus on the key arguments and methods of each source.
  • Evaluative annotations : When the assignment is about evaluating the sources , you should also assess the validity and effectiveness of these arguments and methods.
  • Reflective annotations : When the assignment is part of a larger research process, you need to consider the relevance and usefulness of the sources to your own research.

These specific terms won’t necessarily be used. The important thing is to understand the purpose of your assignment and pick the approach that matches it best. Interactive examples of the different styles of annotation are shown below.

A descriptive annotation summarizes the approach and arguments of a source in an objective way, without attempting to assess their validity.

In this way, it resembles an abstract , but you should never just copy text from a source’s abstract, as this would be considered plagiarism . You’ll naturally cover similar ground, but you should also consider whether the abstract omits any important points from the full text.

The interactive example shown below describes an article about the relationship between business regulations and CO 2 emissions.

Rieger, A. (2019). Doing business and increasing emissions? An exploratory analysis of the impact of business regulation on CO 2 emissions. Human Ecology Review , 25 (1), 69–86. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26964340

An evaluative annotation also describes the content of a source, but it goes on to evaluate elements like the validity of the source’s arguments and the appropriateness of its methods .

For example, the following annotation describes, and evaluates the effectiveness of, a book about the history of Western philosophy.

Kenny, A. (2010). A new history of Western philosophy: In four parts . Oxford University Press.

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A reflective annotation is similar to an evaluative one, but it focuses on the source’s usefulness or relevance to your own research.

Reflective annotations are often required when the point is to gather sources for a future research project, or to assess how they were used in a project you already completed.

The annotation below assesses the usefulness of a particular article for the author’s own research in the field of media studies.

Manovich, Lev. (2009). The practice of everyday (media) life: From mass consumption to mass cultural production? Critical Inquiry , 35 (2), 319–331. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/596645

Manovich’s article assesses the shift from a consumption-based media culture (in which media content is produced by a small number of professionals and consumed by a mass audience) to a production-based media culture (in which this mass audience is just as active in producing content as in consuming it). He is skeptical of some of the claims made about this cultural shift; specifically, he argues that the shift towards user-made content must be regarded as more reliant upon commercial media production than it is typically acknowledged to be. However, he regards web 2.0 as an exciting ongoing development for art and media production, citing its innovation and unpredictability.

The article is outdated in certain ways (it dates from 2009, before the launch of Instagram, to give just one example). Nevertheless, its critical engagement with the possibilities opened up for media production by the growth of social media is valuable in a general sense, and its conceptualization of these changes frequently applies just as well to more current social media platforms as it does to Myspace. Conceptually, I intend to draw on this article in my own analysis of the social dynamics of Twitter and Instagram.

Before you can write your annotations, you’ll need to find sources . If the annotated bibliography is part of the research process for a paper, your sources will be those you consult and cite as you prepare the paper. Otherwise, your assignment and your choice of topic will guide you in what kind of sources to look for.

Make sure that you’ve clearly defined your topic , and then consider what keywords are relevant to it, including variants of the terms. Use these keywords to search databases (e.g., Google Scholar ), using Boolean operators to refine your search.

Sources can include journal articles, books, and other source types , depending on the scope of the assignment. Read the abstracts or blurbs of the sources you find to see whether they’re relevant, and try exploring their bibliographies to discover more. If a particular source keeps showing up, it’s probably important.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate range of sources, read through them, taking notes that you can use to build up your annotations. You may even prefer to write your annotations as you go, while each source is fresh in your mind.

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.

However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.

You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2022, August 23). What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format. Scribbr. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/annotated-bibliography/

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Jack Caulfield

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  • Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples

Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples

Published on 1 May 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 7 November 2022.

In Harvard style , the bibliography or reference list provides full references for the sources you used in your writing.

  • A reference list consists of entries corresponding to your in-text citations .
  • A bibliography sometimes also lists sources that you consulted for background research, but did not cite in your text.

The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. If in doubt about which to include, check with your instructor or department.

The information you include in a reference varies depending on the type of source, but it usually includes the author, date, and title of the work, followed by details of where it was published. You can automatically generate accurate references using our free reference generator:

Harvard Reference Generator

Table of contents

Formatting a harvard style bibliography, harvard reference examples, referencing sources with multiple authors, referencing sources with missing information, frequently asked questions about harvard bibliographies.

Sources are alphabetised by author last name. The heading ‘Reference list’ or ‘Bibliography’ appears at the top.

Each new source appears on a new line, and when an entry for a single source extends onto a second line, a hanging indent is used:

Harvard bibliography

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Reference list or bibliography entries always start with the author’s last name and initial, the publication date and the title of the source. The other information required varies depending on the source type. Formats and examples for the most common source types are given below.

  • Entire book
  • Book chapter
  • Translated book
  • Edition of a book

Journal articles

  • Print journal
  • Online-only journal with DOI
  • Online-only journal without DOI
  • General web page
  • Online article or blog
  • Social media post

Newspapers and magazines

  • Newspaper article
  • Magazine article

When a source has up to three authors, list all of them in the order their names appear on the source. If there are four or more, give only the first name followed by ‘ et al. ’:

Sometimes a source won’t list all the information you need for your reference. Here’s what to do when you don’t know the publication date or author of a source.

Some online sources, as well as historical documents, may lack a clear publication date. In these cases, you can replace the date in the reference list entry with the words ‘no date’. With online sources, you still include an access date at the end:

When a source doesn’t list an author, you can often list a corporate source as an author instead, as with ‘Scribbr’ in the above example. When that’s not possible, begin the entry with the title instead of the author:

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’

In Harvard style referencing , to distinguish between two sources by the same author that were published in the same year, you add a different letter after the year for each source:

  • (Smith, 2019a)
  • (Smith, 2019b)

Add ‘a’ to the first one you cite, ‘b’ to the second, and so on. Do the same in your bibliography or reference list .

To create a hanging indent for your bibliography or reference list :

  • Highlight all the entries
  • Click on the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the ‘Paragraph’ tab in the top menu.
  • In the pop-up window, under ‘Special’ in the ‘Indentation’ section, use the drop-down menu to select ‘Hanging’.
  • Then close the window with ‘OK’.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2022, November 07). Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 9 November 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/referencing/harvard-bibliography/

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Jack Caulfield

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bibliography historical meaning

What Is a Bibliography?

  • Writing Research Papers
  • Writing Essays
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A bibliography is a list of books, scholarly  articles , speeches, private records, diaries, interviews, laws, letters, websites, and other sources you use when researching a topic and writing a paper. The bibliography appears at the end.

The main purpose of a bibliography entry is to give credit to authors whose work you've consulted in your research. It also makes it easy for a reader to find out more about your topic by delving into the research that you used to write your paper. In the academic world, papers aren't written in a vacuum; academic journals are the way new research on a topic circulates and previous work is built upon.

Bibliography entries must be written in a very specific format, but that format will depend on the particular style of writing you follow. Your teacher or publisher will tell you which style to use, and for most academic papers it will be either MLA , American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago (author-date citations or footnotes/endnotes format), or Turabian style .

The bibliography is sometimes also called the references, works cited, or works consulted page.

Components of a Bibliography Entry

Bibliography entries will compile:

  • Authors and/or editors (and translator, if applicable)
  • Title of your source (as well as edition, volume, and the book title if your source is a chapter or article in a multi-author book with an editor)
  • Publication information (the city, state, name of the publisher, date published, page numbers consulted, and URL or DOI, if applicable)
  • Access date, in the case of online sources (check with the style guide at the beginning of your research as to whether you need to track this information)

Order and Formatting

Your entries should be listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author. If you are using two publications that are written by the same author, the order and format will depend on the style guide.

In MLA, Chicago, and Turabian style, you should list the duplicate-author entries in alphabetical order according to the title of the work. The author's name is written as normal for his or her first entry, but for the second entry, you will replace the author's name with three long dashes. 

In APA style, you list the duplicate-author entries in chronological order of publication, placing the earliest first. The name of the author is used for all entries.

