“Britain’s Moment in the Middle East,” by Elizabeth Monroe is a book that talks about Great Britain as the paramount power in most of the Middle East for good forty years in the history of the Middle Eastern people. In the introduction, Elizabeth Monroe explains in detail about the importance of India towards the achievements and the control of Great Britain in the Middle East. A statement by Lord Alanbrooke in 1946 says, “Without the strategic reserve of Indian troops able to operate east or west, we are left impotent” (pp. 12). In Monroe’s book, the basic or the obvious motive of the British involvement in the Middle East is to keep the route to Indian orderly and secured. Later to find out, British involvement is not intended for the Indian route alone, but it is also to hold the Soviet gateway to Africa smoothly, and to protect the east and west passage of quantity of oil that is becoming indispensable to western Europe. Furthermore, Monroe explains in her book how vital Indian is to the existence of the British’s Moment in the Middle East before Indian’s Independence Act of 1947. In the book, Indian is seen to have a Secretary of State to itself in the British Cabinet and is an empire in its own right. The Indian land provides a valuable range of training ground for the military and Indian accumulates commercial assets in 1913 that is up to ten percent of total British trade. Also, the Indian Government makes its own foreign policy without consulting the British. During the nineteenth century, by means of annexation, Indian forges south Asia into a single unit for its defense purposes and Indian extends this influence in Middle East. To the British, the longstanding preference for the ocean route to Indian is for its greater cheapness as well as for the freedom from interference that is known by the Palmerstone’s notorious opposition to the Suez Canal. However, in 1791 in London, The House of Common debates about the opposition to Suez Canal that could hinder the free passage to Indian. Later on in the eighteens-thirties, Russia appears to be a threat to the security of the route not only at the Black Sea straits but farther east, through friendship with Persia. On the other hand, Egypt is seen as another means to British involvement in the Middle East not until Napoleon made its thrust at Egypt in 1798 that laid the plans for the treaty with Persia in 1807, which alerts British and Indian of the danger of allowing the short route through Egypt to fall in the hands France or Russia.
One can say Elizabeth Monroe wrote Britain’s Moment in the Middle East because of how she watched the dying fall of the British quasi-empire and how she was personally acquainted with the most of the leading actors in the Middle East at her early stage. Also, Elizabeth Monroe wrote this book not just to educate the students of the Middle East but to unveil the history of the world power rotation for anyone’s interest in the imperial history. More so, her strong energy for research and her piercing eye for inaccuracy or prejudice in the course of the British imperialism results in this book that one can use to imagine the presence of the British during those forty years in the Middle East. In her preceding chapters from 1914-1945, Monroe explains the British political development and the extreme direct control of the region before World War I. Elizabeth Monroe went in more to reveal the desperation of Britain to control Turkey due to the cooperation Turkey has made with Germany during World War I. However, the pursuit of Turkey is mostly taken from the account of Lord Kitchen and his propaganda of sending Officers from Britain who can speak Arabic to Arabia in order to cause a revolt between Turkey and the Arab. Eventually British aim is achieved by the issue of protectorate on December 18, 1914 on Turkey. In the further chapters, Elizabeth Monroe hypothesis proves more on the policy of British and the formation of imperialism toward their object. For example, during World War I British wanted more territory especially by Herbert Samuel who was seen circulating a memorandum for the future of Mesopotamia. Due to this claim, a committee was set up on British desiderata in Asiatic Turkey, under the chairmanship of the Foreign Office official in order to set plans on how to achieve this goal. The result of the committee claims to have various choices that included Turkey for its independence either with Constantinople or whether to share its spoil by partition or just by means of influence from other imperialist. On the other hand, the French wanted share of this spoil while their strength is going out on the western front and the patience for discussion is running out on the French. As for the British, their aim is no where inclined to consider any opposition that concerns their decision. However, not until October 1915 did the British Cabinet agree to negotiate with the French. At the end of the day, British policy on its object is materialized by their control in southern Mesopotamia and French control is for the long coastal zone that is now known as Lebanon and Syria.
Elizabeth Monroe’s form of organization for this book works well in the sense that she accurately based her findings on the forty years of British dominion over the Middle East. More so, her first three chapters tells the readers of British political foundation in time when British control and manipulation was obvious and achieved from 1914-1945. While her next chapters explains British policy on the role of oil and the ascending power of nationalist that later results to the decline of British control. Monroe’s sources, appears to be a form or almost a direct eye witness event which allows the reader to imagine and visualize as if one is there. For example, in Monroe’s writing by Eden in speaking to the House of Commons “I found in the Middle East a general acceptance of the need to organize a safe shield of defense to protect the area from aggression from without.” (pp.182) Also, her primary account of the Britain’s Moment in the Middle East symbolizes her specialty in modern Middle Eastern history and one can say she sees the whole event through a lens from the British. For example, the fallen of British Empire to her is a disgrace to the King and the victory at last to the Middle East from their Imperial dictators. On the other hand, Elizabeth Monroe’s background as a retired civil servant who worked in the British Ministry of Information and as a former Middle East correspondent for the London Economist thus holds much to her credibility in writing the time and the imperialism of the British in the Middle East.
In Elizabeth Monroe’s book, one can say a chance for bias method of writing did not surface except that her account of the history appears to be a universal and somehow a common view of the history of the Middle East. Also, one cannot really disagree with the way she writes the account of the British in the Middle East because most of her story appears to be her own significant account when she worked for the British Ministry of Information. For example, in Monroe’s last chapter Nightfall “Britain was the one power that escaped this state of detachment. In the coastal belt of southern Arabia that consisted of Aden colony and its dependencies, the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, and the small Arab principalities of the Persian Gulf, British dominance survived. Unchallenged by the other powers, it rendered the area a replica in miniature of the onetime British position in the Middle East as a whole.” (pp.213). From this statement by Elizabeth Monroe, one can see personal feeling of victory and her sense of her own interpretation of British victory in the Middle Eat coming into play and that leaves no room for a reader to object, except to accept.
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In conclusion, Elizabeth Monroe addresses are book to her readers in way for anyone to grasp the history of Britain imperialism in the Middle East without really omitting any vital information so far. For example, her beginning chapters recalls British control of the Arab and Persian Gulf to secure the routes to India, the Britain’s impact on Egypt and Iraq in the interwar period, the discovery of oil and its concession and its partition in 1947. More so, she informs the reader of British decline of power especially with Mossadegh’s nationalization of the Persian oil in 1951 and the revolution that takes place in 1952. And in Elizabeth Monroe’s last chapter, she explains in detail the collaboration of the Israel, Britain, and French towards the affairs of the Suez Canal in 1956. One can say the book analysis of British involvement for forty years in the Middle East is of detail information and the type a seeker of knowledge can sink in to learn.
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