Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East

Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East

by Priya Satia
     
 

ISBN-10: 0199734801

ISBN-13: 9780199734801

Pub. Date: 11/30/2009

Publisher: Oxford University Press

At the dawn of the twentieth century, British intelligence agents began to venture in increasing numbers to the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire, a region of crucial geopolitical importance spanning present-day Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. They were drawn by the twin objectives of securing the land route to India and finding adventure and spiritualism in

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Overview

At the dawn of the twentieth century, British intelligence agents began to venture in increasing numbers to the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire, a region of crucial geopolitical importance spanning present-day Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. They were drawn by the twin objectives of securing the land route to India and finding adventure and spiritualism in a mysterious and ancient land. But these competing desires created a dilemma: how were they to discreetly and patriotically gather facts in a region they were drawn to for its legendary inscrutability and by the promise of fame and escape from Britain?

In this groundbreaking book, Priya Satia tracks the intelligence community's tactical grappling with this problem and the myriad cultural, institutional, and political consequences of their methodological choices during and after the Great War. She tells the story of how an imperial state in thrall to the cultural notions of equivocal agents and beset by an equally captivated and increasingly assertive mass democracy invented a wholly new style of "covert empire" centered on the world's first brutal aerial surveillance regime in Iraq. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources—from the fictional to the recently declassified—this book explains how Britons reconciled genuine ethical scruples with the actual violence of their Middle Eastern empire. As it vividly demonstrates how imperialism was made fit for an increasingly democratic and anti-imperial world, what emerges is a new interpretation of the military, cultural, and political legacies of the Great War and of the British Empire in the twentieth century.

Unpacking the romantic fascination with "Arabia" as the land of espionage, Spies in Arabia presents a stark tale of poetic ambition, war, terror, and failed redemption—and the prehistory of our present discontents.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199734801
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/30/2009
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
472
Sales rank:
972,599
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents


Note on Arabic Spellings     xiii
Reference Map     2
Introduction     3
War and Hope
The Foundations of Covert Empire     23
The Cultural World of the Edwardian Agent     59
The Failure of Empiricism and How the Agents Addressed It     99
Cunning in War     137
Imperial Expiation     165
Peace and Terror
Official Conspiracy Theories and the Wagers of Genius     201
Air Control     239
Covert Empire     263
Seeing Like a Democracy     287
Conclusion     329
Notes     339
Selected Bibliography     409
Index     443

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