The real story of ""Britain and the Middle East in the Twentieth Century"" is certainly a most confused and confusing chapter in recent history. Mr. Fitzsimons reserves commendation for having clarified the pattern since most of the details involved will have been so much Arabic to anyone without a good deal of background. This ""Empire by Treaty"" by which Britain held on to her basic interests such as oil, was a sort of ""halfway house"" of imperialism; Mr. Fitzsimons compares it to ""an ingenious holding company,"" and his purpose here is to show how it worked while it worked, and why it had to come tumbling down finally in the debacle of the Suez Crisis. As a writer in The Annual Register remarked, ""The sun never sets on the headaches of British imperialism in retreat,"" and this is the tale of a truly colossal migraine. Mr. Fitzsimons notes that ""the retreat of power is always difficult,"" but he concludes that it might have been much more so in this case, had it been anyone but the British. The fatal flaw, of course, was the impossibility of any satisfactory compromise on the Palestine issue. The text is at all times detached and understanding towards the various conflicting viewpoints, and no one is seen as a total culprit, not even Eden or Nasser or Dulles--although we are firmly informed that ""the failure of American leadership made Suez possible."" In any event, this volume is surely a valuable contribution to an era and an area.