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Topic Proposal and Annotated Bibliography: Impact of World War One on the Middle East

1397 words (6 pages) Essay in History

18/05/20 History Reference this

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        Many historians have written extensively about the destruction caused by World War One throughout Europe but tend to ignore or fail to include the level of destruction the Great War did throughout the Middle East. The losses suffered in the Middle East were devastating not only to the land and armies, the war destroyed societies and economies. In this way, the experience of the Great War that took place in the Middle East is comparable to the devastation that World War Two had on Europe. The social and economic effects of the war and the events that took place afterwards left a devastating impact on the Middle East which continues to affect not only the region and but the rest of the world today.[1]  The failure to teach ancient and modern history on subjects such as Pan-Arabism or the nationalistic movements that took place during the post-Ottoman period, leaves little understanding of how the modern Middle East emerged, and why United States and Western European interests in the region remains so central to their foreign policies.[2]

       When World War One finally ended the empires of the Romanov’s, Hapsburgs and the Ottoman-Turks ceased to exist. Largest of the three, the Ottoman-Turk Empire, the oldest and largest of the three, created a vacuum when its fell leaving its people, natural resources and lands open for conquest. The western nations such as France and Great Britain, which were driven by imperialism were quick to step in and set up colonial claims.[3] Western European nations began to carve up the defeated Ottoman empire by drawing up borders and create new created countries.[4] As they nation built, Europeans failed to pay attention to the various ethnic and religious divisions that defined the Middle East for many centuries. Simply put Europe was only concerned with perpetuating its own interests, without fear of the consequences.

       The purpose of the research paper is to show how Western nations chose to ignore the various ethnic and religious divisions that made up the Middle East for nationalistic fervor. This includes centuries old prejudices and grudges toward the Arab world that helped to influence the decisions in dividing up the region by the victorious allies following the end of the World War One. In order to do this, I have chosen to use the lenses of social, political, and economics to answer the following questions. Had the Western world leaders understood the region and/or simply listened to those who did or simply put aside their prejudices many of today’s problem in the region may not exist at all. Had the European leaders been attentive and less selfish, could this have prevented the modern Middle East and the world from continued strife.[5] Did the forcing of tribes of different religious sects, such as the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, to live together helped to create continued tensions in the Middle East. Would it have been better to allow the Arab people to rule themselves using tribal laws instead of forcing European colonial rule upon the region. 

Annotated Bibliography

Barr, James. A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle That Shaped the Middle East. London: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

       A Line in the Sand written by James Barr, author of several of historical works on the Middle East, used archival documents to present a paper about the colonial era of British and French rule over the Middle East after the first world war. A Line in the Sand attempts to explain how the centuries old disagreements between Britain and France, helped to create the current rivalry between the Arabs and the Jews, and ultimately led to war between the British and French (Vichy) in 1941 and between the Arabs and Jews in 1948. The book looks into the many years of uneasy partnership, Britain succeeded in forcing France from Lebanon and Syria with the hope of maintaining its control over Palestine. The book supports the idea that both France and Britain were only concerned with perpetuating their own interests, regardless of the consequences that were created from their quest for new lands.   

Hardy, Roger. The Poisoned Well: Empire and Its Legacy in the Middle East. London: Hurst & Company, 2018.

       The Poisoned Well: Empire and Its Legacy in the Middle East by Roger Hardy, a BBC analyst on the Middle East and author of books on the region, shows how the current conflicts and crises in today’s Middle East are  rooted from the colonial period. Using eyewitness accounts of nationalists, colonial administrators, soldiers, spies, and civilians to present the negative effects that Western imperialism had on the region. The author tries to show that Western imperialism helped to lay the ground work for the continuing conflicts in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Karsh, Efraim, and Inari Karsh. Empires of Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East 1789 – 1923. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

       Empires of Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East 1789 – 1923, was written by Efraim and Inari Karsh, authors of several books about the region, present the argument that Western European imperialism was not the threatening colonial rulers that most scholars often make them out to be. The Karsh’s try to show how Western Europe supported the Ottoman Empire and not try to take control over its territories. That England’s control over Egypt, was the result of Sultan Abdul Hamid’s mismanagement of the region. The Karsh’s attempt to show how the failure of the Ottoman rulers and the missteps of their envoys in attempting to manipulate European powers led to the loss of territory in the Balkans. The Karsh’s argument provides a different perspective in how the failure of the Ottoman-Turks to maintain control of their empire through bad decisions.

McMeekin, Sean. The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908 – 1923. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2015.

        In The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908 – 1923 written by Sean McMeekin, a professor of history and author of several books about the Middle East and World One, gives an account of the events that took place before World War One and the Ottoman Empire’s position role during the war. Through the use of archival resources from the former Ottoman empire and Russia, British, German, French, American, and Austro-Hungarian, the book chronicles the emergence of modern day Turkey and the carving up of the Ottoman Empire. The author sheds light on the issues of the ethno-religious killings and forced population transfers as the former empire broke up. This includes such things as the Balfour Declaration, the toppling of the caliphate, and the partition of Iraq and Syria which helps to provide a better understanding to the current situation in the region.

  • Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922. London: Penguin Books, 1991.
  • Rogan, Eugene L. The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East. New York, NY: Perseus Books, 2015.

[1] David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922..

[2] Ibid.

[3] Eugene L. Rogan. The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East.

[4] David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922.

[5] Ibid.

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