Spies in Arabia

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

3.88 (27 ratings by Goodreads)
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At the start of the twentieth century, British intelligence agents began to venture in increasing numbers to the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire, drawn by the twin objectives of securing the route to India and finding adventure and spiritualism in an antique land. But these competing objectives created a dilemma: how were they to discreetly and patriotically gather facts in a region they were drawn to for its legendary inscrutability and promise of fame and escape from Britain? Spies in Arabia tracks the intelligence community's tactical grappling with this dilemma and its myriad cultural, institutional, and political consequences during and after the Great War. Arguing that violence and culture were more closely allied in imperial rule than has been recognized, it tells the story of an imperial state dependent on equivocal agents groping through a fog of cultural notions and an interfering mass democracy towards a new style of "covert empire" centered on a brutal aerial surveillance regime in Iraq. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources - from the fictional to the recently declassified - it explains how Britons reconciled genuine ethical scruples with the actual violence of their Middle Eastern empire - how imperialism was made fit for an increasingly democratic and anti-imperial world. In doing so, it offers the first cultural history of Britain's Middle Eastern empire, anchored in a radically new interpretation of the institutions and practices of intelligence-gathering and the state. The result is a new understanding 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 start tale of poetic ambition, war, terror, and failed redemption - and the prehistory of our present discontents.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 472 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 35.56mm | 771.1g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 2 maps
  • 0195331419
  • 9780195331417
  • 2,005,128

About Priya Satia

Assistant Professor of History, Stanford University.show more

Review quote

This book is nuanced, challenging, nicely written, interesting and thought-provoking... rich and rewarding... It is a book that is sure to be well received and it will further our understanding of Britain and the Middle East. * Matthew Hughes, History * [An] impressive work which ambitiously seeks to explore the cultural space within which political, military and intelligence personnel operated. * Keith Jeffery, Asian Affairs. * a significant addition to the historiography of the First World War beyond Europe... [An] impressive study... * Nadia Atia, History Workshop Journal *show more

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Rating details

27 ratings
3.88 out of 5 stars
5 33% (9)
4 37% (10)
3 22% (6)
2 0% (0)
1 7% (2)
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