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History, Military, History & Adventure
Publication Date
19 September 2013
Available as an eBook only
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates

Empire of Sand

How Britain Made the Middle East


eBook also available from the iBookstore

'[Reid] is judicious; his very capable prose just begs to be read' – Michael Nye, Scotsman

'[An] impeccably researched book’ – the Herald

'Structured in an accessible and intelligent way [. . .] Empire of Sand is a useful, meticulously written introduction to a complex history, of direct relevance to our own times [. . .] well researched, well planned, and overall a useful addition to the literature on this subject' – Journal of Israeli Foreign Affairs

'Extremely well written and enjoyable to read' – European Review of History

At the end of the First World War Britain and to a much lesser extent France created the modern Middle East. The possessions of the former Ottoman Empire were carved up with scant regard for the wishes of those who lived there. Frontiers were devised and alien dynasties imposed on the populations as arbitrarily as in medieval times.

From the outset the project was destined to failure. Conflicting and ambiguous promises had been made to the Arabs during the war but were not honoured. Brief hopes for Arab unity were dashed, and a harsh belief in western perfidy persists to the present day. Britain was quick to see the riches promised by the black pools of oil that lay on the ground around Baghdad. When France too grasped their importance, bitter differences opened up and the area became the focus of a return to traditional enmity. The war-time allies came close to blows and then drifted apart, leaving a vacuum of which Hitler took advantage.

Working from both primary and secondary sources, Walter Reid explores Britain’s role in the creation of the modern Middle East and the rise of Zionism from the early years of the twentieth century to 1948, when Britain handed over Palestine to UN control. From the decisions that Britain made has flowed much of the instability of the region and of the world-wide tensions that threaten the twenty-first century. How far was Britain to blame?

Walter Reid studied at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, and has written a number of highly acclaimed works of military and political history: Architect of Victory: Douglas Haig (2006), Churchill 1940 –1945: Under Friendly Fire (2008) and Arras, 1917 (new edition 2011).

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