For works with more than one author, styles vary as to whether you invert the name of any authors after the first. Whether you use title casing or sentence-style casing on titles of sources, and whether you separate elements with commas or periods also varies among different style guides. Consult the guide's manual for more detailed information.

Bibliography entries are usually formatted using a hanging indent. This means that the first line of each citation is not indented, but subsequent lines of each citation are indented. Check with your instructor or publication to see if this format is required, and look up information in your word processor's help program if you do not know how to create a hanging indent with it.

Chicago's Bibliography vs. Reference System

Chicago has two different ways of citing works consulted: using a bibliography or a references page. Use of a bibliography or a references page depends on whether you're using author-date parenthetical citations in the paper or footnotes/endnotes. If you're using parenthetical citations, then you'll follow the references page formatting. If you're using footnotes or endnotes, you'll use a bibliography. The difference in the formatting of entries between the two systems is the location of the date of the cited publication. In a bibliography, it goes at the end of an entry. In a references list in the author-date style, it goes right after the author's name, similar to APA style.

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  • Title Page Examples and Formats

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Library & Information Science Education Network

What is Bibliography?: Meaning, Types, and Importance


A bibliography is a fundamental component of academic research and writing that serves as a comprehensive list of sources consulted and referenced in a particular work. It plays a crucial role in validating the credibility and reliability of the information presented by providing readers with the necessary information to locate and explore the cited sources. A well-constructed bibliography not only demonstrates the depth and breadth of research undertaken but also acknowledges the intellectual contributions of others, ensuring transparency and promoting the integrity of scholarly work. By including a bibliography, writers enable readers to delve further into the subject matter, engage in critical analysis, and build upon existing knowledge.

What is Bibliography?

A bibliography is a compilation of sources that have been utilized in the process of researching and writing a piece of work. It serves as a comprehensive list of references, providing information about the various sources consulted, such as books, articles, websites, and other materials. The purpose of a bibliography is twofold: to give credit to the original authors or creators of the sources used and to allow readers to locate and access those sources for further study or verification. A well-crafted bibliography includes essential details about each source, including the author’s name, the title of the work, publication date, and publication information. By including a bibliography, writers demonstrate the extent of their research, provide a foundation for their arguments, and enhance the credibility and reliability of their work.

Types of Bibliography

The bibliography is a multifaceted discipline that encompasses different types, each designed to serve specific research purposes and requirements. These various types of bibliographies provide valuable tools for researchers, scholars, and readers to navigate the vast realm of literature and sources available. From comprehensive overviews to specialized focuses, the types of bibliographies offer distinct approaches to organizing, categorizing, and presenting information. Whether it is compiling an exhaustive list of sources, providing critical evaluations, or focusing on specific subjects or industries, these types of bibliographies play a vital role in facilitating the exploration, understanding, and dissemination of knowledge in diverse academic and intellectual domains.

As a discipline, a bibliography encompasses various types that cater to different research needs and contexts. The two main categories of bibliographies are

1. General bibliography, and 2. Special bibliography.

1. General Bibliography

General bibliography refers to a comprehensive compilation of sources that cover a wide range of subjects, disciplines, and formats. It aims to provide a broad overview of published materials, encompassing books, articles, journals, websites, and other relevant resources. A general bibliography typically includes works from various authors, covering diverse topics and spanning different periods. It serves as a valuable tool for researchers, students, and readers seeking a comprehensive collection of literature within a specific field or across multiple disciplines. General bibliographies play a crucial role in guiding individuals in their exploration of a subject, facilitating the discovery of relevant sources, and establishing a foundation for further research and academic pursuits.

The general bibliography encompasses various subcategories that comprehensively cover sources on a global, linguistic, national, and regional level. These subcategories are as follows:

  • Universal Bibliography: Universal bibliography aims to compile a comprehensive list of all published works worldwide, regardless of subject or language. It seeks to encompass the entirety of human knowledge and includes sources from diverse fields, cultures, and time periods. Universal bibliography serves as a monumental effort to create a comprehensive record of the world’s published works, making it a valuable resource for scholars, librarians, and researchers interested in exploring the breadth of human intellectual output.
  • Language Bibliography: Language bibliography focuses on compiling sources specific to a particular language or group of languages. It encompasses publications written in a specific language, regardless of the subject matter. Language bibliographies are essential for language scholars, linguists, and researchers interested in exploring the literature and resources available in a particular language or linguistic group.
  • National Bibliography: National bibliography concentrates on documenting and cataloging all published materials within a specific country. It serves as a comprehensive record of books, journals, periodicals, government publications, and other sources published within the borders of a nation. National bibliographies are essential for preserving a country’s cultural heritage, facilitating research within specific national contexts, and providing a comprehensive overview of a nation’s intellectual output.
  • Regional Bibliography: Regional bibliography focuses on compiling sources specific to a particular geographic region or area. It aims to capture the literature, publications, and resources related to a specific region, such as a state, province, or local area. Regional bibliographies are valuable for researchers interested in exploring the literature, history, culture, and unique aspects of a specific geographic region.

2. Special Bibliography

Special bibliography refers to a type of bibliography that focuses on specific subjects, themes, or niche areas within a broader field of study. It aims to provide a comprehensive and in-depth compilation of sources specifically relevant to the chosen topic. Special bibliographies are tailored to meet the research needs of scholars, researchers, and enthusiasts seeking specialized information and resources.

Special bibliographies can cover a wide range of subjects, including but not limited to specific disciplines, subfields, historical periods, geographical regions, industries, or even specific authors or works. They are designed to gather and present a curated selection of sources that are considered important, authoritative, or influential within the chosen subject area.

Special bibliography encompasses several subcategories that focus on specific subjects, authors, forms of literature, time periods, categories of literature, and types of materials. These subcategories include:

  • Subject Bibliography: Subject bibliography compiles sources related to a specific subject or topic. It aims to provide a comprehensive list of resources within a particular field of study. Subject bibliographies are valuable for researchers seeking in-depth information on a specific subject area, as they gather relevant sources and materials to facilitate focused research.
  • Author and Bio-bibliographies: Author and bio-bibliographies focus on compiling sources specific to individual authors. They provide comprehensive lists of an author’s works, including their books, articles, essays, and other publications. Bio-bibliographies also include biographical information about the author, such as their background, career, and contributions to their respective fields.
  • Bibliography of Forms of Literature: This type of bibliography focuses on specific forms or genres of literature, such as poetry, drama, fiction, or non-fiction. It provides a compilation of works within a particular literary form, enabling researchers to explore the literature specific to their interests or to gain a comprehensive understanding of a particular genre.
  • Bibliography of Materials of Particular Periods: Bibliographies of materials of particular periods compile sources specific to a particular historical period or time frame. They include works published or created during that period, offering valuable insights into the era’s literature, art, culture, and historical context.
  • Bibliographies of Special Categories of Literature: This category focuses on compiling sources related to special categories or themes within the literature. Examples include bibliographies of children’s literature, feminist literature, postcolonial literature, or science fiction literature. These bibliographies cater to specific interests or perspectives within the broader field of literature.
  • Bibliographies of Specific Types of Materials: Bibliographies of specific types of materials focus on compiling sources within a particular format or medium. Examples include bibliographies of manuscripts, rare books, visual art, films, or musical compositions. These bibliographies provide valuable resources for researchers interested in exploring a specific medium or format within their research.

