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Historiography of The Middle East and The British Empire


Britain's Persian Connection 1798-1828: Prelude to the Great Game in Asia
by Edward Ingram
1992

This is a book that explains how the British were already interested in the Middle East long before oil and economic resource concerns were paramount. It explains that the interest was based largely around the securing of the communication lines between Britain and India. This is even before the Suez Canal was built, as overland trips via Egypt or through the Levant were already commonplace for individuals and messages. This period even predates Russian expansion as the subtitle: Prelude to the Great Game intimates.

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The Eastern Question 1774-1923
by M S Anderson
1966

In the Eighteenth and for much of the Nineteenth Century, it was actually the fate of the Ottoman Empire which drew British interest to the region. This weakening empire provided opportunities in the form of peripheral parts breaking off from central control, but it also presented difficulties in that it gave both the French and the Russians opportunities to expand their own influence in the region.

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The Making of the Modern Near East 1792-1923
by Malcolm Yapp
1987

Yapp's book is a more updated version of the influence and interplay of the Ottoman Empire with the British and other European powers. Significantly, Yapp doubts that Britain was that preoccupied with the route to India until much later in the period after the construction of the Suez Canal. He also thinks that there was very little sustained policy on the part of the European actors over the period in question. He believes it was much more haphazard and ad hoc.

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The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire
by Marian Kent
1984

Kent's book focusses more on the latter years of the Ottoman Empire during its period as the 'sick man of Europe' and when it changed from it being Britain's intention to propping up the ailing Empire to being its most earnest foe during the First World War.

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Strategies of British India: Britain, Iran, and Afghanistan, 1798-1850
by Malcolm Yapp
1980

This book helps explain how Britain had decided to secure the avenues of approach to India which went through the Persian Empire and/or Afghanistan. Both of these 'buffer states' would put Britain in competition for influence with the Russians.

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In Defence of British India: Great Britain in the Middle East, 1775-1842
by Edward Ingram
1984

Edward Ingrams explains that British commitment to defend India was based on the fact that India was truly regarded as the Jewel in the Crown and that any threat, real or imagined, had to be countered. Interestingly, this book was written at a point in the Cold War, when Russian expansion once, real or imagined, seemed to be threatening parts of the world once more. The parallels with Britain's experience in the Nineteenth Century are made explicit.

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Persia And The Defence Of India 1884-1892 : A Study In The Foreign Policy Of The Third Marquis Of Salisbury
by Rose Greaves
1959

This book focuses on the Marquis of Salisbury's attempts to balance the concerns of Britain in the region in the wake of the Second Afghan War. He was concerned at Russian ambitions but also sought to avoid any overt confrontation preferring to use subtle diplomacy and influence to achieve his ends.

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The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt
by Wilfrid Blunt
1907

This is one of the earliest books to have been overtly critical of Britain's imperial ambitions in the Middle East in general and Egypt in particular.

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The Struggle For Asia 1828 - 1914. A study in British and Russian Imperialism.
by David Gillard
1977

Gillard's book explains the intellectual origins of the 'Great Game' and how both sides came to view each other with suspicion and assumed the worse. They both sought to extend their spheres of influence by proxy and diplomacy even though the two Empires never physically met.

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Russia and Britain in Persia: Imperial Ambitions in Qajar Iran
by Firuz Kazemzadeh
1968

Kazemzadeh lays out the diplomatic history between Britain and Russia being played out in the Persian Empire lying between the two expansionist Empires. It explains how the British felt on the backfoot due to the remarkable expansion of Russia through much of Central Asia in such a short space of time.

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Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism
by Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher with Alice Denny
London, 1961

Although ostensibly about Africa, this book does have a large section on Britain's interest in Egypt in the 19th Century. It basically states that British imperial control generally favoured extending control informally if possibly and formally if necessary. They go on to claim that British intervention in Egypt was almost by accident and not primarily for economic motives.

