SETTING THE DESERT

ON FIRE

It is 1916. The Allies are struggling in the Great War. The Ottoman Sultan calls for a pan-Islamic jihad against all non-Muslims except Germans. But Sharif Husein, ruler of the holy city of Mecca, is smarting under Turkish rule, fomenting Arab nationalism and lobbying the British to support him. It seems to the British a good idea secretly to encourage an Arab revolt. 

Setting the Desert on Fire is a masterly account of this key moment made legendary by T. E. Lawrence, but here filled with a wide range of characters including the British Prime Minister Lloyd George, whose desire to capture 'Jerusalem by Christmas' had consequences that reverberate to this day. 

A LINE IN THE SAND

In 1916 two men secretly agreed to divide the Middle East between them. Sir Mark Sykes was a visionary politician; Francois Georges-Picot a diplomat with a grudge. They drew a line in the sand from the Mediterranean to the Persian frontier, and together remade the map of the Middle East, with Britain's 'mandates' of Palestine and Iraq, and France's in Lebanon and Syria. Over the next thirty years a sordid tale of violence and clandestine political manoeuvring unfolded, told here through a stellar cast of politicians, diplomats, spies and soldiers, including T. E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. 

Using newly declassified papers from the British and French archives, James Barr vividly depicts the covert, deadly war between Britain and France to rule the Middle East, and reveals for the first time the shocking way ni which the French finally got their revenge. 

LORDS OF THE DESERT

In 1945, Britain still dominated the Middle East, but her motives for wanting to control this vital crossroads were changing. Where 'imperial security' had once been paramount, oil was now a crucial factor. So, too, was prestige. As their empire began to crumble, the British felt their claim to 'Great Power' status hinged increasingly on their control of the region. 

Unable to withstand Arab and Jewish nationalism, however, the British were gone within a generation. But that is not the full story. The United States helped speed them on their way. 

Using newly declassified records and long-forgotten memoirs, including the diaries of a key British spy, James Barr tears up the conventional interpretation of this era, vividly portraying the tensions between London and Washington, and shedding an uncompromising light on the murkier activities of their men on the spot, from the battle of El Alamein in 1942 to Britain's abandonment of Aden in 1967. A reminder that the Middle East has always served as the arena for great power conflict, this is the tale of an internecine struggle in which Britain would discover that her most formidable rival was the ally she had assumed would be her closest friend.

 
 
 
© 2018 by James Barr