Functions of Bibliography

A bibliography serves several important functions within the realm of academic research, writing, and knowledge dissemination. Here are some key functions:

  • Documentation: One of the primary functions of a bibliography is to document and record the sources consulted during the research process. By providing accurate and detailed citations for each source, it can ensure transparency, traceability, and accountability in scholarly work. It allows readers and other researchers to verify the information, trace the origins of ideas, and locate the original sources for further study.
  • Attribution and Credit: The bibliography plays a crucial role in giving credit to the original authors and creators of the ideas, information, and materials used in research work. By citing the sources, the authors acknowledge the intellectual contributions of others and demonstrate academic integrity. This enables proper attribution and prevents plagiarism, ensuring ethical research practices and upholding the principles of academic honesty.
  • Verification and Quality Control: It acts as a means of verification and quality control in academic research. By including a list of sources, readers and reviewers can assess the information’s reliability, credibility, and accuracy. This allows others to evaluate the strength of the evidence, assess the validity of the arguments, and determine the scholarly rigor of a work.
  • Further Reading and Exploration: The bibliography serves as a valuable resource for readers who wish to delve deeper into a particular subject or topic. By providing a list of cited sources, the bibliography offers a starting point for further reading and exploration. It guides readers to related works, seminal texts, and authoritative materials on the subject, facilitating their intellectual growth and expanding their knowledge base.
  • Preservation of Knowledge: The bibliography contributes to the preservation of knowledge by cataloguing and documenting published works. It creates a record of the intellectual output within various fields, ensuring that valuable information is not lost over time. A bibliography facilitates the organization and accessibility of literature, making it possible to locate and retrieve sources for future reference and research.
  • Intellectual Dialogue and Scholarship: The bibliography fosters intellectual dialogue and scholarship by facilitating the exchange of ideas and enabling researchers to build upon existing knowledge. By citing relevant sources, researchers enter into conversations with other scholars, engaging in a scholarly discourse that contributes to the advancement of knowledge within their field of study.

A bibliography serves the important functions of documenting sources, giving credit to original authors, verifying information, guiding further reading, preserving knowledge, and fostering intellectual dialogue. It plays a crucial role in maintaining academic research’s integrity, transparency, and quality and ensures that scholarly work is built upon a solid foundation of evidence and ideas.

Importance of Bibliographic Services

Bibliographic services play a crucial role in academia, research, and information management. They serve as a fundamental tool for organizing, accessing, and preserving knowledge . From facilitating efficient research to ensuring the integrity and credibility of scholarly work, bibliographic services hold immense importance in various domains.

Bibliographic services are vital for researchers and scholars. These services provide comprehensive and reliable access to a wide range of resources, such as books, journals, articles, and other scholarly materials. By organizing these resources in a structured manner, bibliographic services make it easier for researchers to locate relevant information for their studies. Researchers can explore bibliographic databases, catalogues, and indexes to identify appropriate sources, saving them valuable time and effort. This accessibility enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of research, enabling scholars to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields.

Bibliographic services also aid in the process of citation and referencing. Proper citation is an essential aspect of academic integrity and intellectual honesty. Bibliographic services assist researchers in accurately citing the sources they have used in their work, ensuring that credit is given where it is due. This not only acknowledges the original authors and their contributions but also strengthens the credibility and authenticity of the research. By providing citation guidelines, formatting styles, and citation management tools, bibliographic services simplify the citation process, making it more manageable for researchers.

Another crucial aspect of bibliographic services is their role in preserving and archiving knowledge. Libraries and institutions that provide bibliographic services serve as custodians of valuable information. They collect, organize, and preserve a wide range of physical and digital resources for future generations. This preservation ensures that knowledge is not lost or forgotten over time. Bibliographic services enable researchers, students, and the general public to access historical and scholarly materials, fostering continuous learning and intellectual growth.

Bibliographic services contribute to the dissemination of research and scholarly works. They provide platforms and databases for publishing and sharing academic outputs. By cataloguing and indexing research articles, journals, and conference proceedings, bibliographic services enhance the discoverability and visibility of scholarly work. This facilitates knowledge exchange, collaboration, and innovation within academic communities. Researchers can rely on bibliographic services to share their findings with a broader audience, thereby fostering intellectual dialogue and advancing their respective fields.

In Summary, bibliographic services are immensely important in academia, research, and information management. They facilitate efficient analysis, aid in proper citation and referencing, preserve knowledge for future generations and contribute to the dissemination of research. These services form the backbone of scholarly pursuits, enabling researchers, students, and professionals to access, utilize, and contribute to the vast wealth of knowledge available. As we continue to rely on information and research to drive progress and innovation, the significance of bibliographic services will only grow, making them indispensable resources in pursuing knowledge.


  • Reddy, P. V. G. (1999). Bio bibliography of the faculty in social sciences departments of Sri Krishnadevaraya university Anantapur A P India.
  • Sharma, J.S. Fundamentals of Bibliography, New Delhi : S. Chand & Co.. Ltd.. 1977.  p.5.
  • Quoted in George Schneider, Theory of History of Bibliography. Ralph Robert Shaw, trans., New York : Scare Crow Press, 1934, p.13.
  • Funk Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English language – International ed – Vol. I – New York : Funku Wagnalls Co., C 1965, p. 135.
  • Shores, Louis. Basic reference sources. Chicago : American Library Association, 1954. p. 11-12.
  • Ranganathan, S.R., Documentation and its facts. Bombay : Asia Publishing House. 1963. p.49.
  • Katz, William A. Introduction to reference work. 4th ed. New York : McGraw Hill, 1982. V. 1, p.42.
  • Robinson, A.M.L. Systematic Bibliography. Bombay : Asia Publishing House, 1966. p.12.
  • Chakraborthi, M.L. Bibliography : In Theory and practice, Calcutta : The World press (P) Ltd.. 1975. p.343.

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National bibliography, bibliographic services.

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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Narrative

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5 Biblical Historiography as Traditional History

Raymond F. Person Jr., Ohio Northern University

  • Published: 10 December 2015
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Although generic distinctions existed in the ancient world, biblical scholars too often overemphasize the distinction between epic and history , neglecting how they have similarities as interpretations of the past. Ancient historiography was typically read aloud; therefore, biblical historiography (analogous to oral traditional epic) occurs in textual plurality and multiformity. Thus, biblical historiography is an example of what John Miles Foley calls “traditional history” (2010), which differs from “factual” history, but nevertheless can be understood as a “true” interpretation of the past. This chapter briefly surveys discussions concerning the supposed distinctions between epic and history and the portrayal of reading historiographical texts as oral performance in Greco-Roman culture and biblical texts (including Luke-Acts), before applying Foley’s notion of traditional history to Samuel-Kings//Chronicles as illustrated in a comparison of 2 Samuel 21:18–22//1 Chronicles 20:4–8.

Many biblical scholars draw sharp distinctions between epic and history , identifying epic with oral poetry and history with written prose. They also do not take seriously enough the characteristic of textual plurality for the biblical texts, thereby clinging to the anachronistic notion that there is an authoritative “original” text. They also fail to accept that biblical texts were produced in a primarily oral culture, thereby requiring public reading as their primary way of distribution, as well as how this realization requires serious revision to older notions about composition and transmission.

Drawing from oral traditions, I challenge these assumptions in relationship to biblical historiography. Although generic distinctions existed, we too often overemphasize the distinction between epic and history , neglecting how they have similarities as interpretations of the past. I will demonstrate that ancient historiography was typically read aloud, thereby also existing in multiforms. In this way, biblical historiography (analogous to oral traditional epic) occurs in textual plurality and multiformity and, although this undermines its “historical” value from our modern perspective, we should value ancient historiography on its own terms before trying to mine it for historical data. Thus, biblical historiography is an example of what John Miles Foley (2010) calls “traditional history,” which differs from “factual” history but nevertheless can be understood as a “true” interpretation of the past. I will briefly survey discussions concerning the supposed distinctions between epic and history and the portrayal of reading historiographical texts as oral performance in Greco-Roman culture and biblical texts, before applying Foley’s notion of traditional history to Samuel-Kings//Chronicles as illustrated in a comparison of 2 Samuel 21:18–22//1 Chronicles 20:4–8.

“Epic” and “History” as Narrative Genres in Ancient Literature

Older approaches tended to draw sharp distinctions between epic and history . For example, Frank Moore Cross (1973) argued that Genesis–2 Kings was a prose adaptation of earlier Hebrew oral epic (analogous to Ugaritic epic), fragments of which nevertheless exist (for example, Exod. 15). In contrast, John Van Seters (1983) insisted that Genesis–2 Kings came from a prose literary tradition of historiography (analogous to Herodotus) that was little influenced by any purported oral epic as a source. Despite their antithetical conclusions, both Cross and Van Seters drew sharp dichotomies between oral epic (poetry) and written historiography (prose), and such distinctions continue to influence biblical studies (for a review, see Thompson 2013 ; Penner 2003 ).

