Chapter

The British and French Empires in the Arab World: Some Problems of Colonial State-formation and its Legacy

James McDougall

in Sovereignty After Empire

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748643042
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653270 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748643042.003.0002
The British and French Empires in the Arab World: Some Problems of Colonial State-formation and its Legacy

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This chapter surveys the impacts of Western European empire on the Middle East and North Africa. It suggests that the significance of the European empires for the nature of post-colonial sovereignty in the Arab world is to be found in the patterns of colonial state formation that emerged from the local dynamics of territorially bounded polities, rather than in French and British grand strategy and their frustrating effects on Arab unity. Sovereignty, however qualified, has not simply been the attribute of successor states to empires — throughout the Arab world, some form of sovereignty pre-existed European overrule. In most cases, it persisted under colonialism, being reshaped in the interactions between imperial and local forces, interest and constraints, before emerging from decolonization. In the independent ‘new states’, sovereignty took forms whose particular constitutional, institutional and territorial shapes varied considerably. Throughout the region, however, and more broadly, basic features of colonial state-formation durably influenced the nature of post-colonial sovereignty.

Keywords: Western European empire; Middle East; North Africa; post-colonial sovereignty; state formation

Chapter.  9528 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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