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Colonialism and Revolution In the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt's 'Urabi Movement
by Juan Cole
1993

This author challenges Gallagher and Robinson's thesis that Britain acquired Egypt by accident. He claims that Britain invaded Egypt in order to prevent a strong and viable state being formed that might have been in a position to challenge Britain's regional hegemony and threaten its economic interests in the area. He goes on to say that the intervention was in order to maintain Egypt in a state of economic subjugation. He also believes that Egyptians were in the midst of their own social revolution and that many of the actors in the insurrection were those who had lost out in the debt crisis.

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Britain and her Buffer State. The collapse of the Persian Empire, 1890-1914,
by David McLean
1979

This book explains how despite the Persian empire being in a strategically important location for the British, economically it had little consequence in the Nineteenth Century and certainly before the discovery of oil in the region.

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Banking and Empire in Iran: The History of the British Bank of the Middle East
by Geoffrey Jones
1987

This book helps explain how the British became an increasingly important part of the Persian Economy after the Reuter Concession and the establishment of the British Imperial Bank of Persia in 1889.

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British Policy in Mesopotamia, 1903-1914
by Stuart Cohen
1976

British interest in this nominal Ottoman territory revolved around securing lines of communication to India, its defence and the fear of a Berlin to Baghdad railway driving a coach and horses through British regional ambitions.

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The Fertile Crescent, 1800 - 1914 A Documentary Economic History
by Charles Issawi
1988

Issawi explains how the British became an increasingly dominant regional trading power thanks to the cotton industry, banking and by the end of the century industrial goods like railways.

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London and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922
by Roger Adelson
1995

This book explains how the money markets of London helped develop the economic opportunities of what had hitherto been a relative economic backwater in the previous century. The discovery of oil, the First World War and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire all helped to consolidate British commercial and strategic influence in the region.

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Britain, India and the Arabs, 1914-21
byBriton Cooper Busch
1971

This book explains why it was the British Indian Government that took the lead in the Mesopotamian Campaign and how the gradual distintegration of the Ottoman Empire gave Arabs in the region an opportunity to displace them, but within strong limitations placed by the Europeans in general and the British in particular.

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Britain's Moment in the Middle East, 1914-1971
by Elizabeth Monroe
1981

This book covers Britain's involvement from the First World War until their retreat from East of Suez. It explains, that far from just afflicting instability onto the region, Britain's duplicitous negotiations during the First World War was a long term disaster for Britain's own interests in the region as it undermined relations with vast swathes of the Arab population in particular and gave long term causes to resent the British. Britain's traditional 'light touch' to administering territories meant that development did not progress as fast as it possibly should have. Although the two World Wars, a global depression and subsequent regional wars also played their part in distracting the ruling power. This book gives a good overview of s Twentieth Century imperial actions, intentions and consequences in the region.

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Towards a Modern Iran: Studies in Thought, Politics and Society
by Elie Kedourie
1980

An article by William Olson entitled "The Genesis of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919" found within this anthology explains how the Persian monarchy were able to resist many of the British attempts at gaining excessive influence over their internal affairs at a time that British power in the Middle East reached its apogee.

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Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force 1919-1939.
by David Omissi
1990

David Omissi explains that it was not only oil that held British interest in the Middle East in the inter war years. The new technology of the plane meant that there was a search for suitable air routes between Britain and India nearly all of which were via the Middle East. Air Power added new strategic dimensions and interests in the region. It was also envisioned that it would provide a quick and cheap way at pacifying insurrections and civil disobedience, as was attempted in Iraq and Somaliland.

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Oil in the Middle East: Its Discovery and Development
by Stephen Hemsley Longrigg
1954

This book explains how the Royal Navy's switch to oil from coal meant that there were new strategic imperatives to secure a steady flow of oil to Britain and her Empire. It explains the creation of the Anglso Persian and the Turkish Petroleum Companies and how Britain managed to gain control of much of the production of the region as a result of the First World War's maps being redrawn to suit Western interests.

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Oil and Empire: British Policy and Mesopotamian Oil, 1900-1920
by Marian Kent
1976

This book also explains Britain's early interest in the acquisition of oil supplies and in the British governmental control exerted over the oil companies extracting oil in the region. She also wrote Moguls and Mandarins: Oil, Imperialism and the Middle East in British Foreign Policy taking the story up to the early stages of World War Two.

