British policy towards Saudi Arabia 1925-1939
This thesis is set in the inter-war years, when Britain retained her control over the Arab world by various devices - mandate, protectorate, colony. At the geographical, strategic and religious heart of the Middle East lay Saudi Arabia, an independent state. Despite her sensitive location, the acknowledgment of Saudi Arabia's independence suggests a different type of relationship with Britain.This thesis seeks to examine that relationship by pursuing certain paths of enquiry, based on how Britain responded in an, imperial age to an independent Arab state situated in the middle of an area of near exclusive British control. Britain had to adjust to the contrast between the personal stature of King Ibn Saud and his remote and barren Kingdom. She bad to ascertain whether; as was popularly believed, he was basically well-disposed towards Britain. She had to consider whether to support his regime when, for dynastic and religious reasons, it sought territorial expansion in the mandatss and the Gulf sheikhdoms. In addition, Britain had to consider whether her interests were best served by encouraging the opening-up of Saudi Arabia to the outside world, or by retaining her own pre-eminent influence by excluding external penetration wherever possible.These issues are tackled by concentrating on four central featuresof British policy. Consideration is given, firstly,.to the political machinery and diplomatic channels engineered to facilitate relations with the Saudi state. Secondly, territorial disputes constituted the greatest area of concern for British policy, affecting Britain's strategic objectives in the Middle East. Territorial disputes in all four corners of the Saudi Kingdom are analysed. Thirdly, Britain's responses to various sources of external interest in Saudi Arabia are considered; Italian imperialism; American economic speculation; German intrigue; possible Saudi membership of the League of Nations; and Saudi Arabia's connections with Palestine and pan-Arabism. Finally there is the matter of oil, and whether it played a central or peripheral role in British policy towards Saudi Arabia between 1925-1939.