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Islamic Studies European Imperialism
by
Michael B. Bishku

Introduction

Historically, the term “imperialism” refers to a process whereby countries that were militarily more powerful or technologically more developed took possession of territories—usually overseas but sometimes adjacent to the more powerful country—in order to exploit that territory’s resources or strategic location. In certain cases, permanent settlers were sent along with administrators; those territories were either considered to be an integral part of the mother country or were eventually given local self-government or independence. In the process, there could also be a conveyance of European institutions, such as parliamentary government or a unifying language. “Colonies” (territories directly administered politically) or “protectorates” (territories where foreign affairs and defense matters were controlled by the colonial power but that might have some local autonomy) were recognized by other colonial powers as formal parts of the controlling country's “empire.” Algeria, Mauritania, and Libya were colonies, for example, whereas Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt were protectorates. Thus, the word “colonialism” may be used interchangeably in many cases with the word “imperialism.” There were also other territories that had no formal connection with an “empire” but were nonetheless within the colonial power’s “sphere of influence.” Between the two world wars, another administrative unit, called the “mandate,” was organized under the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations) to allow “mandatory powers” (the victors in World War I) to prepare former colonies of the defeated powers—or territories in the case of the Ottoman Empire—for eventual independence. This was the case for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In effect, mandate status was the continuation of colonialism or imperialism under the guise of liberalism. Some of these “mandates” became “trusteeships” under the United Nations following World War II, when there was another transfer of colonies of the defeated states. At that time, Libya was granted independence, and Palestine was partitioned under the auspices of the United Nations. In the early 21st century, in the midst of the age of “globalization,” the term “neocolonialism” refers to Western countries’ indirect economic or cultural domination of independent states, as well as their political influence over these states, especially in the so-called Third World, which includes much of the Islamic world.

Introductory Works

The colonial powers in the Islamic world (defined as predominantly Muslim-populated territories) included Great Britain in Egypt, Sudan, northern Somalia, coastal parts of the Arabian Peninsula (including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and what was formerly called South Yemen), Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, the Indian subcontinent (including modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan), Malaysia, and Brunei; France in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Syria, Lebanon, and Djibouti; Italy in Libya, Eritrea, and eastern Somalia; the Netherlands in Indonesia; Russia in Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Central Asia (including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan); and Spain in northern Morocco and the western Sahara. Iran and Afghanistan were at times in Great Britain’s or Russia’s respective spheres of influence, while Russia tried unsuccessfully during the 20th century to extend its control over the Chinese-dominated province of Xinjiang in Central Asia. Although Germany did not have any colonies in the Islamic world, it had military connections with the Ottoman Empire that eventually led to Ottoman participation in World War I as part of the Central Powers, which also included Austria-Hungary, and the demise of that Middle Eastern empire. Later, during the Third Reich, the Nazis sought to either undermine or occupy territories of the British and French empires in the Middle East and North Africa. Most of the colonial powers’ activities in the territories mentioned took place from the mid-19th century, when the last European nation-states became centralized, until the mid-20th century, when the process of decolonization was in full swing. Most introductory works on imperialism focus primarily on the British Empire and secondarily on the French Empire, while scant attention is given to the Italians and the Dutch. The Spanish and the Russians, who had an overland (as opposed to an overseas) empire, are neglected in these studies. The political, economic, social, and cultural motivations of the European powers are discussed, as are their policies, which could differ depending on geographical region or the reactions of the subjected peoples. The articles in Sela 1999 offer succinct overviews of the imperial activities of Britain, France, and Russia and should be read together with the general entry on colonialism. Casanova 1993 emphasizes economic arguments and neocolonialism, whereas Tinker 1993 deals primarily with the political, cultural, and social motivations of the European states. Porter 1994 offers the most comprehensive survey of the dynamics and historiography of empire building, but it unfortunately ends its coverage with the outbreak of World War I. Kiernan 1982, meanwhile, covers a larger time frame but concentrates on the military aspects of imperialism and colonial politics.

  • Casanova, Pablo González. “Imperialism.” In The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Edited by Joel Krieger, 410–414. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    A useful brief introduction to imperialism, but heavy on the explanation of economic arguments and neocolonialism.

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  • Kiernan, V. G. From Conquest to Collapse: European Empires from 1815 to 1960. New York: Pantheon, 1982.

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    Concentrates on the military aspects of imperialism and colonial politics.

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  • Porter, Andrew N. European Imperialism, 1860–1914. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1994.

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    A concise survey of the dynamics of empire building as well as the historiographical literature of political, economic, and social natures of European imperialism.

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  • Sela, Avraham, ed. Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. New York: Continuum, 1999.

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    See, in particular, “Britain, British Interests and Policies” (pp. 182–186), a brief survey of Great Britain’s involvement in the Middle East since the 16th century; “Colonialism” (pp. 194–197), a brief survey of the colonies, protectorates, and spheres of influence of the European powers in the region; “France, French Interests and Policies” (pp. 257–262), a brief survey of France’s involvement in the Middle East since the Crusades; and “Russia, Russian and Soviet Interests” (pp. 638–646), a brief survey of Russia’s and the Soviet Union’s involvement in the Middle East since the 18th century.

