Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-xbgml Total loading time: 0.318 Render date: 2022-08-16T19:30:44.514Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

4 - Antisemitism, conspiracy culture, Christianity, and Islam: the history and contemporary religious significance of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Christopher Partridge
Professor of Religion Lancaster University; Co-director of the Research Centre for Religion and Popular Culture
Ron Geaves
Professor of Religious Studies University of Chester
James R. Lewis
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Olav Hammer
University of Southern Denmark
Get access


“One of the most important forgeries of modern times.” In 1939 the French scholar of antisemitism, Henri Rollin, concluded that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was probably the most widely distributed book in the world after the Bible. Indeed, there are few languages, including Hebrew, into which it has not been translated. Moreover, “its distribution was accompanied by a mountain of secondary literature comprising well more than one thousand titles.” The Protocols is, as Norman Cohn has argued, “the supreme expression and vehicle of the myth of the Jewish world-conspiracy.” Pretending to be lectures, or notes of lectures, taken during twenty-four sessions of a congress held by representatives of “the twelve tribes of Israel,” the Elders of Zion, led by a Grand Rabbi – whom a later edition claimed to be the founder of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl – it sets out a plot to take over the world and to subjugate gentiles. While not easy to summarize, the standard version of the Protocols expounds three principal themes: a critique of liberalism, an exposition of the methods by which Jews intend to take over the world, and an overview of the world government that the Elders of Zion intend to establish.

The work is “a slapdash patchwork composed of several earlier, unrelated writings” constructed as the Protocols by the Okhrana (the czarist secret police) and published in Russian newspapers during 1903 in order to strengthen the position of Nicholas II. However, while one might have expected such an obvious and ludicrous forgery to have quickly lost credibility, its combination of the twin motifs of conspiracy and anti-semitism quickly found eager believers and translators.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baldwin, Neil, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (New York: Public Affairs, 2001).Google Scholar
Barkun, Michael, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions of Contemporary America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ben-Itto, Hadassa, The Lie That Wouldn't Die: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2005).Google Scholar
Berlet, Chip, “The Illuminati,” in Brasher, , Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism, pp. 231–2.CrossRef
BeWISE, “Description and Notes on the Protocols”: <> (accessed July 3, 2005).
Boyer, Paul, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Brasher, Brenda E. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism (New York: Routledge, 2001).Google Scholar
Bronner, Stephen E., A Rumor About the Jews: Reflections on Antisemitism and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000).Google Scholar
Cohn, Norman, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London: Eyre & Spottiswood, 1967).Google Scholar
Daniels, Ted (ed.), A Doomsday Reader: Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation (New York: New York University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
Dickerson, David M., “Hitler and the Protocols (in German and English)”: <> (accessed: November 28, 2004).
Dilling, Elizabeth, The Jewish Religion: Its Influence Today (Los Angeles: Noontide Press, 1983). Full text also available at <> (accessed July 3, 2005).Google Scholar
Dilling, Elizabeth,“The Protocols ‘Killed’ Again?” Available at <> (accessed July 3, 2005).
Gillan, Audrey, “Chief Rabbi fears ‘tsunami’ of hatred,” Guardian (Janury 6, 2006).
Hertzberg, Arthur, Jews: The Essence and Character of a People (London: Harper-Collins, 1999).Google Scholar
Jacobs, Charles, “Accepting the Reality of Islamic Anti-Semitism,” <> (accessed January 6, 2006).
James, Nigel, “Militias, the Patriot Movement, and the Internet: The Ideology of Conspiricism,” in Parish, and Parker, , The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences, pp. 63–92.CrossRef
Kaplan, Jeffrey, and Weinberg, Leonard, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
Karsh, Ephrain, Rethinking the Middle East (London: Routledge, 2003).Google Scholar
Keren, Danny, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”: <> (accessed November 27, 2004).
Küng, H., Judaism, trans. J. Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Lee, Albert, Henry Ford and the Jews (New York: Stein & Day, 1980).Google Scholar
Levin, Nora, The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933–45 (New York: Schocken Books, 1990).Google Scholar
Levy, Richard S., “Introduction: The Political Career of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” in Segal, A Lie and a Libel, pp. 3–47.
Lewis, Bernard, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
Light for the Last Days, <>, March, 2004 (accessed January 6, 2006).
Lind, Michael, “Rev. Robertson's Grand International Conspiracy Theory,” New York Review of Books 42/2 (February 2, 1995), p. 23.Google Scholar
Marrs, Texe, Dark Majesty: Secret Brotherhood and the Magic of a Thousand Points of Light (Austin, TX: Living Truth Publishers, 1992).Google Scholar
Niebuhr, Gustav, “Pat Robertson Says He Intended No Anti-Semitism in Book He Wrote Four Years Ago,” New York Times (April 3, 1995), p. 10.Google Scholar
O'Leary, Stephen, Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric (New York: Oxford Univerisity Press, 1994).Google Scholar
Parish, Jane, and Parker, Martin (eds.), The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001).Google Scholar
Peet, Richard, Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank, and WTO (London: Zed Books, 2003).Google Scholar
Peet, Richard, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Encyclopedia Wikipedia, <> (accessed December 27, 2005).
Peet, Richard Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, trans. V. Marsden (York, SC: Liberty Bell Publications, 2004).
Robertson, Pat, The New World Order (Dallas: Word, 1991).Google Scholar
Robison, John, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in Secret Meetings of the Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, Collected from Good Authorities (Boston, MA: Western Islands, 1967).Google Scholar
Sargent, Lyman T., Extremism in America: A Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
Segal, Benjamin W., A Lie and a Libel: A History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, trans. and ed. Levy, R. S. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).Google Scholar
Stalinsky, Steven, “HBO's “Protocols of Zion,” The Jewish World Review, September 28, 2005, <> (accessed December 7, 2005).
Still, William T., New World Order: The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1990).
Timmerman, Kenneth R., Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004).Google Scholar
Webster, N., Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (Los Angeles: Christian Book Club of American, n.d.; originally published 1924).Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats