A Line in the Sand


Subtitle: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948
Author: James Barr
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Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
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Publication Year: 2013
ISBN#: 0-393-34425-8
Pages: 450
Language: en


Keywords: Europe; France; Great Britain; History; International Relations; Middle East; Political Science
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It was the middle of the first world war. Two men--one a visionary British politician (Mark Sykes), the other a veteran French diplomat (Francois Georges-Picot)--secretly drew a line in the sand from the Mediterranean to the Persian frontier. Territory north of this stark divide would go to France; land south of it, to Britain. Against the odds their pact survived to form the basis for the postwar division of the region into five countries that Britain and France would rule. The creation of Britain's "mandates" of Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq, and France's in Lebanon and Syria, made the two powers uneasy neighbors for the following thirty years. Drawing from newly declassified papers from the British and French government archives, James Barr vividly reexamines this crucial period of nation building. The pact was in direct contradiction both to the anti-imperialist spirit of the time being advocated by Woodrow Wilson and to the promises both power made to the local Arabs. When the independence they were promised never materialized, the Arabs reacted angrily. Britain and France blamed each other for the opposition they began to face. And these suspicions all too frequently proved correct as, at different points in time, the French and the British were to court Arab insurgency for their own gain. Following politicians, diplomats, spies, and soldiers, Barr brilliantly captures the machinations at work in the complex web of alliances and secret pacts between Frenchmen, British, Arabs, Jews, and Americans. We discover that, while France and Britain were allies in two world wars, they were also engaged in a clandestine struggle for power in the fractious Middle East, a rivalry that dramatically climaxed with the birth of Israel. A Line in the Sand is a gripping narrative of the last grasp of empire, with incredible tales of unscrupulous double-dealing, cynical manipulations, and all-too-frequent violence that continues to the present day. -- Inside jacket flaps.