Although different genres existed, comparative evidence requires us to moderate these sharp distinctions between epic and history . The distinction between epic as poetry and historiography as prose is problematic in that in some cultures epic is prose ( Martin 2005 , 9) and history is poetic ( Levene and Nelis 2002 ; Miller and Woodman 2010 ). The distinction between epic as oral and historiography as written is also problematic, especially when we take into consideration the “interplay between the oral and the written in traditional cultures” ( Niditch 1996 , 4); that is, all ancient writing was composed and received within a primarily oral culture that necessitated public readings for any wide distribution of texts. Furthermore, comparative study strongly suggests that generic boundaries were easily traversed ( Wiseman 2002 ; see also Foley 2003 ; Martin 2005 ). Therefore, it should not be surprising that Genesis–2 Kings, for example, contains various genres—including creation stories, genealogies, victory songs, folktales, prophetic stories, and historical narratives.

Even though some distinction existed between epic and history , both were ways in which the ancients interpreted their present and near future in terms of reflecting on their past. Moreover, since both genres as we have them are written texts that nevertheless existed (especially then, but even now) in a state of textual plurality—that is, the existence of an original text that was determinative for all preceding texts was extremely rare in the ancient and medieval world (see Person 2015 )—epic and history as genres share some characteristics, most importantly multiformity.

As is evident in the study of oral traditions ( Lord 1960 ; Foley 2005 ), no single performance of an oral epic is exactly the same as another. Nevertheless, every performance can be an accurate re-performance of the tradition. Therefore, a significant characteristic of oral traditions and texts with roots in oral traditions is multiformity—that is, a high degree of flexibility within a tradition so that any one performance or written text draws from “a flexible plan of themes, some of which are essential and some of which are not” ( Lord 1960 , 99), rather than, as most biblical scholars still imagine, from a fixed “original” text, which is either replicated exactly or deviated from on the basis of intentional changes or unintentional errors ( Person 2010b ). In the next section, I will argue that ancient historiography as a genre for public performance shares with epic this characteristic of multiformity.

Ancient Historiography as Performance

Even if we define history in such a way that requires writing as its medium, we must understand how writing functioned within ancient societies. Within elite circles, written documents such as letters would have been read aloud by scribes. Moreover, some texts—including “long-duration texts like the Bible, Gilgamesh, or Homer’s works” ( Carr 2005 , 5)—would have functioned primarily as mnemonic aids with the primary locus for the texts being in the collective memory of the community (Carr 2008; Person 2011 ). In short, Niditch’s conclusion that “Israelite writing is set in an oral context” (1996, 88) applies well to most (if not all) ancient literature. In what follows I will provide additional support for this contention as it relates to ancient Israelite historiography by reviewing some recent studies of later historiography, specifically Greco-Roman historiography, including Luke-Acts. I will then discuss the Deuteronomic History and the book of Chronicles as historiographies, both of which include portrayals of public readings of written documents by leading characters, thereby suggesting the oral/aural setting for their public distribution.

Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz analyzed both Greek epigraphic evidence and classical literature and concluded that “historians, like rhapsodoi , logographers and sophists, were traveling performers” and that, “although historical works were written down and to a certain degree circulated as written texts from at least the fifth century bc , oral performance was still considered the best way to have one’s work widely known and historians were praised and honored because of their readings” ( Zelnick-Abramovitz 2014 , 177, 183). That is, even during the time of Herodotus, the best way for a historian to distribute his written histories was through public performances.

Zelnick-Abramovitz provides numerous examples; however, here I will cite only two, one from a literary text and one from an honorary inscription. Lucian wrote the following about Herodotus:

As soon as he had sailed for Greece from his home in Caria, he deliberated over the quickest and the least troublesome way of attaining fame and reputation for both himself and his works. He considered reading ( anagignōskein ) them while traveling around—now to Athens, now to Corinth or to Argos or Sparta by turns—a tedious and lengthy business that would waste much time … Waiting for the moment when the gathering (at Olympia) was at its fullest, one assembling the most eminent men from all Greece, he appeared in the temple hall, presenting himself not as a spectator but as a competitor in the Olympic games, singing ( aidōn ) his Histories and so bewitching his audience that his books were titled after the Muses, because they too were nine in number. (Lucian, Herodotus or Aëtion 1–3, quoted in Zelnick-Abramovitz 2014 , 176–177)

Although Lucian was writing centuries after Herodotus, his testimony of ancient historians publicly performing their texts finds support in earlier literary texts and in earlier epigraphic evidence, such as the following inscription honoring the third century bce historian Syriskos of Chersonesus: “Whereas Syriskos son of Herakleidas has diligently recorded and read out ( grapsas anegnō ) the epiphanies of Parthenos, has described in detail the (past acts of kindness) regarding the kings of Bosporos, and has given the People a fitting account of the past acts of kindness regarding the cities: so that he may receive the honor he deserves, the Council and the People have resolved to praise him on account of these things.” ( IOSPE I 2 344, quoted in Zelnick-Abramovitz 2014 , 179–180). Syriskos is honored for giving “the People a fitting account” through public recitation of his texts. Thus Zelnick-Abramovitz concluded that Greek historians’ primary way of distributing their written works was through public readings and that “in Hellenistic and Roman times most people still preferred listening to the recitation of historical works to reading them with their eyes” (183), even if they were literate.

Zelnick-Abramovitz makes a convincing argument concerning the oral transmission of historical knowledge and texts by public reading. She distinguishes between “two types of traveling historians,” (1) those like Herodotus, who wrote universal or regional histories and experienced widespread fame, and (2) local historians, whose works were more limited in scope and whose reputations were close to home (2014, 184). Nevertheless she concludes: “Local myths, stories and poems related to local cults, local historical traditions—all these served as the subject matter of works composed by these travelling historians” (185). Despite the difference between the Panhellenic culture represented by historians like Herodotus and the biblical historians, Zelnick-Abramovitz’s conclusions provide insights into biblical historiography as well, especially if we think of the biblical historians as more analogous to local historians.

Although she devotes little space to a discussion of multiformity, Zelnick-Abramovitz nevertheless ends her essay as follows: “No text is conceived as authoritative while still performed orally” (2014, 193). She argues that the ancient local histories were dynamic, responding to various needs of the audiences in ways somewhat analogous to today’s digital texts. Even if the historian used a written text for his performance, he may not have read every section of the text and may have paraphrased or elaborated extemporaneously; therefore, the presence of a physical text does not discount the characteristic of multiformity in oral performances.

Zelnick-Abramovitz’s examples span the time prior to and during which the New Testament was written; therefore, we should not be surprised to find that Luke-Acts reflects the cultural tradition of local historians. The author’s stated purpose is to “write an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us” (Luke 1:1), drawing from eyewitness accounts and previously written accounts (Luke 1:1–3). Certainly, one of the written sources behind Luke-Acts is the Jewish scriptures. In six passages (Luke 4:16; 10:26; Acts 8:28–32; 13:27; 15:21; 17:11) the author portrays the reading of texts; in each case, a character is reading aloud from the scriptures within the community of faith. Furthermore, the reading of biblical narratives about the community’s past is for the purpose of interpreting the present and near future. Jesus reads the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue and interprets it (Luke 4:16). When Jesus asks the lawyer what he “reads” in the law, the lawyer recites it (Luke 10:26–27). Philip overhears the Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah aloud, but the eunuch requires Philip’s interpretation to understand it (Acts 8:27–35). The “residents of Jerusalem” did not recognize John the Baptist because they did not “understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath” (Acts 13:27). “Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues” (Acts 15:21). The “Jews” in Beroea are more receptive to Paul and Silas’s preaching than are those in Thessalonica, because they “examined the scriptures every day” (Acts 17:11). Thus, in Luke-Acts, the scriptures—including law and prophecy—are narratives about the past that continue to inform their present by their performance within the community, which includes not only their being read aloud, but also their interpretation ( Weaver 2008 ).

