English traveler, author, and politician; born at Cape Town in 1829; died at Twickenham, England, Dec. 23, 1888. He traveled in nearly every country and engaged in many occupations, from filibustering with Walker in Nicaragua to filling the position of secretary of legation at the Japanese capital.
In middle life he resigned his seat in Parliament (1867) to study occultism in a community at Salemon-Erie to which he bequeathed his fortune. He was for a short time Paris correspondent of the London "Times" and was the means of obtaining that position for De Blowitz (1871). In 1879 he conceived the idea of a Jewish settlement in Palestine, mainly as a commercial speculation. After some personal investigations he decided that the colony should be located in the land of Gilead to the east of the Jordan, at the upper end of the Dead Sea, where to tropical farming could be added the working of the mineral deposits. However, in spite of the semiofficial approval of the British government and the unanimous assent of the ministers of the Porte, he failed to secure the sultan's permission. In connection with this project he wrote his "Land of Gilead" (1880).
In 1882 Oliphant again went to the East as anagent for the administration of the Mansion House Fund, which had been raised for the relief of the Russian Jews. He renewed his propositions to the sultan, but with no better result. Abandoning the project, he retired with Mrs. Oliphant to Haifa, near Mount Carmel, where they lived in the midst of a community of Jewish immigrants and enthusiasts, among whom was N. H. Imber. After Mrs. Oliphant's death in 1887 Oliphant gave himself up entirely to mysticism and endeavored to establish a new religion; his work "Sympneumata" (London, 1885) shows some traces of the influence of the Cabala.
- Margaret Oliphant, Memoir of the Life of Laurence Oliphant and . . . His Wife, London, 1891.