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  • Tinker, Hugh. 1993. “Colonial Empires.” In The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Edited by Joel Krieger, 156–157. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Should be read together with Casanova 1993, as it deals primarily with political, social, and cultural motivations.

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Reference Works

The following books are useful and informative. More material is available on the British Empire than on the imperial ventures of other European powers. Moreover, the British had the greatest influence over the Islamic world during their period of imperialist expansion. Both Sela 1999 and Krieger 1993 offer succinct entries on numerous subjects related to the study of imperialism and the countries involved in the process, while Hodge 2008 presents the most comprehensive study for the time period prior to World War I. For further in-depth coverage of the British Empire, Olson and Shadle 1996 serves as a good supplement to Hodge 2008, and both are readable for undergraduate students. Shadle, et al. 1991 covers a greater time period than Hodge 2008 but has more concise entries. Marshall 1996 is an excellent survey of the British Empire that is readable for undergraduate students. For the most comprehensive coverage, Louis 1998–1999 is an indispensable source for both scholars and students of the British Empire.

  • Hodge, Carl Cavanagh. Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008.

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    Contains over 800 entries from some sixty scholars dealing with all aspects of imperialism, including conflicts, treaties, conferences, concepts, institutions, movements, and important people, as well as primary documents and a good bibliography.

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  • Krieger, Joel, ed. The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    A comprehensive guide to international relations and national domestic politics throughout the world, with 650 articles contributed by almost 500 scholars.

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  • Louis, William Roger, ed. The Oxford History of the British Empire. 5 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998–1999.

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    The volumes, in length from 500 to 800 pages, are The Origins of Empire, edited by Nicholas Canny; The Eighteenth Century, edited by P. J. Marshall; The Nineteenth Century, edited by Andrew Porter; The Twentieth Century, edited by Judith M. Brown and William Roger Louis; and Historiography, edited by Robin W. Winks. See especially the following articles: “The British Occupation of Egypt from 1882” by Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot (vol. 3, pp. 651–664); “The British Empire and the Muslim World” by Francis Robinson (vol. 4, pp. 398–420); “Britain’s Informal Empire in the Middle East” by Glen Balfour-Paul (vol. 4, pp. 490–514); “Pakistan’s Emergence” by Ian Talbot (vol. 5, pp. 253–263); and “Formal and Informal Empire in the Middle East” by Peter Sluglett (vol. 5, pp. 416–436).

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  • Marshall, P. J., ed. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    This survey of the experience of colonialism is organized chronologically, thematically, and geographically, with an emphasis on social and cultural history.

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  • Olson, James S., and Robert Shadle, eds. Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

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    Includes entries on colonies, people who played a role in the empire, wars, treaties, and major events.

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  • Sela, Avraham, ed. Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. New York: Continuum, 1999.

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    Covers North Africa, from Mauritania to Somalia, as well as the traditional Middle East, which excludes Afghanistan and the Caucasus. There are some 560 entries on important people (political, religious, and military), places, trends, issues, events, and institutions.

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  • Shadle, Robert, Ross Marlay, William G. Ratliff, and Joseph M. Rowe Jr., eds. Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism. New York: Greenwood, 1991.

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    Entries on all aspects of European empires since 1492.

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Textbooks

The topic of European imperialist empires has received much attention beginning with the period of decolonization in Asia and continuing into the period of African imperialism that followed World War II. In recent years, the most sustained interest has been with the British Empire, and more attention has been devoted to social issues, than in the earlier literature, which was dominated by political and economic subjects. Levine 2007, which is organized both chronologically and thematically, offers a concise and readable overview of the British Empire for students. Betts 1975 and Betts 1985, on 19th- and 20th-century imperialism, respectively, are also readable for students and are especially useful for issues involving the French Empire. Easton 1964 is a good survey that covers all colonial empires, while Smith 1982 is especially useful for issues involving the German Empire. Holland 1985 and Ansprenger 1989 are the best overviews on decolonization, with the former more readable for students, while Wesseling 2004 provides the most comprehensive overview and analysis of the policies of European colonial empires from the Congress of Vienna to the Paris Peace Conference.

General Overviews

Most explanations of 19th- to early 20th-century colonial expansion are Eurocentric and largely concern intervention in Africa and East Asia. Hobson 1965 (first published in 1902, near the end of the Anglo-Boer War) offers a non-Marxist economic interpretation. Lenin 1996 (first published in 1916, during World War I) borrows from Hobson while coming to different conclusions. Langer 1935 offers a largely political interpretation that European rivalries were extending their struggle outside of Europe. The Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher works reproduced in Louis 1976 challenge the idea of the so-called new imperialism of the late 19th century by asserting that European imperialism had been continuous and that political control varied depending on local circumstances and indigenous collaboration. (See Journals and the Great Britain section in Works on Imperialism of Specific European Powers for references to Robinson and Gallagher.) Works cited in this section include some of the best accounts by well-respected theorists.

Bibliographies

Both the Internet and published books provide bibliographies regarding all aspects of the subject of imperialism. British Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century: A Bibliography of Selected Sources, an online bibliography from the University of Texas at El Paso, emphasizes British imperialism, while the Internet Modern History Sourcebook, compiled by Paul Halsall of Fordham University, is more comprehensive in geographical coverage. The books and articles in this section also have excellent bibliographies. Halstead and Porcari 1974 provides comprehensive coverage of books and articles from 1815 to 1972 on all of the European empires, though with an emphasis on the British Empire. Gardinier 1982 and Kirk-Green 1988 are excellent on the subject of decolonization in Africa, with the former covering French, Belgian, Italian, and Portuguese transfers of power, as well as the later case of Anglophone Africa.