Luke-Acts itself is this kind an interpretation of the past, as is clear in an analysis of the “we” passages (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18, 27:1–29; 28:1–16; Byrskog 2003 ). Early Christian texts were written to be read aloud ( Byrskog 2003 ; Shiner 2003 ; Shiell 2004 ). The “we” passages reflect this performative character of history. The “we” group is not clearly identified; nevertheless, the narrator/author is included in the “we” group as one of the “witnesses to Paul’s words and deeds” ( Byrskog 2003 , 262); and in oral performance the narrator/ lector and the hearers would probably also understand themselves as members of the “we” group rather than mere spectators of someone else’s story. That is, the “we” passages are a rhetorical device in Luke-Acts and the oral performance provided “a conceptual bridge between the now of the narrator and the then of Paul” ( Byrskog 2003 , 263).

Consistently in narratives of the Hebrew Bible the reading of the torah (“law,” “teaching,” “story,” “history”) is an oral performance that includes interpretation. Deuteronomy is imagined as Moses’s farewell speech to the Israelites in the wilderness (1:1; 32:45), containing not only his recitation of the law (12–26) but also his recounting of their recent history and exhortations not to repeat their past disobedient ways (1–11; 27–32). Joshua begins with the Lord commanding Joshua that “this book of the torah shall not depart out of your mouth” (1:8), so that Joshua is now responsible for the oral performance and interpretation of the torah (8:30–35). When the torah- scroll is rediscovered, Josiah reads it aloud to the people and reforms the cult according to his interpretation of the torah (2 Kings 22–23; 2 Chron. 34–35). Ezra reads the torah aloud and interprets it for the people with the help of the Levites (Neh. 8). Although Moses, Joshua, Josiah, and Ezra are depicted as text brokers of the written torah to the people, they do so in a way that is based on oral performance with interpretation, thereby strongly suggesting multiformity as a characteristic of their performances. Their interpretations of the torah are based on their historical circumstances and what the people need to hear in order to be obedient to God. Thus, the portrayal of how the torah is read (as “story” and/or “history”) within the historiographical works of both the Deuteronomic History and Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah suggests a model for how we should understand these competing historiographies ( Person 2010a , 2010b ), a model that explains not only the different sources behind Genesis–Deuteronomy but also the Temple Scroll and so-called Reworked Pentateuch of Qumran as Mosaic law ( Crawford 2008 ).

Biblical Historiography as Traditional Historiography

From our modern perspective of factual history, biblical historiography often falls short. Those texts that underwent more than one redaction (for example, Samuel-Kings) are generally understood to have been updated and revised for theological reasons. Those texts that are understood to have been produced later based on a source text (for example, Chronicles after Samuel-Kings or Luke after Mark) are generally understood as theological reinterpretations that move the text further from factual history. That is, both oral epic and biblical historiography are, for similar reasons, typically denigrated as historical data for modern research. I have argued that we too often overemphasize the differences between epic and history and that these two genres share some characteristics, including multiformity. In this section I assert that, analogous to oral epic, biblical historiography is also a form of traditional history, despite their generic differences.

Based on his comparison of Greek and Latin epic poetry and historiography, T. P. Wiseman (2002) concludes: “It is difficult for moderns to imagine a world in which prophecy, poetry, history and moral exhortation were not always thought of as separate conceptual categories” (359). In “Traditional History in South Slavic Oral Epic,” Foley (2010) helps us imagine that world. He notes that, because of our modern notions of factual history, “oral epic can only too easily fall victim to charges of inaccuracy, incompleteness, or even outright distortion” (347). Nevertheless, he insists that, when we set aside our much too positivistic notions of history, “oral epic can and does present a viable, functional view of history in its own right and on its own terms” (347)—that is, oral epic is a form of “traditionally constituted history and as cultural identity” (349) or, in short, “traditional history”. He illustrates oral epic as traditional history by quoting the South Slavic guslar Ibro Bašić. When asked if the traditional oral epics were true, Bašić responds:

It’s all truth, I think, yes … but there were, by God, all these things, and there were heroes, and in earlier times there were enough of them—horses and heroes and sabers, and so many things there were. It wasn’t then as it is today. ( Foley 2010 , 349)

If we take oral poets at their word, we must acknowledge that their understanding of the past differs from ours; nevertheless, it is their version of history.

Within this historical model, tradition-bearers and -owners express long-standing beliefs and points of view in their own culture’s terms and for this own culture’s purposes. From the perspective of modern, textualized history … this brand of interpretation may seem false; it may appear to lack distance, to suffer from the interposition of a distorting lens, to fall victim to subjectivity. But on the positive side of the ledger, traditional history as encoded in oral epic boasts an immediacy, adaptability, and continuity that conventional history cannot match. Narrators and consumers of traditional history may often come into conflict with outsiders who claim a different truth, but for the purposes of the involved group that is a phenomenon as insignificant as it is inevitable. The role of traditional history is to serve as a charter for group identity, not to try to escape or explain away the built-in ideological blindspots from which, to one extent or another, all history suffers. ( Foley 2010 , 355–356)

In “Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact,” psychologist Keith Oatley (1999) distinguishes between three kinds of truth: “truth as empirical correspondence,” “truth as coherence within complex structures,” and “truth as personal relevance” (103). Noting that most psychology is only interested in the first kind of truth, “empirical correspondence,” he criticizes the lack of the psychological study of fiction because “fiction can be twice as true as fact” (103)—that is, fiction contributes to “truth as coherence within complex structures” and “truth as personal relevance.” When we apply Oatley’s observation to Foley’s discussion of traditional history, we can see how modern notions of history differ from traditional history. Our modern notions (at least in theory) evaluate historiography on the basis of the “truth as empirical correspondence” with what “actually” happened (as we reconstruct it); whereas traditional history promotes all three kinds of truth. So, for example, Bašić’s notion of truth includes “horses and heroes and sabers” that at some level correspond with what “actually” happened during the Ottoman Empire, but these are presented in ways analogous to “fiction” so as to put forward a coherent interpretation of the past that provides for personal and communal identity in Bašić’s present. In that sense, then, traditional history can be twice as true as modern history.

Interestingly, modern historiography includes a “new” method that moves modern history in the direction of traditional history—that is, the growing prominence of oral history as an approach by historians of the modern period. “Oral evidence, by transforming the ‘objects’ of study into ‘subjects,’ makes for a history which is not just richer, more vivid, and heart-rendering, but truer” (Thompson 2000, 117; see also Byrskop 2003, 275–279). Thus, Foley’s “traditional history,” Oatley’s “fiction,” and Thompson’s “oral history” all share characteristics such as “immediacy, adaptability, and continuity” ( Foley 2010 , 356), which make the interpretations of reality in these narratives truer in that they more easily provide the “coherence within complex structures” that can further provide “personal [and communal] relevance” (Oatley 1999, 103). This relevance serves as “a charter for group identity” ( Foley 2010 , 356). Of course, this does not mean that we as modern historians should completely abandon seeking “truth as empirical correspondence”; but, as Thompson noted for the method of oral history, we must do so being more aware of how our “subjects” have interpreted their past in ways that may differ from our own notions of historiography, which, as Foley argued, includes our allowing them to define their own notions of history as part of our own historical data.

In his satirical How Should One Write History , the rhetorician Lucian wrote the following:

The task of the historian is similar: to give a fine arrangement to events and illuminate them as vividly as possible. And when a man who has heard him thinks thereafter that he is actually seeing what is being described and then praises him—then it is that the work of our Phidias of history is perfect and has received its proper praise. (Loeb Classical Library translation; quoted in Zelnick-Abramovitz 2014 , 182)

Thus, Lucian’s notion of “history” is “traditional history” in which historical events are arranged in ways that will bring honor to the historian when he performs his history orally in ways that moves his audience emotionally and strengthens their group identity.

