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Concerned that France would block British access to the eastern Mediterranean and thereby threaten critical trade routes to India, the British navy collaborated with Ottoman authorities to evict French troops from Egypt.
From this episode until decolonization in the mid- twentieth century, British policies in the region reflected the interplay of Great Power rivalries and the balancing of strategic and economic interests.
This essay surveys the history of British imperialism in the Middle East by examining four major periods of interaction: For the purposes of this essay, the Middle East is defined as the region ranging from Egypt to Iran and from Turkey to Yemen.
With the notable exception of Iran, which remained a center of independent Islamic government for centuries, this region in the nineteenth century fell largely within the orbit of American involvement in the middle east Ottoman Empire, an Islamic sultanate that was based after in Istanbul.
At its peak in the seventeenth century, and before the onset of the economic and territorial contraction that accompanied the rise of Western imperialism in the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire ruled over a vast multicultural domain in southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa as far west as Algeria.
As early asEnglish merchants like their Venetian, French, and other European counterparts secured formal commercial privileges for trading in the Ottoman Empire and later gained comparable rights in Iran.
Called capitulations in English, from the Latin term capitulas referring to the topics or clauses of the agreements, these privileges were renegotiated several times over the next two centuries. They proved significant as the basis for a series of extrajudicial and fiscal rights that Britons continued to enjoy in the Middle East until the early twentieth century.
Accumulated literary and artistic representations of the exotic, despotic East, retrograde and debauched, also provided the foil against which late nineteenth-century British writers constructed an image of the British national and imperial character as rational, modern, moral, and strong.
By the end of the eighteenth century, when Britain stood poised to expand its influence in the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire had already begun to suffer military losses to Austria, Russia, and France and to lose territories along its fringes, for American involvement in the middle east, in Hungary and the Crimea.
At the same time, Iran, newly consolidated under the Qajar dynasty r.
The third objective was related to what nineteenth-century observers called the Eastern Question—that is, the challenge of preserving the Ottoman Empire in order to avoid inflaming both competition between the Great Powers and the generally contentious atmosphere created by Western imperial At the end of the eighteenth century, British trade in the eastern Mediterranean lands of the Ottoman Empire the Levant region accounted for a mere 1 percent of total British foreign trade.
In the aftermath of the Napoleonic conquest of Egypt, Britain significantly improved its economic status in the region by using its good favor with Ottoman authorities to secure advantageous trading agreements. Britain was a major supplier of cheap colored cotton textiles which constituted more than half of its exports to the Middle East until the s and also supplied what some economic historians call colonial goods— commodities such as Caribbean sugar and Indian tea that came from the larger British empire.
In return Britain secured long-staple cotton from Egypt and other food and animal products such as dates, barley, and leather. By the s British transport from the eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean occurred along two main routes: The vital importance of the Suez route was confirmed afterwhen a French engineering firm cut a waterway through the kilometer-wide mile-wide isthmus, creating the Suez Canal.
Britain was initially concerned about the prospect of a French invasion of India through Iran and Afghanistan, but this threat had dissipated by the time the Napoleonic wars ended in Neither Britain nor Russia wanted the other power to seize control over Iran because the region was strategically valuable to both.
This Anglo-Russian competition over Iran, which endured into the twentieth century, preserved the weak central government of the Qajar shahs from formal colonial takeover. Instead, Britain and Russia vied to exert their influence in Iran politically, by supplying military and foreign policy advisors, and economically, by securing trade privileges and concessions pertaining to commodities and services.
Britain negotiated an advantageous commercial treaty with Iran inwhile in the late nineteenth century British concerns won concessions to develop a telegraph system and a modern central bank in Tehran. Edward, Prince of Wales, Visits Aden.
Edward, prince of Wales, is greeted with a banner proclaiming support for his father, King George V, during a state visit to Aden, a British protectorate in what is now Yemen. As mentioned above, British strategists worried about maintaining Ottoman territorial integrity in order to avert wars and contests for influence among the Great Powers themselves.
On two major occasions, during the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish WarBritain formed alliances with the Ottomans to counteract Russian expansion. Britain used both occasions to extract advantages for itself. Infor example, Britain helped to persuade the Ottoman sultan to issue the famous Humayun decree one of the landmark measures of the mid-nineteenth-century Ottoman Tanzimat, or reformist, periodwhich proclaimed religious equality among Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
In theory if not in practice, this decree reversed the traditional Islamic imperial assumption of Muslim hegemony over non-Muslim subjects dhimmis. Inmeanwhile, Britain persuaded the Ottoman authorities to grant it the island of Cyprus as a naval base, leading to a form of British control over Cyprus that persisted until and that outlasted the Ottoman Empire itself by forty years.
Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman army officer who established, consolidated, and expanded his hold over Egypt after the Anglo-Ottoman expulsion of the French army inhad already conquered parts of the Sudan when he sent his son, Ibrahim Pasha, to take Ottoman Syria in In other words, Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman underling, was trying to take over the empire from within, for the sake of building his own empire centered in Egypt.
Concerned that Muhammad Ali, as an emerging local power, was complicating the Eastern Question by upsetting the regional status quo, Britain helped to arrange a deal between the Sublime Porte i. In return for evacuating his forces from Syria, Muhammad Ali gained the right to pass his governorship in Egypt to his heirs.
This policy led to the creation of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, which endured in Egypt until Along with Russia and France, Britain supported the Greek Revolt and helped to broker the agreement that led in to Greek independence from the Ottomans—that is, to liberty from what Greek nationalist historians have often called Turkocracy.
In the s Ottoman policymakers in Istanbul, and their counterparts under the leadership of Khedive Ismail the grandson of Muhammad Ali in Egypt, began to take out loans from French and British businesses for the sake of pursuing westernizing, modernizing reforms.
When the loans came due inthe Ottoman and Egyptian governments found themselves unable to pay. Hoping to raise the needed funds, the Egyptian government sold its 44 percent stake in the Suez Canal Company to the British government, to no avail.
When both the Ottoman and Egyptian treasuries declared bankruptcy, Britain and France installed joint public debt commissions to supervise and guarantee repayments from Istanbul and Cairo; in effect, these measures meant a loss of Ottoman and Egyptian economic sovereignty.
In Egypt ina nationalist uprising broke out against a backdrop of widespread economic distress and growing anti-European sentiment.Israeli-American jailed 10 years for anti-Semitic bomb threats. An Israeli-American convicted of making more than 2, threats against U.S.
Jewish institutions, airlines, police stations and even a professional basketball team's plane was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday by an Israeli court. Read the Latest Middle East News Headlines and Breaking Middle East News including news from Israel, Syria, Iran and Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
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