Journals

These journals are available in print and online. International History Review and the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History most often have articles connected with the subject of European imperialism. Economic History Review was the vehicle for John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson (in their article “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” 2nd ser., 6 (1953): 1–15) to start much of the debate on the British preference during the 19th century for “informal Empire,” rather than direct control, in such places as the Ottoman Empire. Of the journals concerned with regions, Middle Eastern Studies and the Journal of African History deal the most with issues of European imperialism.

Works on Imperialism of Specific European Powers

Some works do not fit general categories. The best works on European imperialism categorized by respective empires have been selected for this section.

Great Britain

This is the most studied field. Works vary from general to regional and are time specific. Ferguson 2003 praises British accomplishments, whereas Cain and Hopkins 2002 and Porter 1984 are critical of the problems in British imperialism. Robinson and Gallagher 1981, while emphasizing late 19th-century Africa, offers ideas that are applicable to the entire Islamic world, where political power was fragmented and the most important state, the Ottoman Empire, was in decline.

  • Cain, P. J., and A. G. Hopkins. British Imperialism, 1688–2000. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2002.

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    Emphasizes the point that income from the service sector—banking, shipping, and insurance—of the late 19th-century and early 20th-century British economy more than offset possible financial problems from dwindling British exports of manufactured products. Indeed, the authors see finance as the constant driving force behind the British Empire and the Commonwealth.

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  • Cohen, Michael J., and Martin Kolinsky, eds. Demise of the British Empire in the Middle East: Britain’s Responses to Nationalist Movements, 1943–55. London: Frank Cass, 1998.

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    A collection of essays that deal with such matters as Great Britain’s role in the formation of the Arab League as well as its relations with Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq, with the latter two regimes being more accommodating to British interests, despite the pressures of Arab nationalism.

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  • Ferguson, Niall. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

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    This popular account by a prolific writer of financial and economic history contends that the expansion of Great Britain’s population, culture, and economy are responsible for nearly all of the key features of the 21st-century world, including the spread of capitalism, the communications revolution, notions of humanitarianism, and institutions of parliamentary democracy.

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  • Hyam, Ronald. Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble, 1993.

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    Hyam accepts the arguments of Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher and presents the British Empire as a by-product of global expansion and a part of the history of race relations.

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  • James, Lawrence. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. New York: St. Martin’s, 1996.

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    A readable and comprehensive survey of the interaction between Great Britain and the empire.

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  • Louis, William Roger. Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez, and Decolonization. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.

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    A collection of essays, originally published in numerous journals and books, by the editor-in-chief of The Oxford History of the British Empire. They cover a large number of subjects that deal either directly or peripherally with the Middle East from the 1880s to the 1970s.

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  • Porter, Bernard. The Lion’s Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850–1983. London: Longman, 1984.

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    The themes of this general work are that imperialism for Great Britain was a symptom of Britain’s decline in the world, that it aggravated and obscured the country’s economic problems, and that it limited the country’s freedom of action.

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  • Robinson, Ronald, and John Gallagher. Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism. London: Macmillan, 1981.

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    Challenges the idea of “new imperialism” of the late 19th century by asserting that Great Britain had been engaged in a continuous process of imperialism, and that political intervention and control varied depending on local circumstances and indigenous collaboration.

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France

The French Empire dominated sections of the Islamic world and also included a settler state, Algeria, which had a great impact on internal French politics. Much of the French action in Africa followed the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War, and the French were collaborators with Great Britain in the implementation of the mandate system, which affected a number of areas in the Middle East. Aldrich 1996 provides the most comprehensive account and analysis of French imperial policies and actions from the 1830s in Algeria to its links with former colonies, whereas Quinn 2000 surveys the development of the French Empire, beginning in the 16th century with its fishing activities in the North Atlantic. Cooke 1973 and Thomas 2007 concentrate on key time periods: the Third Republic, when activities accelerated in Africa following the Franco-Prussian War, and the 1920s and 1930s, when the empire was given a boost by its victory in World War I. Watson 2003 deals exclusively with the Islamic world, primarily during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Germany

Although Germany did not have colonies in the Islamic world, its actions affected British and French policy there. Hirszowicz 1966 concentrates on Nazi activities designed to disrupt the imperial actions of its western European neighbors in the Middle East, and Schwanitz 2004 also covers regional involvement of the German Empire prior to and during World War I.

  • Hirszowicz, Lukasz. The Third Reich and the Arab East. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.

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    An account of Nazi Germany’s policies and actions in the Middle East and North Africa, including contacts with Arab leaders, both before and during World War II.

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  • Schwanitz, Wolfgang G., ed. Germany and the Middle East, 1871–1945. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2004.

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    A collection of eight essays, including one on the German mission to Afghanistan in 1915–1916 and another on German-Saudi relations. Schwanitz also provides an overview and analysis of German policy in the region from the time of that country’s unification through World War II.