Reading Samuel-Kings and Chronicles as Faithful Performances of Traditional History

Elsewhere ( Person 2010a , 2011 , 2015 ) I have argued that the Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles were competing contemporary historiographies and that, when we take both the textual plurality in which they exist and the multiformity within and between these two works seriously, we can conclude that they are both faithful representations of the broader tradition, so that the ancients may not have understood them as containing much in the way of theological divergences. Our modern obsession with carefully comparing their differing minutiae leads us to reconstructing theological differences where none may have existed. Here I build on those arguments by insisting that, as examples of biblical historiography, both the Samuel-Kings and Chronicles are forms of traditional history and should be read as such, so that before we attempt any possible historical reconstruction that may draw from these ancient historiographies, we have a better understanding of how the ancient authors/lectors and readers/hearers understood these literary works on their own terms. I will illustrate this approach by discussing 2 Samuel 21:18–22//1 Chronicles 20:4–8, which I translate as follows:

I should note that the above synopsis simplifies the complexity of relationship between these passages. For example, if I had included another column (for example, LXX 2 Sam. 21:18–21), the complexity would have increased. Nevertheless, a comparison of the two passages from the Masoretic Text (MT) should suffice for our present purposes.

The consensus model interprets Chronicles as a late rewriting of Samuel-Kings; therefore, changes made to Samuel-Kings in the text of Chronicles (“additions,” “omissions,” and “substitutions”) reveal the Chronicler’s theological themes, such as the idealization of David. This passage occurs within a section of Chronicles in which various “omissions”—for example, the rape of Tamar, Amnon’s murder, and the civil war between David and Absalom (2 Sam. 13–20)—are explained as the Chronicler’s minimizing the passages that question David’s character (for example, Knoppers 2004 , 737; Klein 2006 , 410). Since I deal with the consensus model’s general approach more fully elsewhere ( Person 2010a ), here I will focus on two discrepancies between 2 Samuel 21:18–22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4–8: (1) the difference between Gob (2 Sam. 21:18–19) and Gezer (1 Chron. 20:4–5) as the location of one of the battles, and (2) the difference between Elhanan killing Goliath (2 Sam. 21:19) or Lahmi, Goliath’s brother (1 Chron. 20:5), and then look at how the consensus model’s interpretation of these discrepancies tends to read them from our modern perspective of factual history, rather than as traditional history.

Despite their suspicion of using either Samuel-Kings or Chronicles as historically reliable sources (for example, in this passage the “epic-like” description of the opponents as giants), scholars within the consensus model still address these discrepancies from a perspective of factual history. Concerning the Chronicler’s “substitution” of Gob with Gezer, Sara Japhet (1993) writes: “Chronicles locates this first combat at ‘Gezer’, a geographically plausible replacement for Gob, found only in II Sam. 21.18, 19. However, according to 1 Kings 9.16, Gezer was at the time a Canaanite, not a Philistine, city” (367). Given “truth as empirical correspondence,” the replacement of “Gezer” for “Gob” is “geographically plausible” but historically implausible next to the purportedly earlier and more reliable account in 1 Kings 9:16. Therefore, Gezer should be rejected as historical data. When discussing the Chronicler’s “substitution” of Goliath with Lahmi, Goliath’s brother, commentators typically discuss these parallel passages in combination with 1 Samuel 17–18, the better-known story of David and Goliath. That is, even within Samuel, the story of the killing of Goliath occurs in multiforms, first in that MT 1 Samuel 17–18 is a conflation of two stories of David and Goliath (see Person 2010a , 74–78), in both of which David kills Goliath, and second, in 2 Samuel 21:19 in which Elhanan kills Goliath. The typical resolution of these inconsistencies assumes a linear model of textual production, which is more consistent with our modern notion of factual history based on empirical correspondence, and in which the original story of Elhanan the Bethlehemite killing the giant Goliath is transferred to the more famous Bethlehemite, David ( McCarter 1984 , 449–450; Japhet 1993 , 367–369; Knoppers 2004 , 736; Klein 2006 , 412). The following quote from Japhet illustrates this approach well:

The existence of two parallel traditions for such a crucial incident should not surprise us; a problem arises only when these traditions are pressed into service as historical sources for the reconstruction of the period. In this case, only one of them can be authentic, but a rejection of either tradition greatly weakens the reliability of the material in general. ( Japhet 1993 , 368)

Japhet then reviews the two typical approaches to overcome this historical problem. First, some ancient and modern commentators have argued that Elhanan and David are names/titles for the same person, thereby eliminating the inconsistency. Second, some “create maximum differentiation between the two traditions, emphasizing their independence” ( Japhet 1993 , 368), including the Chronicler, who changed the name of the giant Elhanan killed from Goliath to Lahmi, Goliath’s brother. Interestingly, both options assume that “truth as empirical correspondence” is determinative so that both solutions solve the lack of correspondence, thereby making them more reliable.

Another possible solution would be to read these accounts in their multiformity as traditional history—that is, in such a way that does not emphasize “truth as empirical correspondence” over “truth as coherence within complex structures” and “truth as personal [and communal] relevance.” Rather than determining one version as more plausible, we should try to understand how all of the versions were plausible to (at least some of) the ancients, even if this means setting aside the notion of factual history in order to understand the ancient notion of history. Does the exact location of the battle really matter in terms of providing an explanation of David’s rise to power according to God’s favor? Does it really matter exactly who killed what giant as long as they all are killed “by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants” (2 Sam. 21:22//1 Chron. 20:8)? If Elhanan is one of David’s servants, then does David not gain some glory by the bravery of his servants in ways that it really does not matter exactly who did what in terms of providing for a communal identity connected to the past glory of David’s reign? Even within Samuel itself we have multiforms in relationship to the battle with Goliath. Why, then, should we read Chronicles privileging Samuel as its theological and historical foundation based on some assumption of linear textual development that generally moves us further from the factual history behind an original text? It seems to me that if we truly want to read these ancient texts on their own terms, we must accept them as traditional history, taking seriously the textual plurality in which they exist and the multiformity found within them individually and between them collectively. Although this perspective may complicate our use of these texts as historical data for our own modern historiographies, it does not necessarily deny their use in these ways. In fact, understanding ancient texts on their own terms must be the first step toward putting them to other such uses.

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In Congress and on Campuses, ‘From the River to the Sea’ Inflames Debate

The pro-Palestinian rallying cry has become a fixture of protests in the United States and was a focus of the congressional censure of Representative Rashida Tlaib. It has a fraught history.

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Representative Rashida Tlaib wearing a purple blazer and black shirt. She is holding a candle.

By Karoun Demirjian and Liam Stack

Reporting from Washington and New York

When House Republicans and a solid bloc of Democrats banded together this week to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, for her statements about the Israel-Gaza war, they homed in on her embrace and defense of one pro-Palestinian slogan they called unacceptable: “from the river to the sea.”

The official congressional rebuke of Ms. Tlaib , the only Palestinian American in Congress, said the phrase was “widely recognized as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel.” The top White House spokeswoman disavowed it from the West Wing, saying that it was “divisive” and that many considered it hurtful and antisemitic.

The phrase, which Ms. Tlaib has defended as “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate” has not only become a flashpoint for dispute in Washington; it has echoed across college campuses and in cities throughout the country in recent weeks as pro-Palestinian activists protest the heavy civilian toll of Israel’s war against Hamas. The slogan has prompted charges of antisemitism and fueled an increasingly bitter debate over the conflict, its root causes and how it should be waged — and what position the United States should be taking as it rages on.

The decades-old phrase has a complicated back story that has led to radically different interpretations by Israelis and Palestinians, and by Americans who support them.

“The reason why this term is so hotly disputed is because it means different things to different people,” said Dov Waxman, a professor of Israel studies at the University of California in Los Angeles, adding that “the conflicting interpretations have kind of grown over time.”

The phrase “from the river to the sea” — or in Arabic, “min al-nahr ila al-bahr” — dates to the dawn of the Palestinian nationalist movement in the early 1960s, about a quarter century before Hamas came into existence. It gained popularity within the Palestine Liberation Organization, or P.L.O., as a call for returning to the borders under British control of Palestine, where Jews and Arabs had both lived before the creation of Israel as a Jewish state in 1948.

