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Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [‎83r] (166/220)

The record is made up of 1 file (110 folios). It was created in 27 Aug 1893-19 Dec 1918. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers Documents collected in a private capacity. .


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to Arab affairs, so far as I am able to appreciate it, I cannot sum up the diffi-
. culties which seem to me to beset the path of H.M.’s Government in its future
dealings with Arabia in words more pregnant or more prophetic than those,
which appear on page 203 of Mr. G. Wyman Bury’s “ Arabia Infelix ” : —
“ One of the first principles of state craft in dealing with Orientals is
never to back one ruler in preference to others unless he is, by personal
qualities, position and resources, fitted to wield paramount power. That is,
if a chief cannot rule unassisted, it is very little use trying to support him
with overt force among warlike races, for the mere fact of alien armed assist
ance will create enemies for him until he becomes a sort of lightning con
ductor for political storms and his suzerain gets the shock.”
It is with some diffidence that I venture on an exposition of the Sharif’s
scheme of things as I am conscious of regarding him through Najdean specta
cles as the embodiment of an unrealisable ideal, but I have had the advantage
of hearing from his own lips his plans for the reconstruction of the Arab
universe, his irreducible minimum of the requirements of the situation and
something of the methods, by which he hopes to work out the salvation of the
Arab race; at the same time I have seen him, from the other side of the curtain,
raising up against himself, perhaps wilfully, perhaps on account of his own
lack of administrative and political experience, an unsurmountable obstacle to
the realisation of his aims. I may say at once that I do not share the view
that he is actuated by a large-hearted and unselfish desire for the welfare of the
Arab race and the faith of Islam rather than by motives of personal ambition
for himself and his house. But that is a matter of little moment.
Discussing historically the origin of his revolt and the motives which
inspired it, the Sharif talked freely of certain mysterious documents in his
possession, of the contents of which I was never able to acquire any information
from any other source,—the very existence or genuineness of which there
appeared to be reason to doubt. Those documents, he declared, constituted
his charter of rights; he would produce them at the psychological moment;
he was convinced that the British Government would never go back on its
plighted word.
By implication he suggested that these documents contained a recognition
of his claim to be King of the Arab nations ; to that claim effect would be given,
when all the Arab nations were freed of the Turkish domination, which mili
tated against the existence of Arab unity; the restricted title of “ King of the
Hijaz,” to which alone the British Government had publicly committed itself,
was a meaningless phantom, unacceptable to himself; he recognised that minor
modifications of policy might supervene, were, indeed, inevitable, as in the
case of Palestine newly conquered: nevertheless, he would not rest content
with anything less than the substantial recognition of his main ambition and,
in the event of his failure to secure that, he would prefer honourable retire
ment, under the aegis of the British Government, to a limited sovereignty.
Meanwhile he pressed for two things—firstly, that, so far as possible, we should
refrain from coquetting with other Arab elements than himself, any dealings
with such independent Arab potentates, as the Idrisi and Ibn Saud, being cal
culated to render the fructification of his plans more difficult, in the assurance,
that he had his scheme cut and dry for removing all obstacles from his and
our paths, when the termination of the war with Turkey should leave him
free to turn his attention elsewhere: and, secondly, that, it being necessary
that the various Arab races should have some tangible ideal of unity, up to
which to educate themselves and on which to concentrate their attention, formal
recognition of the self-assumed title of “ King of the Arab countries ” should
be accorded to him. The vicious circle, which, as Commander Hogarth aptly
pointed out, was involved in this train of argument, left him cold,—it was,
he thought, no more difficult to become King of the Arabs by being so addressed
than to earn the right to such an address by becoming King of the Arabs.
Be that as it may, H.M.’s Government, in spite of repeated representa
tions by the King, found themselves unable to give way on the question of
title, though, so far as I know, they raised no formal objection to his continued
use of the unauthorised designation in his official correspondence—the matter
was of little import except that, whereas Ibn Saud might conceivably have
brought himself to recognise the title of “ King of the Hijaz,” he made a
special point, in spite of my representations on the subject, of replying to
the Sharif of Mecca when addressed by the King of the Arab Countries. On
the first point, however, H.M.’s Government’s modification of their ideas
in respect of the Hail operations substantially conceded the King’s claim to
be the sole recipient of Government’s high consideration and largesse.
It was on the attempt to obtain recognition of his temporal position that
the King for the most part concentrated his energies and, so far as I remem
ber, little was said at the Jidda conversations on the subject of the Calif ate.
That to him presented no difficulty; he would take it in his stride; his spiritual
claim as the greatest of the living descendants of the Prophet was incontest
able; in any case, the Califate would not be refused by the faithful to the
successor of the Sultan of Turkey in the role of the greatest independent
Islamic power—indeed the name of Husain ibn Ali was already beginning, in
various parts of the world, to fill the gap once occupied by that of the Ottoman

About this item


The file contains correspondence, memoranda, maps, and other papers relating to Middle Eastern affairs and a few other miscellaneous matters. The majority of the file concerns discussions of and proposals for the post-war settlement of Near Eastern territories, including Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula. The basis of these discussions was the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.

Other matters covered by the papers include events in Siam [Thailand] and Burmah [Myanmar] and the colonial rivalry in the region between France and Britain, the Baghdad Railway, and relations with Ibn Saud in Arabia, including a report on the 1917-18 mission to Najd by Harry St John Philby (folios 67-98).

Folios 99-110 are six maps with accompanying notes that show the various proposed territorial settlements and spheres of influence in the Near East and one showing Britain's global colonial possessions.

Memoranda and correspondence comes from officials at the Foreign Office and India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. . Other correspondents include French and Italian government officials.

Extent and format
1 file (110 folios)

The file is arranged in roughly chronological order, from the front to the back.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front of the envelope with 1, and terminates at the inside back last page with 110, these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio.

Pagination: the file also contains an original printed pagination sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [‎83r] (166/220), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F112/276, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 29 November 2023]

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