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Italy

Italy had relatively few colonies, but they were supported initially as a counterweight to the French in areas of Africa. The most important Italian colony in the Islamic world was Libya. Of the colonial powers involved in the Islamic world, Italy’s presence there has been the least studied by scholars. Hess 1966 and Negash 1987 are the only accounts and analyses in the English language of Italian colonialism in these respective territories in the Horn of Africa.

  • Hess, Robert L. Italian Colonialism in Somalia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

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    The only book-length study of this subject in the English language and essential for understanding Italy’s involvement in the Horn of Africa.

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  • Negash, Tekeste. Italian Colonialism in Eritrea, 1882–1941: Policies, Praxis, and Impact. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1987.

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    The only book-length study of this subject in the English language. It is not a general history but rather an examination of certain aspects of colonial rule emphasizing the strategic importance of the territory.

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Russia

Russia, unlike the other European powers, had colonies adjacent to its territory rather than overseas. An in-depth study of Russia’s gradual conquest of what became the western part of Uzbekistan is provided in Becker 1968, and a concise historical overview of the takeover of not only those areas but the entire region of Central Asia during the 19th century is in Becker 1994. Kazemzadeh 2000 concentrates on Russia’s 400 years of involvement in the Caucasus region, which began with traders and later involved political and military action. Khodarkovsky 2002 deals with early encounters with the Muslim people of Europe that preceded the conquest of the Caucasus.

  • Becker, Seymour. Russia’s Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva, 1865–1924. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

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    A study of the conquest of two territories that in the early 21st century are part of Uzbekistan, including a look at Russian policies in the area.

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  • Becker, Seymour. “The Russian Conquest of Central Asia and Kazakhstan: Motives, Methods, Consequences.” In Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and Future Prospects. Edited by Hafeez Malik, 21–38. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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    A concise historical overview and analysis of the Russian Empire’s gradual acquisition of the region.

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  • Blank, Stephen. “Soviet Reconquest of Central Asia.” In Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and Future Prospects. Edited by Hafeez Malik, 39–64. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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    A survey and assessment of the Soviet Union’s attempt to reinstitute Russian imperialism in the region.

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  • Kazemzadeh, Firuz. “Russian Penetration of the Caucasus.” In Russian Imperialism from Ivan the Great to the Revolution. Edited by Taras Hunczak, 239–263. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000.

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    A review and analysis of Russians in this region, from earliest contacts with Russian merchants in the mid-15th century through the 19th century.

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  • Khodarkovsky, Michael. Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500–1800. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

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    Examines Russian objectives for, expansion into, and policies adopted in areas to the south and southeast of the Slavic core of the state.

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Works on Imperialism in Specific Countries and Regions

Some studies on specific countries or regions deal with rivalries between respective European powers.

Algeria

Of all the French colonies, Algeria was the most closely tied to the home country, and during the process of decolonization it was the most troublesome. Confer 1966 asserts that France’s tenure in Algeria would have been less contentious, if the French had offered adequate reforms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that satisfied the Western-educated Muslim elite. Smith 1978, meanwhile, focuses on the French political elite’s reluctance to consider decolonization following World War II.

  • Confer, Vincent. France and Algeria: The Problem of Civil and Political Reform, 1870–1920. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1966.

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    Confer contends that, had adequate reforms been introduced during this middle period of French control that satisfied the Western-educated Muslim elite, France would have experienced a smoother transition to Algerian independence in later years.

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  • Smith, Tony. The French Stake in Algeria, 1945–1962. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978.

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    Focuses on the difficulties France faced on the way to eventually accepting decolonization for this North African state. There were economic, strategic, and psychological reasons for the intransigence of the political elite.

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Caucasus and Central Asia

Although Russia was the colonial power in this region, Great Britain had interests in India and thus challenged Russia in borderlands in a process known as the “great game in Asia.” Atkin 1980 deals with the Russian conquest of borderlands in the Caucasus from the time of the Iranian Qajar dynasty, whereas Mostashari 2006 focuses on Russian colonization and administration of Azerbaijan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Siegel 2002 concentrates on a critical period in Anglo-Russian relations, from 1907 to 1914, when the “great game” actually continued, according to Siegel. Keller 2001 examines how the Soviets were able to have Muslims accept their restrictive policies toward religion, at least in public.

  • Atkin, Muriel. Russia and Iran, 1780–1828. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980.

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    A study of an important time period, during which Russia took the territories of Dagestan and Azerbaijan in the eastern Caucasus from the newly established Iranian Qajar dynasty.

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  • Keller, Shoshana. To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign against Islam in Central Asia, 1917–1941. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

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    While the Russian Empire generally left religion alone, the Soviets, especially under Joseph Stalin in 1927, saw Islam as a backward social and political force. Initially, some Muslims unsuccessfully took up arms against the government. However, most Muslims acquiesced to the restrictive policies in public while continuing to practice religious rites in private. In the process, independent Islamic institutions were destroyed.

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  • Mostashari, Firouzeh. On the Religious Frontier: Tsarist Russia and Islam in the Caucasus. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.

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    Focuses on the Russian colonization and administration of Azerbaijan during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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  • Siegel, Jennifer. Endgame: Britain, Russia, and the Final Struggle for Central Asia. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2002.

