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The Genesis of the Mandate 5.

D. K. Fieldhouse

The British Mandate 6. Syria and the French 8. Conclusions Select Bibliography Index. Following service as pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, a history degree at Oxford, and a period of school-teaching, D. Fieldhouse embarked on a distinguished academic career. In so doing he produces one of the most devastating indictments of European interference in the region that I have ever read.

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Nevertheless, book reviewers have the licence to be more self-indulgent than serious authors, so I trust readers will forgive me one or two comparative sallies in this direction. First of all, it is clear that at the end of the First World War, the British in Iraq were regarded not as deliverers, but as infidel invaders. There was no clear plan for Iraq between and , and thus political developments were prey to competing pressures on the ground, bureaucratic competition back in London, and political tensions in the international arena. The result was drift, and it should have been no surprise when, in July , a major revolt broke out in the Euphrates valley against British rule.

The costs of suppressing the insurgency were high. The British lost dead, 1, wounded and missing or taken prisoner.

Western Imperialism in the Middle East 1914-1958

There were around 8, casualties among the insurgents. What mattered more, though, in terms of securing the relative political stability which subsequently prevailed in Iraq through the s and s, was the British political response to the crisis. Here, the essence of the subsequent British strategy was to co-opt, as far as possible, the existing elites.

Fieldhouse is unsentimental about the realities of the political system established by the British in Iraq. Parliamentary elections produced little more than a shuffling of the existing pack, while, even after independence in , the British remained the dominant influence behind the scenes until the revolution swept away the existing social and political order.


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In essence, what the British did in Iraq was to rule through, and depend on, what H. This characterization reminds me very much of the comments of one Arab official from the former mandate administration in Palestine, who described for me the disappearance of his British superiors almost overnight.

It is nevertheless refreshing for those of us who are used to having to deal with as the supposed terminal date for the British imperial role in the Middle East, to see it thus subtly revised. While the British achieved some limited, if transient, success in Iraq, Fieldhouse finds nothing to recommend either the conduct or legacy of the mandate in Palestine. Whether conceived of in terms of British imperial interests, the interests of the indigenous inhabitants, or its longer-term effects on regional and international stability, British mandatory rule over Palestine was an unmitigated disaster.

As problems mounted in the mandate during the s, a key argument against altering or surrendering it remained the fear that the French might step in instead. Thus, although Fieldhouse acknowledges that certain British officials were driven by a belief in the essential justice of the Zionist cause, in his view it was principally considerations of imperial interest and prestige that predominated in the British acquisition and maintenance of the Palestine mandate.

That the eventual collapse of the mandate would do significant harm to Britain in both of these respects is certainly a considerable irony. In respect of British attempts to make the mandate workable, Fieldhouse points out that the principal difficulty lay in the attitude of the Arab majority population. The one concession which the British might have offered to win over Arab opinion, the cessation of Jewish immigration, was not in their power to grant under the terms of the mandate.

The British also made an unfortunate choice in selecting, as the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, who proved to be a most unreliable collaborator. Meanwhile, cooperation with the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish community in Palestine or Yishuv, which had been the foundation of British rule through the s and s, also came under pressure in the wake of the White Paper, with its proposed limits on Jewish immigration.

Dividing Up The Middle East - The Sykes-Picot Agreement I THE GREAT WAR Week 92

In this respect one might once again note that it is odd that so much of the historiography of the decline of the British imperial role in the Middle East has focused on the humiliation of Suez in Certainly in terms of Arab perceptions of the British role in the region, it was the outcome in Palestine that mattered much more in ensuing years. In particular, he seeks to explain why these 'relatively quiescent provinces of the Ottoman empire [became] some of the least stable and internationally explosive states in the world' p.


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Intended for students and the general reader, this volume not only illuminates the Mandate period, but also evaluates the degree to which France and Britain bear responsibility for the subsequent political histories of these nations, [End Page ] including the long-lived military dictatorships in Syria and Iraq, the violent inter-confessional hostilities in Palestine and Lebanon, and the stable, if autocratic, monarchy in Jordan. This work comprises three parts. The first part consists of two introductory chapters which map the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the plans for dividing up its Middle Eastern territories.

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More specifically, the first chapter synthesizes evidence about the importance of burgeoning Arab nationalism in determining the fate of Ottoman rule, while the second chapter evaluates the 'extraneous' factors between and The middle section devotes a chapter each to Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and two chapters to Palestine. Here Field-house addresses a wide range of issues, including the ambiguity of the Mandate concept, the religious and ethnic demographics of the territories, British and French economic, political and military interests, as well as the socio-economic structure of the local communities and their internal political evolution.

In the eleven-page concluding chapter Fieldhouse turns his attention to the comparative aspect of his study. He approaches the comparison first by asking what might, 'theoretically, have happened if [Britain and France] had not taken control of these provinces in the form of Mandates' p. Following that, he discusses various tests by which to judge the success of the different Mandates, such as the existence of 'cordial goodwill' between the European rulers and the local inhabitants, the quick establishment of self-governing institutions, and socio-economic improvements.