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Empire of Sand: How Britain Shaped the Middle East Hardcover – 4 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (4 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843410532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843410539
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17.1 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 768,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'[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

About the Author

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

Customer Reviews

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Junius on 26 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I don't think many people are queueing up to buy this book but in case you are one of the curious, as I was, let me inform you of my view of it at least. The book is a history of the diplomacy employed by Britain in the Middle East between 1914 and 1948. It focuses mostly on the period after Versailles and concentrates on Iraq and Palestine, although it does bring in other areas of the former Turkish Empire. Especially in the first half of the book the author includes novelettish vignettes of some of the people involved in the events. He divides them crudely into heroes and villains, for instance, Lawrence, self-serving and deceitful, is villain, the vapid and vain Balfour a hero. The childishness of these views is obvious. Why should one of the most experienced men in foreign affairs, Lord Curzon, be repeatedly denigrated solely because he wore a back support? The author purports to be academically objective. This is not so. His aim is to exonerate the British for their part in the total mess that has been created by imperialist and quasi-imperialist powers in the Middle East. He fails. Where one draws the line between sheer stupid imcompetence, myopic prejudice, cynicism and greed hardly matters. He is clearly pro-Zionist and throughout for the most part contemptuous of the Arabs. His argument, if that is not too grand a word, is that the Arabs wouldn't do exactly as the British asked and so got what they deserved. It is a feeble argument. What strikes one is that the author lacks the depth of judgement and analytical rigour to do justice to this thorny and complicated topic. The book's main asset is that it surveys a lot of material of this period. If one is looking for an introduction to the history of the state of affairs in the Middle East one might want to read this book.Read more ›
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr John N Sutherland on 12 July 2013
Format: Hardcover
Words have been written, bombs have been thrown and lives have been and are still being lost about this topic. So, why do we need another book to investigate this ongoing mess: The Middle East? Because truth is getting lost in rhetoric, racism and hatred. Walter Reid's excellent tome comes in to calm the anger and provide a viewpoint on the ongoing conflagration that centres on the land at the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

It is viewpointed on the British. I would take one small issue with the title, 'How Britain made the Middle East'. This would imply that it was 'them wot did it' (them being, ahem, us!) But the book makes clear that it was Britain, France, Turkey, Germany, America and Russia that carved up the dead Ottoman Empire and created the straight lines on the sand and the no-man's-lands that now make up the countries and lands of the region.

Here are some issues Reid brings out clearly:

Oil was not a major factor at the time (between the two world wars), even though the British recognised this, possibly, first, as a future issue. The hostility between Jews and Arabs was not inevitable, indeed Jews made up, perhaps, over half of the population of Baghdad at 1900. He emphasises that all parties involved must take responsibility for their own actions. For example, neither the Arabs nor the jews made any serious effort to make the Palestine Mandate experiment work. The Arabs stood aside, not participating, trying to sabotage. The Jews purported to cooperate but worked all the time to move thigns to their advantage and marginalise the Arabs.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G.I.Forbes on 7 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an account of the breakup of the remains of the Ottoman empire in the Middle East followiing the defeat of Germanys ally Turkey.
Basically the area was carved up by the British and French with no reguard to racial or social consequences. Egyptt,Persia,Syria,Jordan,Iraq and Palestine were all created but of necessity the whole structure ended with the withdrawal of Britain from Palestine in 1948.
Very well written and researched with good maps. The illustrations are good considering their age.
A first class read.
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