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    A study of the Anglo-Russian rivalry over such matters as oil and railroads, dating from the Convention of 1907, which was supposed to stabilize relations, until the outbreak of World War I. In other words, the author contends, the “great game in Asia” continued during this period.

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Egypt

There have been many studies of British involvement in Egypt, which included political, economic, and security concerns. Some other works on this topic are listed in the Middle East in General section. Landes 1979 provides an excellent study of the interaction of international finance and economic imperialism in Egypt during the 19th century, whereas Sayyid-Marsot 1968 deals with the interpersonal relations of Lord Cromer, Britain’s proconsul in Cairo, and influential Egyptian leaders. Mansfield 1972 is the most in-depth and readable study of Anglo-Egyptian relations from the occupation of 1882 until the withdrawal from the Suez Canal base in 1954.

India

This was the most important overseas possession of the British Empire and the reason for many British actions in other parts of the Islamic world. James 1998 and Judd 2004, two authors who have written extensively on British imperialism, present readable accounts of the importance of India to the British Empire and the interaction between maintaining strategic interests and dealing with the growth of nationalism in the region. Pandey 1969 provides a concise and informative survey of British rule and the ongoing development and actions of both Indian nationalism and Muslim separatism.

Iran

This country, as a result of its strategic location and oil wealth, garnered much attention from all the Western powers and Russia. Kazemzadeh 1968 examines Russian and British imperialism during the “great game in Asia” with respect to developments in Iran. Lenczowski 1968 deals with Russian and Western interests in the Caucasus and Iran from the end of World War I to the beginning of the Cold War, while Fawcett 1992 concentrates on the crisis over Azerbaijan following World War II that transformed into the Cold War. Bill and Louis 1988 and Heiss 1997 focus on the crisis of the early 1950s over the issue of Iran’s right to nationalize its oil resources, which resulted in the Anglo-American coup that restored the shah of Iran to power, leaving bitter feelings that facilitated the Islamic revolution.

  • Bill, James A., and William Roger Louis, eds. Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism, and Oil. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.

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    Half of this book deals with British and American involvement in the crisis over the nationalization of Iranian oil and the coup that overthrew Muhammad Mossadeq.

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  • Fawcett, Louise L’Estrange. Iran and the Cold War: The Azerbaijan Crisis of 1946. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Examines the policies of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States in one of the first episodes in the Cold War.

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  • Heiss, Mary Ann. Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950–1954. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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    A political, economic, and cultural analysis of the crisis over the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) that culminated in the Anglo-American overthrow of the nationalist government of Muhammad Mossadeq, the restoration of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power as a client of United States, and the creation of an Iranian oil consortium.

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  • Kazemzadeh, Firuz. Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864–1914. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

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    A case study of the imperialism of Russia and Great Britain in their “great game in Asia” with respect to developments in Iran.

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  • Lenczowski, George. Russia and the West in Iran, 1918–1948: A Study in Big-Power Rivalry. New York: Greenwood, 1968.

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    During these years, the Soviet Union, Germany, Great Britain, and, later in the period, the United States vied for influence in this strategically important country.

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Iraq

Especially following World War I and continuing until the 1950s, this country was one of the most important areas in the Middle East for the British, who maintained a close relationship with the Hashemite monarchy to ensure their security interests. Kent 1976 and Stivers 1982 focus on the importance of Iraqi oil to Great Britain during the early part of the 20th century. Following World War I, the United States supported British interests in the country for both monetary gain and regional stability. Silverfarb 1986 and Silverfarb 1994 offer a two-volume study of Anglo-Iraqi relations that is indispensable for understanding the political development of Iraq and how Great Britain’s involvement caused strong nationalist feelings both inside the country and throughout the Arab world.

  • Kent, Marian. Oil and Empire: British Policy and Mesopotamian Oil, 1900–1920. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976.

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    Covers a time period when oil was becoming the major source of energy for the British economy, and especially for the Royal Navy. Great Britain desired to control its sources of oil, and even though it was not found in commercial quantities in Iraq until 1927, that country had the greatest potential to supplement supplies already coming from the British-owned Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

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  • Silverfarb, Daniel. Britain’s Informal Empire in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1929–1941. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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    An account of Anglo-Iraqi relations during the first decade of Iraq’s independence, when Great Britain still maintained strong political and economic influence as well as rights for its military.

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  • Silverfarb, Daniel. The Twilight of British Ascendancy in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1941–1950. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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    An account of Anglo-Iraqi relations from Great Britain’s reconquest of Iraq to the time of the first Arab-Israeli War, including an exploration of the politics of the Arab world.

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  • Stivers, William. Supremacy and Oil: Iraq, Turkey, and the Anglo-American World Order, 1918–1930. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.

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    Stivers points out that oil was so important to the West that the Americans supported British rule or influence over Iraq as well as Anglo-Turkish entente, in order to maintain stability in the area. While the Americans benefited economically, they did not have to get entangled in Middle Eastern politics.

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Jordan

This country was not as important as Iraq, but the Hashemite control ensured British security interests. Wilson 1987 provides an excellent biography of King Abdullah I, who had political contacts with the Zionist leadership in Palestine and, later, in Israel, as well as a comprehensive account of Anglo-Jordanian relations during Abdullah's reign, which ended when he was assassinated by a Palestinian.

