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A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East,…

– tekijä: James Barr

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
345657,497 (3.82)19
Uses recently declassified French and British government documents to describe how the two countries secretly divided the Middle East during World War I and the effect these mandates had on local Arabs and Jews.
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 6) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Used - good condition
  Lagow | Apr 25, 2020 |
This is one of those books that seem to have been written in reverse: Barr started out from what was apparently a chance discovery in "a newly-declassified document" he was looking at, that showed that France had been sponsoring Zionist terrorists operating in the British mandate of Palestine in the 1940s, and decided to go back over the history of Anglo-French relations in the Middle East to work out how things had got to that point.

He identifies as starting point the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of January 1916, in which Britain and France, faced with the disintegration of Ottoman power in the Middle East, assigned themselves spheres of influence divided along an arbitrary line on the map "from the 'e' in Acre to the last 'k' in Kirkuk". Making, of course, no allowances for the way the world had moved on since the "race for Africa" of the 1870s, or for the complex religious and political history of the region, and laying the foundations for no end of trouble in the century to come.

Barr charts the continued distrust and jockeying for strategic advantage between the two countries, complicated no end by a succession of mavericks on both sides determined to pursue their private agendas in the Middle East by "unconventional methods" — T.E. Lawrence was only the most famous of many semi-official troublemakers. Not to mention an equally impressive succession of incompetent administrators and overconfident military commanders.

Barr is undoubtedly right that a lot of the past and present problems of the Middle East can be traced to the arrogance of both countries in the way they assumed they knew best for the area, and to Britain's selfish preoccupation with protecting the Suez Canal and the oil supplies for its Mediterranean fleet and France's concern to project its image as a successful colonial power despite the damage done by the two World Wars. And he tells a convincing and lively story, with a lot of detail I didn't know about in between the more familiar big events.

I did wonder a bit, however, if he is giving Britain and France too much credit. Even with the best of management, Suez and the oil resources were clearly strategic problems that would lead to conflict (and still do) whichever powers established themselves in the region. Arab nationalism wasn't invented by T.E. Lawrence, it was always going to play an important part as Ottoman influence faded and self-determination became a norm for people all over the world to aspire to. And Zionism had its roots in the situation of Jews in the Russian Empire and Germany: even if the British and French had kept their fingers out of the pie, it would have found sponsors somewhere, in the US if not in Europe, and as soon as it did, there would have been emigration to Palestine, making conflict with the Arabs almost certain. ( )
  thorold | Feb 9, 2020 |
This book charts the amazing story of Anglo-French rivalry in the Middle East, which was surprisingly virulent. Although both countries might have been officially allies, in the region there was no doubt who was the real enemy, and the age old colonial conflict between Britain and France was very much alive.

Two things stand out for me from reading this book: one was the surprising lengths the French would go to to thwart British ambitions in the area, including helping zionists assassinate British officials. The other is the stunning callousness with which the British would make promises to various parties when it was convenient, and then go back on them, when these commitments would prove inconvenient. Neither country comes out very well.

The story is told in a series of vignettes. This makes it more readable, but inevitably makes for gaps and shortcuts in the general narrative. If you want a full and systematic account, with detailed analysis, you'd have to do further reading. ( )
1 ääni CharlesFerdinand | May 26, 2018 |
History of the struggle between the British and French for control of the Middle East after carving up the Ottoman Empire following WWI. Beginning with the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1915 and ending with the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 the author paints a picture of the British and French efforts to maintain empire with regard to future costs of Arab-Israeli conflicts. ( )
  Waltersgn | Mar 4, 2017 |
What the chart of my progress below does not reveal is that the day I started this was in fact in May 2013 whereas I didn’t finish it, after a vast effort, until Sept. 2014. I used to read a great amount of non-fiction and this kind of history in particular. With that experience, I can tell you that Barr excels at taking what is a complex and intriguing series of historical events and rendering them as dull as watching water evaporate.

If you’re into writers who can actually write this kind of book (Tolland, Shirer, Fisk or Beevor come to mind), you will be very disappointed by Barr’s inability to make any character memorable or to connect themes so that you feel like you are following some kind of connected historical narrative. Individual chapters are a complete lottery. Some are fast paced and focussed. Others seem to be inserted just to pad the book out.

This is a great shame because there aren’t many books out there that deal with topic for the layman. After all, we are all living in the legacy of the horrendous decisions that Britain and France made at the time. It is the responsibility of the writers of history to interpret the past so that we understand that the present is its result. Barr fails to do this in an engaging manner and thus risks burying this message in badly constructed narrative.

The writing aside, I came away with my dislike of the role of the French in 21st century history reinforced. Common belief was that they were our allies in WW2. They were, but only so far as it served to rid them of an enemy they couldn’t keep at bay themselves. Meanwhile, they were very much stabbing Britain in the back in the Levant. More of their despicable exploits should be widely known: their needless massacre of Syrians after WW2 and their arming of Jewish terrorist groups being two that Barr brought to my attention.

But Britain comes off scarcely better. Desperate to oust the French from the area, they connived with any and every Arab faction that was sympathetic to this cause. And it is the direct impact of their policies on Jewish/Palestinian populations in what was to become Israel and the West Bank which we see on the news virtually every day. We got involved where we should not have done and screwed up.If Barr could write better, more people would know this. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 23, 2014 |
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Uses recently declassified French and British government documents to describe how the two countries secretly divided the Middle East during World War I and the effect these mandates had on local Arabs and Jews.

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