Who made the map of the modern Middle East?
The simple answer is: Great Britain. You want the long version?
In The Makers of the Modern Middle East historians T.G. Fraser, Andrew Mango, and Robert McNamara tell the story of how today’s Middle East was created from the remains of the Ottoman Empire during the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War.
The Allies weren’t the only powers that had an interest in the future of the region. Prince Feisal, who led the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire with British aid, hoped to build an Arab kingdom based on Syria and Palestine. Dr. Chaim Weizmann had laid the political groundwork for British support of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, created the modern, secular Turkish republic in the teeth of Allied opposition.
Fraser and his co-authors weave the details of competing territorial claims, conflicting political agreements, ignored reports, and colorful characters into a narrative as intricate as an Oriental rug, with a warp of Allied imperial ambitions and a weft of the emerging claims of Arab nationalism, Turkish nationalism and Zionism.
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The bottom line? If you promise the same piece of land to France, the Zionists and an Arab king, someone’s going to be unhappy when the war is over
This review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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