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British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

Robert S. G. Fletcher

Published in print February 2015 | ISBN: 9780198729310
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191796210 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198729310.001.0001

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
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This book reconstructs the history of Britain’s presence in the deserts of the interwar Middle East, making the case for its significance to scholars of imperialism and of the region’s past. It tells the story of what happened when the British Empire and Bedouin communities met on the desert frontiers between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, and traces the workings of the resulting practices of ‘desert administration’, from their origins in the wake of one world war to their eclipse after the next, as British officials, Bedouin shaykhs, and nationalist politicians jostled to influence desert affairs. Drawn to the commanding heights of political society in the region’s towns and cities, historians have tended to afford frontier ‘margins’ merely marginal treatment. Instead, this book combines the study of imperialism, nomads, and the desert itself to reveal the centrality of ‘desert administration’ and tribal control to the working of Britain’s empire, repositioning neglected frontier areas as nerve centres of imperial activity. It was out on the frontier that key political bargains had to be struck; British control even deepened here as it retreated from Middle Eastern cities. To take the pulse of imperial rule, and to gauge the prospects of nationalism, this book leads the shift in historians’ attentions from the familiar, urban seats of power to the desert ‘hinterlands’ that state-centric approaches have long obscured.

Keywords: British Imperialism; Middle East; nomadism; borderlands; desert administration; frontiers; migration

Book.  336 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Asian History

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Table of Contents

Introduction in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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Asking ‘the Tribal Question’ in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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Beating the Bounds in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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Running the Corridor in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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Making the Desert Bloom? in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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‘Somewhat Light Soil’ in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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Conclusion in British Imperialism and ‘the Tribal Question’

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