In This Review

London and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922
London and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922
By Roger Adelson
Yale University Press, 1995, 244 pp

The term "Middle East" was invented, and most of the now-familiar lines on the map of the region were drawn, during the first two decades of this century. This lively presentation of the origins of the modern Middle East focuses on the small number of political figures and bankers in London who, knowing little about the region, projected onto it many of its current political features. The author makes much of the role of individuals and financial considerations, arguing that only later, with the growing importance of the region's oil, did policy stem primarily from serious strategic interests. Indeed, he sketches a picture of a few men, all from similar backgrounds, making decisions of vast importance with little knowledge and often little reflection, except to keep an eye on costs. The text is enlivened by a remarkable collection of photographs. Though adding little to conventional accounts, Adelson is masterful at evoking a sense of place and atmosphere. A good read.