Libya

Italy fought the Ottoman Empire for possession of this territory but spent many more years trying to control it. Segrè 1974 provides a unique English-language study of Italian imperialism in its most valuable possession in Africa.

Malaysia and Indonesia

The Japanese occupied both of these territories during World War II, and decolonization followed, with the British able to hold on longer in Malaysia than the Dutch in Indonesia. Emerson 1964 compares British and Dutch methods of rule in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, respectively, and sees little difference in their objectives. Andaya and Andaya 2001 and Ricklefs 1993 fill in the historical details to Emerson’s analytical study.

  • Andaya, Barbara Watson, and Leonard Y. Andaya. A History of Malaysia. 2d. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

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    This general account of British imperialism in Malaysia devotes more attention to the period of British rule than any other work. Originally published in 1982.

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  • Emerson, Rupert. Malaysia: A Study in Direct and Indirect Rule. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1964.

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    Despite the title, this is a comparison of the British and Dutch methods of government in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, respectively, since about 1870. While the British ruled directly through their colonial officials, the Dutch did so through indigenous civil servants. Thus, to Emerson, the difference is in name rather than in substance. Originally published in 1937.

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  • Ricklefs, Merle Calvin. A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.

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    While there is no recent book on Dutch imperialism in Indonesia, this general account devotes more attention to the period of Dutch rule than any other work.

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Middle East in General

The works cited in this section do not fit neatly into the previous country categories, as they are broader in scope. Balfour-Paul 1991 offers an excellent account of Great Britain’s policy regarding some of the last territories that it administered in the Middle East and examines connections not found in individual case studies. Feis 1965 provides an in-depth and readable study of the ties between European financial investment and diplomatic relations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fromkin 1989 is an excellent comprehensive study of the changes brought to the greater Middle East during World War I and its immediate aftermath, whereas Nevakivi 1969 concentrates on Anglo-French relations with respect to the core region during the same time period, leading up to the development of the mandate system. Dann 1988 focuses on the interwar period and the involvement of all the European powers and the United States in the region, including how Middle Eastern leaders responded to their actions. Fieldhouse 2006 offers a comparative study of British and French imperialism under the mandate system, asserting that France failed to properly promote self-government in the Levant and that Great Britain had a mixed record, with Jordan a relative success, Palestine a failure, and Iraq somewhere in between. Louis and Owen 1989 provides the best analysis of the 1956 Suez crisis, while Williams 1968 is a concise and readable survey of British and French policies in the region from the beginning of World War I until the Six Days’ War.

  • Balfour-Paul, Glen. The End of Empire in the Middle East: Britain’s Relinquishment of Power in Her Last Three Arab Dependencies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    This account analyzes and compares Britain’s withdrawals from Sudan, Southwest Arabia (Aden), and the Gulf States.

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  • Dann, Uriel, ed. The Great Powers in the Middle East, 1919–1939. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988.

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    A collection of essays concerning European (British, French, Italian, German, and Soviet) and U.S. involvement in the region and the responses by Middle Eastern leaders and groups to the Western powers’ actions.

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  • Feis, Herbert. Europe, the World’s Banker, 1870–1914. New York: W. W. Norton, 1965.

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    Originally published in 1930, this is an account of European financial investment—specifically that of Great Britain, France, and Germany—and its connection to diplomatic relations. About one-quarter of the book deals directly with the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Egypt, and Morocco.

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  • Fieldhouse, D. K. Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914–1958. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    A comparative study of British and French imperialism, especially under the mandate system. Fieldhouse contends that British mandatory rule had the most successful outcome in Jordan, had limited success in Iraq, and was a failure in Palestine, while the French failed to properly promote self-government in Syria and Lebanon.

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  • Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. New York: Henry Holt, 1989.

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    A comprehensive book dealing with the core area of the Middle East as well as Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Fromkin explores how the region was changed by the decisions and actions of the European powers from 1914 to 1922.

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  • Louis, William Roger, and Roger Owen, eds. Suez 1956: The Crisis and Its Consequences. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989.

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    Provides the best analysis of one of the most important moments in modern British imperial and Middle Eastern history. Contributors include leading scholars and participants in the events.

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  • Nevakivi, Jukka. Britain, France, and the Arab Middle East, 1914–1920. London: Athlone, 1969.

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    Examines Anglo-French relations with regard to their respective interests in the Fertile Crescent from just before World War I through the San Remo Conference, which distributed the powers’ respective mandates.

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  • Williams, Ann. Britain and France in the Middle East and North Africa, 1914–1967. New York: St. Martin’s, 1968.

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    A concise and informative survey of British and French policies and nationalist resistance in the region.

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Morocco

While Algeria was France’s first possession across the Mediterranean, the acquisition of Morocco (together with the earlier takeover of Tunisia) solidified French control of North Africa. Hoisington 1995 offers an indispensable account of how France was able to accomplish its goals in Morocco.

