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Title: British imperialism and 'the tribal question' : desert administration and nomadic societies in the Middle East, 1919-1936
Author: Fletcher, Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 102X
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis examines the complex relationship between Bedouin communities and imperial rule on the desert frontiers of Egypt, Trans-Jordan and Iraq. As local British officials sought to develop new overland routes between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf they were drawn into new arrangements with the region's nomadic population. The resulting practices of 'desert administration' developed dynamics of their own. In tracing these, this thesis questions accepted narratives and chronologies of British influence in the Middle East. Much scholarship on the interwar Middle East stresses the divisive impact of arbitrary national borders. Instead, the central argument of this thesis is that the demands of imperial route-building and policing, as well as evolving Bedouin patterns of migration, raiding and trade, combined to mitigate their impact for decades. The record of 'desert administration' suggests many ways in which the borderlands between Egypt, Trans-Jordan and Iraq remained porous: this 'desert corridor' became a distinct historical space. Such a perspective revises understandings of boundary-making and state-formation in the Middle East, and attests to the ongoing dynamism of imperial rule in the period. The following chapters detail the origins, operation and eclipse of 'desert administration'. They pay particular attention to techniques of collaboration, coercion and development, as British officials, Bedouin shaykhs and nationalist politicians jostled to influence desert affairs. They also connect officials' experiences here with events and trends elsewhere, as desert authorities debated best practice and shared lessons from North Africa and the Sudan to the North West Frontier of India and beyond. Examining local administration within this framework recovers a lost colonial profession, forgotten personnel and institutions, unfamiliar 'regions' of activity and new units and ideologies for analysis. It shifts attention from familiar, urban seats of power to the desert 'margins' that state-centric approaches have long obscured, and asks the reader to rethink where power and politics really lay. Deserts and arid zones, no less than seas and oceans, have been meaningful political, social and cultural arenas in the imperial and global past.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available