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The History of the British Petroleum Company (3 Volumes)
by R W Ferrier
1982

BP grew out of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which later merged with the Turkish Petroleum Company and assumed such strategic importance that the British government decided to take a controlling interest and mixed politics and diplomacy to ensure that the company was well placed to access oil and make it available to Britain, the Empire and her allies.

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Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795-1880
by J B Kelly
1968

Kelly claimed that British intentions in colonising the Persian Gulf revolved around defence of India combined with altruistic intentions to encourage trade and suppress piracy. In essence he believed that there was an element of imperial mission in addition to strategic considerations in setting up an area of largely informal rule through the Persian Gulf.

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Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar
by Jill Crystal
1990

This author considers just how much the ruling families of the Gulf in protectorates such as Kuwait and Qatar were able to establish themselves in such a politically unassailable position thanks to the support and connivance of the British. Essentially, Britain contrived to recognise individuals and families that would promote stability and security as much as possible. This point is also developed by Rosemarie Said Zahlan in her The Origins of the United Arab Emirates: A Political and Social History of the Trucial States

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Orientalism
by Edward Said
London, 1978

Said attacked the concept of 'Imperial Mission' and of beneficial Imperialism per se. He claimed that almost all European knowledge of other peoples was generated simply by their own needs of conquest. Essentially it is how the West saw the East. He believed that they had a romanticised image of the societies that they were conquering which was fundamentally false and was created primarily to justify the imperial processes. This was developed further in his Culture and Imperialism

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Estranged Bedfellows: Britain and France in the Middle East During the Second World War
by A. Roschwald
1990

World War Two saw Britain fall out with its long time regional ally after the Fall of France and the Creation of the Vichy French government. Britain's concern at having an Axis ally in the midst of its Middle Eastern concerns meant that the Vichy French colonies of Lebanon and Syria had to be taken back into Allied control.

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Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics
by L. Elwell-Sutton
1955

This book explains how the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company founded itself out-manoeuvred as American Cold War power supplanted traditional British influence in the region.

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Imperialism at Bay The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire 1941-45
by William Roger Louis
1977

This book explains how the British (both Conservatives and labour) attempted to deal with American criticisms of Empire and Imperialism as the Second World War was unfolding. In the case of the Middle East. It was followed up by British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-51: Arab Nationalism, the United States and Postwar Imperialism which saw the battle for influence spill over into the Cold War era and how it particularly foundered over the State of Israel.

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Britain's Withdrawal From the Middle East, 1947-1971. The Economic and Strategic Imperatives
by Jacob Abadi
1982

From the withdrawal of Palestine to the abandonment of all British bases in the Middle East and Asia, this book charts the slow decline of British influence in the region it had once been so dominant. New Cold War realities combined with commercial changes to see Britain eclipsed by their former American allies in the region.

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Britain and the Politics of Modernization in the Middle East, 1945 - 1958
by Paul W. T. Kingston
1996

The Labour government elected in 1945, despite granting Indian Independence, sought to develop Britain's colonies in the hope of preparing them better for life beyond independence. This book examines the success of these development ambitions in the immediate post war period which even the successor Conservative governments sought to emulate and promote.

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The End of Empire in the Middle East: Britains Relinquishment of Power in Her Last Three Arab Dependencies
by Glen Balfour-Paul
1991

The author considers why Britain held on so tenaciously to its Southern Arabian territories when so many others Middle Eastern colonies were given up relatively straightforwardly. He puts some of this on an American change of heart post Suez to encourage the British to remain a regional player as an additional bulwark against Communism. There was also pressure from the Saudis to maintain a presence to help secure their own borders. However, economic difficulties combined with increasing tension by Arab nationalists to convince the British to abandon her East of Suez role once and for all.

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Arabia, the Gulf and the West
by J Kelly
1980

The author believes that Britain abandoned its historic and defence commitments too readily in and around the Gulf region in the 1970s. Although this was a logical outcome to its abandonment of its Aden bases in 1967, the author maintains that the increasing importance of oil combined with religious divisions, Cold War sensibilities and unequal societies meant that Britain had been providing an element of stability in an inherently unstable part of the world for many years.

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History of The Middle East and The British Empire


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