Ottoman Empire

This was the most important state in the Islamic world, and its decline in the face of European imperialism and the rise of ethnic nationalism are all part of what was referred to as the “Eastern question.” Two of the best studies of that historical development are Anderson 1966, with its comprehensive coverage, and Macfie 1996, with its conciseness and excellent survey of historiography. Marlowe 1971 provides an in-depth and readable account of the Anglo-French rivalry in the Middle East from the end of the Seven Years’ War, when France was driven out of India, until Muhammad Ali’s Egypt was forced to evacuate Syria. Karsh and Karsh 1999 examines the time period from the beginning of the French Revolution until the establishment of the Republic of Turkey and asserts that local actors in the region played just as important a role in shaping developments in the area as did the Western imperial powers. McCarthy 2001 contends that the Ottoman Empire did not collapse from within but rather due to the imperial ambitions of the Western powers and their encouragement of nationalism. Earle 1966 offers a classic study of the policies of the European powers toward the Ottoman Empire, primarily focusing on the issue of the Baghdad Railway project, whereas Gökay 1997 examines developments in the Caucasus and Turkey and how they affected the foreign policies and actions of Soviet Russia and Great Britain.

  • Anderson, M. S. The Eastern Question, 1774–1923: A Study in International Relations. New York: St. Martin’s, 1966.

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    A comprehensive study of the rivalries among the Europeans powers with regard to the Ottoman Empire, which also had to deal with the rise of nationalism.

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  • Earle, Edward Mead. Turkey, the Great Powers, and the Bagdad Railway: A Study in Imperialism. New York: Russell and Russell, 1966.

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    A classic study of the conflicting political, economic, and cultural policies of the European powers between 1888 and the immediate aftermath of World War I, focusing on the issue of the Baghdad Railway, a project financed by the Germans and opposed by the Russians and the British.

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  • Gökay, Bülent. A Clash of Empires: Turkey between Russian Bolshevism and British Imperialism, 1918–1923. London: I. B. Tauris, 1997.

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    Examines developments in the Caucasus and Turkey and how they affected the foreign policies and actions of Soviet Russia and Great Britain.

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  • Karsh, Efraim, and Inari Karsh. Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789–1923. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

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    The theme of this book is that local actors in the region played just as important a role in shaping developments in the area as did the Western imperial powers. Indeed, the authors view the time period as a delicate balance of manipulation and intrigue, even though the Ottomans were weaker militarily and economically.

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  • Macfie, A. L. The Eastern Question, 1774–1923. London: Longman, 1996.

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    An important survey of the historiography of this subject, as well as a good summary and introduction to its history.

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  • Marlowe, John. Perfidious Albion: The Origins of Anglo-French Rivalry in the Levant. London: Elek, 1971.

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    A comprehensive account of the relations between the two European powers with regard to developments in the Middle East from the Treaty of Paris, when France was driven out of India, until Egypt was forced to evacuate Syria by joint European action.

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  • McCarthy, Justin. The Ottoman Peoples and the End of Empire. London: Arnold, 2001.

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    McCarthy asserts that the Ottoman Empire, despite internal problems, did not collapse from within but rather due to the imperial ambitions of the Western imperial powers and the development of nationalism, often encouraged by the European empires.

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Palestine

The period of the British mandate is a well-studied subject. The British could please neither the Arabs nor the Zionists and were forced to withdraw as the two parties engaged in a conflict still in need of resolution. Friedman 1973 concentrates on the motivations of British policy during World War I toward the Zionist movement and contends that the British saw a Jewish national home as an obstacle to German ambitions in the Middle East. Segev 2001 offers a detailed account of the British mandate, which he views as primarily pro-Zionist. Cohen 1978 and Cohen 1982 provide a two-volume study of the international dimensions of the problem, which made it impossible to fully satisfy the ambitions of either the Zionists or the Palestinian Arabs. Louis and Stookey 1986 examines the international and domestic perspectives of the respective main parties involved in the Palestine issue at the time of the United Nations partition and its aftermath.

  • Cohen, Michael J. Palestine, Retreat from the Mandate: The Making of British Policy, 1936–45. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1978.

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    Provides background on international and domestic factors that led to Great Britain’s political troubles following World War II over this territory.

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  • Cohen, Michael J. Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945–1948. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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    Surveys and analyzes the complex international dimensions of the Palestine issue and explains how the British decided to turn over the problem to the United Nations because of the inability to develop a common policy with the United States.

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  • Friedman, Isaiah. The Question of Palestine, 1914–1918: British-Jewish-Arab Relations. New York: Schocken, 1973.

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    Primarily concerned with the motivations of British policy during World War I toward the Zionist movement. Friedman sees his work as being complementary to Leonard Stein’s The Balfour Declaration (London: Valentine, Mitchell, 1961). His contention is that Great Britain saw a Jewish national home as an obstacle to German ambitions in the Middle East, and that Sir Mark Sykes and Prime Minister David Lloyd George considered this complementary to the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

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  • Louis, William Roger, and Robert W. Stookey, eds. The End of the Palestine Mandate. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.

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    Includes essays examining the issue from the British, American, Soviet, Zionist, and Arab perspectives. William Roger Louis, in “British Imperialism and the End of the Palestine Mandate,” provides a condensed and updated version of his The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945–1951 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984).

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  • Segev, Tom. One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.

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    Offers a detailed account of British rule over Palestine from 1917 to 1948 and contends that British policies were primarily pro-Zionist.

