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A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 Hardcover


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A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 + Shadow of the Sultan's Realm: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393070654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393070651
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“An outstanding, revealing, and disturbing glimpse behind the closed doors of power politics.” (Booklist)

“Lively and entertaining. . . . [Barr] has thrown some light on hitherto unexplored corners.” (Financial Times)

“Starred review. Barr’s extensive archival research, evocative historical vignettes, and a superb sense of narrative pacing produce a first-rate work.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Combines the narrative pace of a spy novel with meticulous archival research.” (Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs: A History) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

James Barr is the author of Setting the Desert on Fire. During the research for A Line in the Sand he was a Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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It was well researched and very readable.
Mary K. Matthews
This came back to haunt the British a decade later, when Palestine exploded into the Great Arab Revolt of 1936.
Hancock the Superb
This is a "must read" for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East of today.
Randall Cook

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Max Blackston on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an essential read for anyone trying to understand the modern middle east and the central conflict there between what is now the State of Israel and the Arabs of the region. For anyone familiar with the history of the relationship between the British Mandatory government and the Palestinian Jewish community - deteriorating from its high point following the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised a national homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people, to the open warfare of 1946/7 - this book provides a much broader context for understanding the shifts and turns in British policy over that period. Like many of the arbitrary borders established by colonial powers, the line in the book's title - defining the unquiet border between Israel and Lebanon - is still very much relevant today.

The author tells the story of two "Great Powers" - Britain and France - both of whom acted - in the grand tradition of 19th century colonialism - solely in the interest of perpetuating their own influence in the area. The problem was that, by the time that this story begins - toward the end of the World War 1 - the 19th century was history; there was a new spirit abroad, championed by the American President Woodrow Wilson, which demanded respect for the aspirations of local peoples to self-determination. Great Britain and France thus had to modify their imperialist goals - or at least cloak them - by seeking "mandates" from the newborn League of Nations, which authorised them to exercise so-called protective power over various parts of the now defunct Ottoman empire until such time as these territories were judged to be competent to rule themselves.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Byrdman on February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent account by James Barr of the history of thirty four years of French and British competition for control of the Middle East.

He starts us at the logical point in late 1915 when Sir Mark Sykes proposed to the British prime minister how they might resolve the conflict with the French about the lands of the Ottoman Empire before it strained a fragile alliance with France. In conjunction with a French diplomat, Georges Picot, a line was determined that would give French control in the north and British control in the south. Keep in mind that France and England are engaged on the European continent in a devasting war against Germany, and yet their long standing mistrust manifests itself in this region.

It appears that every faction, and every player is represented in this book. It is very complex to understand the alliances that were created and the problems they in turn created in the region, but the author does a good job of it. There were times in reading the book that I thought of a pack of dogs fighting, one turning against the other in a violent fury that was devastating for all.

This book also gives the reader a clear understanding of how the Balfour Declaration became a huge problem for the British and the region. Balfour wanted to encourage a home land for the Jews, and Palestine was the chosen area. While, at first blush it appears admirable, the British bungled this and helped to create the tension that still pervades this area today. While Churchill as Colonial Secretary was busy trying to convince the Arabs that the inclusion of the Jews would bring prosperity and happiness to all, the Arabs became more and more hostile as more immigrants arrived.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Simone L. Watts on January 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Indeed well researched and non partisan. Somewhat superficiel at times, kept on expecting a map when I turned a page, much too short .Some important men are only mentioned en passant. Should be a must read for understanding the present situation and our role in the region. A sentence tells us about it in a veiled way : the French sold arms to Israel until 1956.
The mistakes by men driven to make sure the other side does not get what they covet is so outrageous and yet it continues , we're fighting/ocupying Afghanistan so noone else can be there ! Very relevant book especially with the French/British rivalry so active, in 2012 L'Entente Cordiale is subsiding only.
There's no denouement in this recent passage of history, the events are evolving daily and shaped as a consequence of England/France poorly thought decisions with only one goal : to rule a part of the world so the other side doesn't get it!
" They must be left to their own salvation " still does not apply in 2012. Will it ever????
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Randall Cook on December 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a student and teacher of 19th and 20th century Middle Eastern history, was anticipating this extraordinary study of the times. It is, for me, one of the definitive books of the period. One cannot understand the lack of trust, the skepticism, that Arabs feel towards the West if one does not understand this period. The promises made to the Arabs in 1915 to get them to rise up against the Ottoman Empire, and then the Sykes-Picot secret agreement in 1916 that broke the promise made in 1915, coupled with the Balfour Declaration in 1917, laid the foundation for the lack of trust that is so pervasive today. This is a "must read" for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East of today.
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