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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cynicism and raison d'etat
This is another excellent offering form the author of 'Setting the Desert on Fire'. Like his previous work, this book reads like a novel, with a cast of characters that would be dismissed as implausible in fiction. As well as being a first-rate read, it is also meticulously researched and clearly presented. It throws a disturbing light on the contemporary Middle East and...
Published on 5 April 2012 by R. Pavey

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26 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars fundamentally limited
I have only read 160 pages so far but I am quite surprised by the way this book is written.
in willing to portrait the middle east history as a conflict between France and Britain, it is successful to a certain level. what is mot annoying is the perspective from which this book is written.
only French and English archives are quoted.
The author does not...
Published on 7 July 2012 by katous


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A study in deviousness, 20 Oct. 2012
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This book is an eye opener. A British Man and a Frenchman agree between them to divide up the Middle East (yes really) and the rest of the book is a masterclass in British and French counter moves to outdo each other in bad faith. I found it compulsive reading. In my opinion France (and General De Gaulle) come out of the book with a worse reputation than Britain - but not by much.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern tale of human rights abuses, 23 Aug. 2012
By 
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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The government shells its own subjects in Damascus, killing hundreds of civilians. The government orders poison gas to be used against its subjects. The terrorists take innocent hostages and later kill them, leaving their mutilated bodies hanging in a eucalyptus grove. The government orders that the elections be rigged. A long list of capital offences is introduced, including damaging a fence and wearing a police uniform without authorisation. Rampant racism is everywhere. A village is attacked, 250 inhabitants are murdered and the rest are paraded humiliatingly through Jerusalem.

No, these are not the actions of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, but of the British, the French and the Israelis in the mid twentieth century. The human rights abuses of all three, as depicted in this book, are absolutely astonishing. This is a secret history which is not well known.

The depressing, but important, story is well told by James Barr. It is extremely well researched and contains of lot of information which is likely to surprise you. Getting this information more widely disseminated will do no harm and may even help create the environment for an eventual solution to the Middle East problem.

I found the book easy to read, except that I occasionally lost track of the various names of the individuals involved because so many of them are introduced in a short space.

I can't say it was especially enjoyable, but I do thoroughly recommend this book for a greater understanding of the Middle East's current problems. This story also puts the more well known tyrannies of the twentieth century into context.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 17 Oct. 2014
By 
John F Blakesmith (Sherborne, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Excellent read. A book difficult to put down once you had read the first few pages.
Neither GB nor France emerge with much honour, nor may I say, do the Zionists. Great Britain seemed to 'trying' to do the right thing, even if generally it was to protect her interests in the Middle East and India. France couldn't care less about anyone other than themselves all the while trying to convince themselves and others they were still a great power. The Zionists as now, had one objective, that was to create/regain a homeland for the Jews. The methods they used and the singleminded drive to achieve that desire despite Palestine already occupied by minority jews and majority non-jews who had lived there for centuries resulted in the bloodshed and hatred that still blights the region even today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The not so friendly Allie !, 5 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the struggle that shaped the Middle East (Kindle Edition)
An interesting account of Anglo-French rivalry in the Middle East
How Israel was a British mistake and introducing a new Pro_Arab British hero Edward Spears.
It made me think about how imperialist and reactionary the French were and what if the British had not caved into French desires during and after both world wars
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but not an easy read, 2 May 2014
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"A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle That Shaped the Middle East" by James Barr tells the story of French-British rivalry in the Middle East to replace the Ottoman Empire as the new local powers. It starts in 1916 with the Sykes-Picot agreement and ends in 1948 with the withdrawal of British (military) rule from Palestine. It is a Europe centric account of the making of the modern Middle East in the first half of the twentieth century with diplomats, secret services, intelligence officers, terrorists and politicians taking centre stage.

It is a sad story, with no good guys or happy endings. Instead it is a prime example of how years of political manipulation, arrogance, hypocrisy, opportunism, cynicism, back-stabbing and underhand dealings added further complications to an already volatile and complex region. Its outcomes still reverberate today and are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Barr's writing style is engaging and the topic well researched. However, this is a very detailed account of 30 years rivalry between the main protagonists (France, Britain, USA, Zionists & Arabs) and its representatives. The fluid loyalties of many parties involved, the domestic politics and individual rivalries on all sides against the backdrop of a shifting international power balance require concentrated reading. Despite the likes of Churchill, de Gaulle, T.E. Lawrence, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and Menachim Begin playing important parts, there are numerous less famous characters making short appearances further adding to the complexity of the story. Overall "A Line in the Sand" is a good introduction to the making of the modern Middle East, but not an easy read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The scramble for the Middle East, 20 Feb. 2013
By 
D. Schotman "D.E.B. Schotman" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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A better title for this book would have been `the scramble for the Middle East'. After the Brits and French Empires had scavenged, plundered and divided Africa and the China between themselves, it was now the time to do the same with the Middle East which was in fact, a huge chunk that was falling away slowly from the Ottoman Empire. It is about a secret agreement to draw a line from Acre to Kirkuk, and take both half of the land. A land that by then became priceless due to the founding of oil in the area. The book narrates the effect of this agreement, which was based on pure imperialistic incompetence, while what they actually should have done was give more attention to T.H. Lawrence. However, his empathy was with the Arabs, and he didn't care for either British of French benefits. This book also shows that the story of the real Lawrence of Arabia was far more complicated and multilayered than the Lawrence of Arabia presented in the movie of David Lean carrying the same title. I thought that in particular the first part was extremely good, while the second part lingered on a bit. Although frequently interesting observations, I didn't really feel so strong as the beginning. Perhaps because it more and more seem to focus on Israel and its conflict with Lebanon and Palestine. However, overall a good read, which gives a lot to think of in terms of trouble in the Middle East that still today have not yet been settled.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My holiday read 2013, 12 Sept. 2013
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I have read several books on the origins of the modern Middle East and the Arab Israeli conflict and would say this is one of the most readable. At times the story unfolds like a novel and the book becomes unputdownable. There were also many fascinating little aspects of it that I had not heard previously. Surprising that there are so many new revelations from a very well told story. In summary a very readable account
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed but easy to read history., 1 Oct. 2012
This book provides a fascinating insight into the relationship and politics between Britain and /France at the turn of the last century and the characters who emerged at that time, to shape the Middle East. Written by a journalist / academic researching using original sources, it conveys the complexity of factors which help the layperson to more fully grasp how we arrived at the current situation in the Middle East.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Middle East Conflict, 28 Aug. 2012
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This is a book that pulls no punches about the rivalry between Britain and France and the damage that European nation state interference can do to radically different cultures. It is clear that the imposition of British rule in Palestine and French rule in Syria had consequences that are still being felt today. A fantastic, well-researched book that will be read by students of this period for many years to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very good and intellegent assessment, 26 July 2013
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This book gives a well researched and informative insight into the diplomatic rivalry between Britain and France over supremacy and influence in the Middle East during post world war one inter-war years right up until the British left Palestine in 1948. It is incredible the lengths to which both sides go to undermine the others prestige, influence and sovereignty.

The book also provides fascinating detail on the part played by Britain and France in causing the more recent Palestinian and Israeli animosity.

A book well worth reading for anyone interested in the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the relatively unknown intrigue of Anglo-French diplomacy in the region during the second quarter of twentieth century and how it shaped developments in the Middle East in this period.
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