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Persian Gulf

This area was of interest to Great Britain as a means to protect the western flank of India. Busch 1967 offers a comprehensive account of British policy and involvement in the region as well as the challenges provided by rival European powers during the twenty years leading up to World War I.

  • Busch, Briton Cooper. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894–1914. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

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    Shows how the British, who had been the predominant power in the region during much of the 19th century, came to be challenged by the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Russia, and France at different times during the twenty years leading up to World War I.

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Saudi Arabia

Although the British had the strongest political interest in the area, the Americans were subsequently able to gain dominance in the oil industry of this country. Troeller 1976 explains the relationship that Great Britain had with Ibn Saud, a rival of Britain’s World War I allies, the Hashemites, whom the British placed on the thrones of Iran and Jordan while acquiescing in Ibn Saud’s takeover of the Hijaz and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

  • Troeller, Gary. The Birth of Saudi Arabia: Britain and the Rise of the House of Sa’ud. London: Frank Cass, 1976.

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    A study of Great Britain’s relations with Ibn Saud during the first quarter of the 20th century until his conquest of the Hijaz region in 1925 from the Hashemites, seven years before the establishment of Saudi Arabia.

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Sudan

Sudan was one of the more important issues affecting Anglo-Egyptian relations until the Sudanese received their independence. Together, Daly 1986 and Daly 1991 provide an excellent account of British rule in Sudan and the development of Sudanese nationalist politics from 1898 to 1956.

  • Daly, M. W. Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1898–1934. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    An examination of British political, economic, and social policies, as well as Sudanese resistance and collaboration, since the establishment of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium.

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  • Daly, M. W. Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, 1934–1956. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    A continuing examination of British colonial policy, the place of Sudan in Anglo-Egyptian relations, and the development of Sudanese nationalist politics until Sudan’s independence.

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Syria and Lebanon

The French were better received in Lebanon than in Syria, but neither country wanted the mandate. While France was the junior partner to Great Britain in the region, nationalism, rather than the actions of Great Britain, was responsible for the French withdrawal from the Levant. Shorrock 1976 asserts that France’s self-proclaimed role as protector of Maronite Christians, as well as its economic interests in the area prior to World War I, hindered its relations with the Syrian nationalist movement. Longrigg 1972 offers a detailed account of French rule in the Levant from 1920 to 1946, while Gaunson 1987 examines Anglo-French relations during World War II, contending that the acceleration of the anticolonial process at that time, not British actions, led to the end of the French mandate.

  • Gaunson, A. B. The Anglo-French Clash in Lebanon and Syria, 1940–45. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987.

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    Contends that France was on borrowed time in the Levant and that World War II, not British actions, accelerated the anticolonial process and forced an end to the mandate.

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  • Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate. New York: Octagon, 1972.

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    A detailed account of French rule over the Levant from 1920 to 1946 as well as the background on France’s previous influence in the region.

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  • Shorrock, William L. French Imperialism in the Middle East: The Failure of Policy in Syria and Lebanon, 1900–1914. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

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    While France staked its claim to a mandate over the Levant after World War I on the basis that it was the protector of Christians and had economic interests in the area, it had alienated a large segment of the Syrian nationalist movement, who felt that France had abandoned their cause prior to the war.

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Western Sahara

Morocco now occupies most of the former Spanish colony, and the United Nations has been unable to resolve the problem between Morocco and the Saharawis, who want their independence. Hodges 1983 is the better of the two books in terms of the amount of political and economic detail it covers, but Mercer 1976 offers more historical background. The fact that the two books complement one another is an asset due to the paucity of material available regarding this region.

Xinjiang Province in China

China sent settlers to the region to outpopulate the Turkic Uighurs, claiming that those who opposed its rule were aligned with Islamic terrorists. Starr 2004 is the only book available in the English language on Xinjiang that provides comprehensive coverage on the history, politics, economics, and social issues with regard to the region. The articles by Gladney 2004 and Milward and Tursun 2004 are relevant to the issue of Chinese imperialism.

  • Gladney, Dru C. “The Chinese Program of Development and Control, 1978–2001.” In Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland. Edited by S. Frederick Starr, 101–119. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004.

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    Examines three mutually contradictory patterns of control by the Chinese state since the late 1970s: ethnicization, integration, and transnationalization. The first separates ethnic groups, the second emphasizes national unity, and the third encourages economic ties with neighboring states.

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  • Milward, James A., and Nabijan Tursun. “Political History and Strategies of Control, 1884–1978.” In Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland. Edited by S. Frederick Starr, 63–98. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004.

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    Points out that beginning in the late 19th century the Qing dynasty promoted Chinese-style administration in the province, along with Han officialdom, Chinese immigration, and cultural assimilation.

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  • Starr, S. Frederick, ed. Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004.

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    Provides comprehensive coverage on the history, politics, economics, and social issues of the region.

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Yemen

Although Great Britain gave independence to India in 1947, it remained in Aden until 1967 and the Persian Gulf until 1971. Its presence in the Persian Gulf was supported by the conservative rulers it protected, but there was much opposition to British rule in South Yemen during the 1960s. Gavin 1975 offers a unique comprehensive account of a strategic region for the British Empire, whereas Pieragostini 1991 provides insight regarding British decision making that led to withdrawal from the area. The latter work is more thorough than the account in Balfour-Paul 1991.

LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0023

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