The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar

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The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar

By Frederick F. Anscombe
Columbia University Press, 1997
270 pp. $47.50
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Anscombe traces the Ottoman Empire's last big effort to strengthen its position in Arabia, beginning in the 1870s and ending in failure by 1913. Most accounts of Arabia in these years have told the story from the perspective of the British, the Saudis, or the Hashimites. But there was another party -- the Ottoman Empire, which just happened to claim sovereignty over most of the area. Anscombe presents the Ottoman role and perspective while giving due attention to the activities of the outside powers (essentially Britain) and the Arabs. Starting with the earlier Ottoman role in the Gulf, the book then describes Prime Minister Midhat Pasha's bold plan to reassert Ottoman control and mount an ambitious economic development program. Later chapters follow events to the (unratified) 1913 Anglo-Ottoman accord recognizing Britain's position in Kuwait. Why the Ottoman failure? Imperial overstretch with too many problems in too many places, and rudimentary transportation that made Arabia very far from Istanbul.