God's Own Country

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God’s Own Country, is a phrase meaning an area, region or country supposedly favoured by God, that was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland,[1] and has subsequently been used to refer to various places, including Australia, Canada, England (Cornwall, Surrey, Yorkshire, Northumberland), United States, New Zealand, Indian state of Kerala, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Term uses[edit]


Wicklow Mountains

The expression was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland by the Georgian British writer Edward du Bois, writing under the pseudonym "A Knight Errant" in 1807.[2]


When used in reference to England, "God's own country" refers to the legend that as a boy Jesus of Nazareth visited England with his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.[3] The event itself inspiring the musical prelude to William Blake's "Milton", the piece And did those feet in ancient time also known as 'Jerusalem' which has become an unofficial anthem of England.[4] The poem asks did Jesus visit England in ancient times, and in so doing created the New Jerusalem, or heaven in England.[5]

Another first usage of the term by Edward du Bois was in a poem describing the English county of Surrey in 1839.[6] The phrase was also used in its more literal meaning to refer to Heaven, in a poem by Elizabeth Harcourt Rolls Mitchell in 1857.[7]

The phrase is also used to describe Yorkshire, England's largest county.[8][9][10] This is used interchangeably with God's Own County.[11][12][13][14]

United States[edit]

The phrase later found sporadic use to describe several American regions. Most known is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was also used by the Confederate army to describe parts of Tennessee in the 1860s.[15] The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s,[16] and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains.[17] None of these remain widely used to describe a region, though it is still occasionally used to describe the United States overall.[18][19]

During World War II, German Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels sarcastically mocked the USA as "Aus Gottes eigenem Land" (From God's Own Country) in an essay that appeared in the German newspaper Das Reich on August 9, 1942.[20] Goebbels ridiculed America as a young land that lacked culture, education and history in contrast with Germany. In 1943, the Nazis published an anti-American, anti-semitic propaganda book written by Erwin Berghaus called "USA - nackt!: Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land" (USA naked! Photo documents from God's own country) which also mockingly characterized the USA with the phrase.[21][22] Several modern German newspapers such as Die Welt, Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit have also used the phrase "Gottes eigenes Land" (God's own country) to criticize American culture and society.[23][24][25]

New Zealand[edit]

The earliest recorded use of the phrase as applied to New Zealand was as the title of a poem about New Zealand written by Thomas Bracken.[26] It was published in a book of his poems in 1890, and again in 1893 in a book entitled Lays and Lyrics: God's Own Country and Other Poems.[27] God's Own Country as a phrase was often used and popularised by New Zealand's longest serving prime minister, Richard John Seddon. He last quoted it on 10 June 1906 when he sent a telegram to the Victorian premier, Thomas Bent, the day before leaving Sydney to return home to New Zealand. "Just leaving for God's own country," he wrote. He never made it, dying the next day on the ship Oswestry Grange.[28] Bracken's God's Own Country is less well known internationally than God Defend New Zealand which he published in 1876. The latter poem, set to music by John Joseph Woods, was declared the country's national hymn in 1940, and made the second national anthem of New Zealand along with God Save the Queen in 1977.


In Australia, the phrase "God's own country" was often used to describe the country in the early 1900s, but it appears to have gradually fallen out of favour.[29] The phrase "God's Country" is often used to describe Queensland[30][31][32] and the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney[33]


Kerala tourism logo.

Kerala is a state in south India; the phrase was adopted by the tourism department of the state's government in the 1980s. Kerala is famous for its Ayurvedic treatments, high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys, lush and evergreen rain forests, coconut palms, backwaters, and food items. According to Hindu mythology, Kerala was created by Lord Parashurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu by throwing his axe across the sea to create new land for his devotees to live peacefully, hence the expression.[34][35]


The phrase "God's own country" was heard during the 1970s in Rhodesia (formerly: Southern Rhodesia, now: Zimbabwe), where most people perceived the land as beautiful despite the ongoing Bush War of the time. Evidence of the phrase being used earlier in reference to Rhodesia is found in Chartered Millions: Rhodesia and the Challenge to the British Commonwealth by John Hobbis Harris, published 1920 by Swarthmore Press (refer to page 27). The phrase "Godzone" is distinctly different and was not used in Rhodesia.


