Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East

Overview

A brilliant narrative history tracing today’s troubles back to the grandiose imperial overreach of Great Britain and the United States.Kingmakers is the gripping story of how the modern Middle East came to be, as told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel’s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq). All helped enthrone ...

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Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East

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Overview

A brilliant narrative history tracing today’s troubles back to the grandiose imperial overreach of Great Britain and the United States.Kingmakers is the gripping story of how the modern Middle East came to be, as told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel’s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. The aim of this engrossing character-driven narrative is to restore to life the colorful figures who gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today.

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Editorial Reviews

ForeWord
“The story resonates with excitement . . . a first-class, always engrossing account of events. . . . A most necessary and rewarding book, and a primer on what not to do in the Middle East.”
Washington Post
“Beautifully written and researched.”
Alex von Tunzelmann
Kingmakers clicks into place when tackling the more recent American involvement in the Middle East. Meyer and Brysac provide some fascinating material on American relations with Ibn Saud and the exploitation of Saudi oil. The essay on how Wolfowitz convinced himself that what Iraq needed was the imposition of democracy is enlightening and commendably balanced. And the tale of C.I.A. involvement in the 1953 oil-prompted coup in Iran is marvelously told…It is hard to sum up Kingmakers. At its best, when the authors get hold of a really good story and run with it, the book is lively and illuminating.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

"Eminent Imperialists" might be a better title for this sprightly episodic history of Anglo-American meddling in the Middle East, from the 1882 British invasion of Egypt to the current Iraq War, told through profiles of the officials who spearheaded those policies. Journalists Meyer and Brysac (Tournament of Shadows) spotlight well-known, flamboyant figures like T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia") and British Arabist Gertrude Bell. But they focus on unsung toilers in the trenches of imperial rule like A.T. Wilson, the British colonial administrator whose idea it was to cobble Iraq together out of three fractious Ottoman provinces, and Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA agent who choreographed the 1953 ouster of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq. Policy continuities-securing the approaches to India and access to oil-sometimes get overshadowed by the authors' biographical approach, but in a sense that's the point. Their imperialism is marked by idiosyncrasy, improvisation, unforeseen circumstances and unintended-usually tragic-consequences. Policy was very much driven by the personalities who constructed it: their Orientalist enthusiasms, knee-jerk assumptions of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, arcane Straussian precepts and stubborn maverick streaks loom as large as cold geostrategic calculations. The result is a colorful study of empire as a very human endeavor. 30 illus., 2 maps. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Succinct overview of 12 people who have exerted significant influence on the fortunes of the Middle East since England invaded Egypt in 1882. World Policy Journal editor emeritus Meyer and former CBS News producer Brysac (co-authors, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, 1999) dedicate a chapter each to individuals ranging from historical icons (Lawrence of Arabia) to current-day politicians (Paul Wolfowitz). They begin by profiling Evelyn Baring, Egypt's unpopular British consul-general from 1883 to 1907, unaffectionately dubbed "The Great Bear" by his charges. Accounts of explorer Frederick Lugard, risk-taking diplomatic advisor Sir Mark Sykes and the former British civil commissioner for Baghdad, Arnold Wilson, follow. The book concludes with brief histories of former CIA operative Miles Copeland Jr. and Wolfowitz. Even with well-known subjects like Lawrence, Copeland and Wolfowitz, the authors keep things relatively fresh by spotlighting the key elements in familiar stories. Meyer and Brysac often draw links between historical events and current developments in the region. The passage on Wilson, for example, details an Iraqi insurgency that rose against the British in 1920 and unearths some eerie parallels with the 2006 uprising against the Allied forces. Similarly, they note that the Hashemite dynasty and the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, both established by Gertrude Bell, were destroyed many years after her death by (respectively) Saddam Hussein and the military invasion of Iraq. The authors close with an empathetic summary of the views expressed by present-day Iranians, neatly encapsulating the feelings of many Middle East citizens forAmerica. A satisfying, uncluttered account that makes a welcome addition to the shelf of books on the Middle East.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337709
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/12/2009
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,403,539
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Karl Meyer

Shareen Blair Brysac, formerly a prize-winning documentary producer at CBS News, is the author of Resisting Hitler and co-author of Tournament of Shadows and Kingmakers with Karl E. Meyer. The couple lives in New York and Weston, Connecticut.

Karl E. Meyer has written extensively on foreign affairs as a staff member of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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Table of Contents

Map of the Middle East 10

Authors' Note 13

Prologue: The Ever-Growing Egg 17

1 The Proconsul: Lord Cromer 29

2 The Empire's Power Couple: Dame Flora Shaw and Lord Frederick Lugard 59

3 "Dr. Weizmann, It's a Boy!": Sir Mark Sykes 94

4 The Acolyte: A. T. Wilson 127

5 "Dreadfully Occupied in Making Kings and Governments": Gertrude Bell 157

6 The Frenzy of Renown: T. E. Lawrence 193

7 The Apostate: H. S. J. B. Philby 226

8 "A Splendid Little Army": Glubb Pasha 259

9 A Very British Coup: General Ironside and the Three Percys (Sirs Cox, Sykes, and Loraine) 293

10 The Quiet American: Kermit Roosevelt 322

11 The Apprentice Sorcerer: Miles Copeland 348

12 The Man Who Knew Too Much: Paul Wolfowitz 381

Epilogue: Echoes in a Long Corridor 411

Selective Chronology 425

Acknowledgments 431

Illustration Credits 435

Notes 437

Bibliography 467

Index 485

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