The slogan reflects the geography of that original claim: Israel spans the narrow stretch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. But the phrase’s popularity persisted even as territorial claims shifted, after the P.L.O. entered peace negotiations in the 1990s, formally recognizing Israel’s right to exist and coming to governance through the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

For many Palestinians, the phrase now has a dual meaning, representing their desire for a right of return to the towns and villages from which their families were expelled in 1948, as well as their hope for an independent Palestinian state, incorporating the West Bank, which abuts the Jordan River, and the Gaza Strip, which hugs the coastline of the Mediterranean.

“When they’re using that phrase, it’s a very personal one for them,” said Maha Nassar, an associate professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Arizona. “They’re saying, ‘I identify with my ancestral home in Palestine, even if it’s not on a map today.’”

“Also, it’s an insistence on Palestinians and Palestine being unified,” she added.

But the phrase has also been adopted over the years by Hamas, which calls for the annihilation of Israel, taking on a darker meaning that has long shaped the way in which it is received.

That has only intensified in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which the group killed more than 1,400 civilians and soldiers, the largest single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust, and took hundreds of others hostage. Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas, says that more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes since.

“It is an antisemitic charge denying the Jewish right to self-determination, including through the removal of Jews from their ancestral homeland,” according to the Anti-Defamation League .

In a post on X this week, the A.D.L., a Jewish advocacy group that fights antisemitism and discrimination, wrote: “‘From the River to the Sea’ is a Hamas call to annihilate Israel,” adding that “claiming it is a rally of coexistence gives cover to terror.”

Many members of Congress, including dozens of Democrats, endorsed a similar view this week as they condemned Ms. Tlaib for her comments.

The slogan does not appear in Hamas’s founding covenant from 1988, which pledges “to confront the Zionist invasion and defeat it,” not just in historic Palestinian territory, but worldwide. It is featured, however, in a section of the group’s revised platform from 2017. In the same paragraph, Hamas indicates it could accept a Palestinian state along the borders that were in place before the 1967 war — the same borders considered under the Oslo Accords.

Still, Hamas’s firm commitment not to recognize Israel under any conditions has solidified the impression to critics that whoever repeats the slogan is participating in a rallying cry for the destruction of Israel — and by extension, of the Jewish people as well.

“The phrase ‘Palestine will be free from the river to the sea’ suggests a vision of the future without a Jewish state, but it does not answer the question of what the role of Jews would be,” said Peter Beinart, a professor at the City University of New York. He added that the meaning of the phrase, however, “depends on the context.”

“If it’s coming from an armed Hamas member, then yes, I would feel threatened,” said Professor Beinart, who is Jewish. “If it is coming from someone who I know has a vision of equality and mutual liberation, then no, I would not feel threatened.”

Many Palestinians have been dismayed over the outrage about the slogan, which they regard as the result of an orchestrated effort by groups like the A.D.L. to impugn the motives of Palestinians as a means of undermining their cause of statehood and silencing them.

“It is perfectly possible for both people to be free between the river and the sea,” Ahmad Khalidi, a researcher at Oxford University who worked on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations during the 1990s, said of Palestinians and Jews. “Is ‘free’ necessarily in itself genocidal? I think any reasonable person would say no. Does it preclude the fact that the Jewish population in the area between the sea and the river cannot also be free? I think any reasonable person would also say no.”

Mr. Khalidi pointed out that Israel’s Likud party, which is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embraced a similar slogan in its original 1977 platform , which stated that, “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.” That phrase also could be seen “as having a malign intent,” he said.

Likud has since dropped the phrase, though the party has opposed a two-state solution in which Palestinians would have a recognized state alongside Israel. And in 2018, Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition pushed through a law that enshrined the right of national self-determination in Israel as “unique to the Jewish people.”

Liam Stack is a religion correspondent on the Metro desk, covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He was previously a political reporter based in New York and a Middle East correspondent based in Cairo. More about Liam Stack

Letters to the Editor: What the 1828 dictionary definition of ‘insurrection’ means for Trump

Then-President Trump speaks outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021.

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To the editor: I possess a copy of Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary of American English, one of the few dictionaries available when the 14th Amendment [adopted in 1868] was written. (“ Can Trump be on the ballot in 2024? It can hinge on the meaning of ‘insurrection,’ ” Nov. 3)

It defines “insurrection” clearly, accurately, and authentically, as it was meant at the time:

“A rising against civil or political authority; the open and active opposition of a number of persons to the execution of law in a city or state. It is equivalent to sedition, except that sedition expresses a less extensive rising of citizens. It differs from rebellion, for the latter expresses a revolt, or an attempt to overthrow the government, to establish a different one or to place the country under another jurisdiction. It differs from mutiny, as it respects the civil or political government; whereas a mutiny is an open opposition to law in the army or navy. Insurrection is however used with such latitude as to comprehend either sedition or rebellion.”

The last sentence is important. It shows that the scope of insurrection is very broad. It includes insurrection itself, sedition or rebellion.

The lawyers on both sides of the argument over whether the 14th Amendment bars former President Trump from appearing on the ballot appear to be making up what they want “insurrection” to mean, whereas this dictionary clearly, accurately and authentically states its meaning at the time.

Let’s please insist that the lawyers adhere to the authentic and broad definition.

Wayne Howe, Irvine

To the editor: The 14th Amendment cites “insurrection or rebellion” as violations of the U.S. Constitution. As president, Trump took the oath to “protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Trump violated his oath by attempting to subvert the transition of office to President Biden, thus committing a rebellion against the Constitution.

Trump was informed by his U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director that the 2020 election was the most secure in history. Trump’s attorney general at the time informed him there was no voter fraud that would overturn the election.

Notwithstanding being so informed, over the past three years Trump has claimed through the media, public appearances and rallies that the election was rigged and stolen from him by widespread voter fraud.

Trump’s acts of constitutional rebellion are contained in the Department of Justice and Georgia indictments. Those charges more than justify Trump’s disqualification from the 2024 election.

Joseph S. Avila, Montebello

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FILE - Demonstrators march and gather near the Texas state Capitol in Austin following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. A federal judge in Texas issued a ruling on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, temporarily blocking the federal government from enforcing guidance against the state that requires hospitals to provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

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Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands as Bill Clinton gestures expansively

What are the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Recent events are the culmination of a decades-long clash in the disputed region of the Middle East

  • Israel and Palestine: a complete guide to the crisis

As with almost everything to do with this conflict, it depends on whom you ask. Some will begin with the Romans. Others will start with the late 19th-century Jewish migration to what was then the Ottoman Empire – to escape the pogroms and other persecutions in eastern Europe – and the rise of Zionism. Or the Balfour declaration by the British government in 1917 in support of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine and the ensuing conflicts with Arab communities there.

But the starting point for many people is the United Nations’ vote in 1947 to partition land in the British mandate of Palestine into two states – one Jewish, one Arab – following the destruction of much of European Jewry in the Holocaust.

Neither the Palestinians nor the neighbouring Arab countries accepted the founding of modern Israel . Fighting between Jewish armed groups, some of which the British regarded as terrorist organisations, and Palestinians escalated until the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan and Syria invaded after Israel declared independence in May 1948.

With Israel’s new army gaining ground, an armistice agreement in 1949 saw new de facto borders that gave the fledgling Jewish state considerably more territory than it was awarded under the UN partition plan.

What happened to the Palestinians who were living there?

About 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled – about 85% of the Arab population of the territory captured by Israel – and were never allowed to return. Palestinians called the exodus and eradication of much of their society inside Israel the Nakba , or “catastrophe”, and it remains the traumatic event at the heart of their modern history.

Arabs who remained in Israel as citizens were subject to official discrimination. They were placed under military rule for nearly two decades, which deprived them of many basic civil rights. Much of their land was expropriated and Arab Israeli communities were deliberately kept poor and underfunded.

What is the Palestine Liberation Organisation?