  1. ^ "God's Own Country, Godzone and Good Old New Zealand". Godzone.com. 2 November 2015.
  2. ^ Du Bois, E. (1805) My pocket book: or, Hints for "A ryghte merrie and conceitede" tour by "A Knight Errant", p. 23. Google Books.
  3. ^ "The strange myth about Jesus coming to England". 23 April 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  4. ^ "English national anthem: Is Jerusalem the hymn we've been looking for?". 9 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Analysis of Jerusalem by William Blake". 29 December 2015.
  6. ^ Hone, W. (ed) (1839) The year book, of daily recreation & information, p. 469. Google Books.
  7. ^ Mitchell, E.H.R. "To The memory of J.C.S." in First Fruits: Poems, p. 79. Google books.
  8. ^ Ward, David (24 October 2007). "An ark park for God's own country". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  9. ^ Duncan, Hannah (10 August 2012). "Yorkshire back up to 12th in Olympic medal table after Nicola Adams's gold". Metro. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  10. ^ "Yorkshire 10th in Olympic medal table". Yahoo Eurosport. 6 August 2012. Archived from the original on 11 August 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  11. ^ "God's own county". London: Guardian Unlimited. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  12. ^ "What's so special about Yorkshire?". BBC News. 1 August 2006.
  13. ^ "Ee bah gum! If Yorkshire was a country, it would be higher in the Olympic medal table than South Africa, Japan and Australia". Daily Mail. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  14. ^ Rushby, Kevin (3 September 2013). "Yorkshire - God's own country is the best place in Europe". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  15. ^ Loring, F.W., and Atkinson, C.F. (1869) Cotton culture and the South considered with reference to emigration, p. 71. Google Books.
  16. ^ Annual report of the State Board of Agriculture, Volume 4, Missouri State Board of Agriculture 1869, p. 468. Google Books.
  17. ^ Speeches, arguments, addresses, and letters of Clement L. Vallandigham 1864, p. 211. Google Books.
  18. ^ For example, in the title of Stephen Bates' book God's Own Country: Power and Religion in the USA: Religion and Politics in the USA.
  19. ^ Christopher Hitchens (30 September 1998). "Rushdie: Free at last". salon.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  20. ^ Bytwerk, Randall. "Goebbels on the USA (1942)". research.calvin.edu. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  21. ^ Berghaus, Erwin (2 April 2018). "USA - nackt! Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land". Bischoff. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Open WorldCat.
  22. ^ "very rare 1943 anti-Semitic / anti-American Third Reich photo book". www.od43.com. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  23. ^ Stein, Hannes (15 July 2013). "Martin-Prozess: Die Rassismus-Frage in Obamas Amerika". Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via www.welt.de.
  24. ^ "Gottes eigenes Land". 3 September 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Tagesspiegel.
  25. ^ Groß, Th (15 May 2003). "Musik: Wie gut, dass es das Böse gibt". Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Die Zeit.
  26. ^ "Dictionary of Australian Biography Br-By". gutenberg.net.au. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Dictionary Of New Zealand Biography". dnzb.govt.nz. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  28. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). archive.org. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  29. ^ "God's Own Country", A Word Picture of Australia
  30. ^ ""TRULY GOD'S OWN COUNTRY"". 27 June 1938. p. 5 – via Trove.
  31. ^ "Great driving holidays - Brisbane to Townsville (Qld) - DriveNow Blog". 27 March 2010.
  32. ^ Birchley, Delia (23 April 1986). "God's own country : the Johnstone Shire story". Bowen Hills, Qld. : Boolarong Publications – via Trove.
  33. ^ ".: The Australian Route Register :". www.climb.org.au. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  34. ^ "How Kerala became God's Own Country". The Hindu. 2008-11-20. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  35. ^ "God's Own Country Kerala - Best Tourist Places in Kerala". keralaaffairs.com. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2018.

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