"LONDON AND THE INVENTION OF THE MIDDLE EAST: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922" by Roger Adelson

"LONDON AND THE INVENTION OF THE MIDDLE EAST: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An animated, impeccably argued historical portrait of British colonial misrule in the Middle East. Adelson (History/Arizona State Univ.) takes us back to the early years of the 20th century, when London was the capital of the world's largest, richest, and most powerful colonial empire. British policymakers were negotiating huge slices of the globe like boys wrangling over trading cards, keen on controlling the military and financial asset of the Suez Canal, the oil-rich Persian Gulf, and the regions bordering Britain's prize colony, India. The author personalizes history with quotes from private documents and public speeches and insights into the socioeconomic backgrounds and political and religious outlooks of nine key cabinet ministers who shaped British policy in the Middle East. They shared a typical British chauvinism toward non-Christians and foreigners but had strong personal motives for differing positions on war with the Ottomans and allowing Lord Balfour's Zionist ties to threaten oil prospects in Iraq. London's very substantial and free press adds much color, as when the Daily Mail rails in 1922 against a government press release about the Chanak crisis in Turkey as designed to promote a costly war; ""GET OUT OF CHANAK,"" the paper demands. Citations like this back up Adelson's thesis that it was the inner circle at Whitehall, rather than the British people, who liked to play monopoly with the world map. While London invented the Middle East by carving it up into segments like Syria, Palestine, and Persia, it was actually an American who coined the term ""Middle East""--naval officer and lecturer Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose books touting naval power encouraged the British to spread their empire out so thin that it had to snap. Eloquent testimony to the British government's unprincipled greed and lust for power, an education for anyone who wonders why ""colonialist"" became a favorite slur in the Third World.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.