Britain, Palestine and the Middle East

Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)


The Second World War, as we noted in an earlier chapter, had profoundly affected Middle Eastern affairs. That conflict had deepened and widened local frustrations and resentments in ways which soon meshed with nationalist expectations, and speeded up the displacement of British influence in certain regions by her erstwhile American ally; this latter transition was most complete in the case of the Saudi Kingdom. Even so, there were grounds in 1945 for the belief that the British position throughout most of the Middle East was more defensible than it was, for example, in India, or than the French position was in Indo-China. None of the Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, sported a credible ‘mass’ nationalist party such as Gandhi’s and Nehru’s Congress, and the endemic anti-Communism of these Islamic societies blocked one major way in which this vacuum might be filled under post-war conditions. The British had been busy identifying workable relationships with quasi-autonomous Middle Eastern regimes since at least 1918, and with sensible diplomacy this ‘line’ could be expected to hold. The intimate and pervasive presence of western economic and political power within the crevices of Middle Eastern society, compared to its more tenuous hold in much of Asia, meant that the possible permutations of Britain’s leading role could be almost endlessly refined. Nevertheless, by 1954 this leading role had been fractured in so many places that, of all the western powers active in the Middle East, the British seemed the obvious target on which Middle Eastern nationalists might concentrate their efforts.1


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4 Britain, Palestine and the Middle East

  1. 1.
    The clearest introduction to this subject is Elizabeth Monroe, Britain’s Moment in the Middle East: 1914–56 (London, 1963).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Christopher Sykes Crossroads to Israel, 1917–48 (London, 1965).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    and John Marlowe, The Seat of Pilate: An Account of the Palestine Mandate (London, 1969).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For the United States dimension see Zvi Ganin, Truman, American Jewry and Israel, 1945–48 (New York, 1979).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Bevin’s entanglement in Palestinian affairs receives full coverage in Alan Bullock, Ernest Bevin: Foreign Secretary, 1945–51 (London, 1983).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    R. Gardner, Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy: Anglo-American Collaboration in the Reconstruction of Multilateral Trade (Oxford, 1956) pp. 312–25.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    C. M. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece, 1941–49 (London, 1976).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    S. H. Longrigg, Iraq, 1900 to 1950: A Political and Economic History (Oxford, 1953) pp. 334–98.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    For an introductory survey see John Marlowe, Anglo-Egyptian Relations 1800–1956 (London, 1965).Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    For a penetrating analysis see A. Banani, The Modernization of Iran, 1921–41 (Stanford, 1961).Google Scholar

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© R. F. Holland 1985

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