In 1964, a coalition of Palestinian groups founded the Palestine Liberation Organisation under the leadership of Yasser Arafat to pursue armed struggle and establish an Arab state in place of Israel. The PLO drew international attention to its cause with high-profile attacks and hijackings.

How did the occupied Palestinian territories become occupied?

In 1967 Israel launched what it said was a pre-emptive defensive war against Jordan, Egypt and Syria , as they appeared to be preparing to invade. The attack caught Arab governments by surprise and saw Israel achieve rapid victories including seizing the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.

The six-day war was a spectacular military success for Israel. Its capture of all of Jerusalem and newly acquired control over the biblical lands called Judea and Samaria opened the way to the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which became central to the conflict. Israel placed the Arab population of the West Bank under military rule, which is enforced to this day.

When did Hamas enter the picture?

The PLO was a generally secular organisation modelled on other leftwing guerrilla movements of the time, although most of its supporters were Muslim.

A boy stands behind a portrait of a man.

Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood had previously avoided armed conflict and were largely dedicated to working for a more religious society. But that position shifted under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin , a charismatic quadriplegic living in Gaza who helped found several Islamist organisations in Gaza including Mujama al-Islamiya, which won support by establishing a network of social services including schools, clinics and a library.

Shortly after the outbreak of the first intifada, Yassin used support for Mujama al-Islamiya as the foundation for the formation of Hamas in 1987 in alliance with other Islamists.

Israel has always denied encouraging the rise of the Islamist movement in Gaza but it saw the groups as a way of undermining support for the PLO and recognised Mujama al-Islamiya as a charity, allowing it to operate freely and build support. Israel also approved the creation of the Islamic University of Gaza, which became a breeding ground of support for Hamas.

What was the first intifada?

Israel regarded the Palestinian population under its control as largely quiescent even as it went on expanding Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank and expropriating Arab land. Palestinians were also treated as a cheap source of largely manual labour inside Israel.

That illusion was shattered in 1987 as young Palestinians rose up. The uprising was marked by mass stone throwing. The Israeli army responded with large-scale arrests and collective punishments.

The intifada is largely recognised as a success for the Palestinians, helping to solidify their identity independently of neighbouring Arab states and forcing Israel into negotiations. It also strengthened Arafat’s hand to make compromises with Israel, including adopting the principle of a two-state solution.

Whatever happened to the peace process?

As the first intifada wound down in 1993, the Oslo peace process started with secret talks between Israel and the PLO. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, signed an agreement with Arafat aimed at fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” although Rabin did not accept the principle of a Palestinian state.

The Oslo accords established the Palestinian National Authority, granting limited self-governance over patches of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Further negotiations were intended to resolve issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the future of the Israeli settlements and the right of return for the millions of Palestinians still classified as refugees after their forebears were never permitted to return to their homes.

Some prominent Palestinians regarded the accords as a form of surrender while rightwing Israelis opposed giving up settlements or territory.

Among Israelis, the political charge against Oslo was led by the future prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu , who fronted rallies at which Rabin was portrayed as a Nazi. Rabin’s widow blamed the two men for her husband’s assassination by an ultranationalist Israeli in 1995.

What caused the second intifada?

Peace negotiations sputtered along until the failure of Bill Clinton’s attempts to broker a final deal at Camp David in 2000, which contributed to the outbreak of the second intifada . The uprising was markedly different from the first intifada because of widespread suicide bombings against Israeli civilians launched by Hamas and other groups, and the scale of Israeli military retaliation.

By the time the uprising ended in 2005, more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis were dead.

The political ramifications of the intifada were significant. It led to a hardening of attitudes among ordinary Israelis and the construction of the West Bank barrier. But it also prompted the prime minister Ariel Sharon to say that Israel could not go on occupying the Palestinians’ territory – although he did not say that the alternative was an independent Palestinian state.

Is Gaza still occupied?

One consequence of the second intifada was Sharon’s decision to “disengage” from the Palestinians beginning in 2005 with the closing of Israeli settlements in Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. It is not clear how much further Sharon would have gone with this policy as he had a stroke and went into a coma the following year.

The status of Gaza since the disengagement remains disputed. Israel says it is no longer occupied. The United Nations says otherwise because of Israel’s continued control of airspace and territorial waters, and also access into the territory, along with Egypt. Israeli has also blockaded the enclave since Hamas came to power in 2006.

In addition, many Palestinians in Gaza do not see themselves as a separate entity from the rest of their territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and so argue that as a whole they remain occupied.

Why does Hamas control Gaza?

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections in part because of a backlash against the corruption and political stagnation of the ruling Fatah party. The Hamas leader Ismail Haniya was appointed prime minister. Israel began arresting Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and imposed sanctions against Gaza.

Deteriorating relations between Hamas and Fatah resulted in violence. An agreement to form a national unity government fell apart and Hamas led an armed takeover of Gaza while Fatah continued to control the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. There have been no elections since.

Hamas has continued to attack Israel from Gaza, mostly using rockets until the latest ground incursion. Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the territory which has contributed to deteriorating living conditions and deepening poverty.

Where are we now?

Although western governments still pay lip service to a two-state solution, there has been no progress toward an agreement under Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu , who has repeatedly said he will never accept a Palestinian state.

His present government includes far-right parties that openly advocate the annexation of all or part of the West Bank to Israel and the continued governance of the Palestinians without full rights or the vote. Israeli and foreign human rights groups say Israel has increasingly carved out a form of apartheid in the occupied territories.

The killing by Hamas of more than 1,400 people in Israel, and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which Palestinian authorities say have killed more than 10,000 people, have moved the conflict into uncharted territory.

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Rashida Tlaib censured by Congress. What does censure mean?

By Kathryn Watson

Updated on: November 8, 2023 / 3:42 PM EST / CBS News

In bipartisan fashion, the House of Representatives voted to censure Michigan's Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib as she continued to defend comments widely considered as calling for Israel's elimination. 

Twenty-two Democrats joined Republicans in a 234-188 vote late Tuesday , after Tlaib — the only Palestinian-American member of Congress — posted a video of Michigan protesters chanting "from the river to the sea," part of a chant condemned by Jewish groups and the Anti-Defamation Legue as antisemitic. 

But what does it mean to be censured in the House of Representatives and what effect does it have?

What is a censure?

A censure, according to the U.S. House , is a form of rebuke that "registers the House's deep disapproval of member misconduct that, nevertheless, does not meet the threshold for expulsion." 

Generally, a censure is a condemnation of a member's actions, statements or a combination of the two. It requires only a majority of members of the House to pass. 

Upon approval by the majority, the censured lawmaker is supposed to stand in the well of the House chamber while the presiding officer reads the censure resolution. Tlaib was not required to stand in the well

A censure is viewed as more serious than a "reprimand," which is another resolution House members can bring to the floor to punish fellow members. 

Does censure come with any punishment?

No. A censure doesn't result in the removal of a member from any committees or hamper his or her authority as a lawmaker in any way. 

What is the history of censure in Congress?

Twenty-six members have been censured in the history of the House after Tlaib's censure, for everything from bribery to sexual misconduct with a House page.

In 2021, for instance, GOP Rep. Paul Gosar was censured for posting an anime video depicting himself killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Biden. 

Democrats tried to censure Rep. George Santos , who has been charged with conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, falsification of records, aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud. The effort failed. 

The first censure ever recorded was of Rep. William Stanbery in 1832 for insulting then-House Speaker Andrew Stevenson during a floor debate. The insult? Stanbery said that the speaker's eye might be "too frequently turned from the chair you occupy toward the White House." 

Only five House members have ever been expelled, a move that requires two-thirds support.

— Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report 


Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital based in Washington, D.C.

More from CBS News

Rep. Angie Craig says she voted for censure because Rep. Rashida Tlaib "continues to promote disinformation"

Michigan GOP senators urge Rep. Rashida Tlaib to resign

Jewish students at Tufts fear for their safety after Pro-Palestinian rally

Congress no closer to funding government before shutdown deadline


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    bibliography: [noun] the history, identification, or description of writings or publications.

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