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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32729

Title: British Intelligence and Turkish Arabia: Strategy, Diplomacy, and Empire, 1898-1918
Authors: Hamm, Geoffrey
Advisor: Retallack, James
Department: History
Keywords: History
Great Britain
First World War
Ottoman Empire
Issue Date: 21-Aug-2012
Abstract: This dissertation addresses early British intelligence activities and Anglo-Ottoman relations by viewing the activities of army officers and private individuals as a collective pursuit to safeguard British imperial interests. It offers a new understanding of the relationships between intelligence, grand strategy, and diplomacy before the Great War. It also examines the role that pre-1914 intelligence played in that conflict. The Boer War had shown that the geographic expanse of the British Empire was a source of strategic danger as well as a foundation of global power. The revelation of weakness propelled Britain to begin collecting intelligence on possible sources of conflict in preparation for the next war. A 1906 border incident between Egypt and Turkey marked turning points in Anglo-Ottoman relations and British intelligence efforts. Intelligence began to focus on railways that threatened Britain’s commercial position, on the disposition of Arab tribes who might revolt against Turkish authority, on the state of the Turkish army, and on the extent of European activity in Turkey. In 1914, British policy in the Middle East was unco-ordinated. Needing an effective means of combatting the Turco-German Jihad proclaimed in 1915, London created the Arab Bureau as an advisory organ based in Cairo. It became the central repository for much of the intelligence gathered before 1914. Officials in Cairo and London created new maps, compiled route reports, and assembled intelligence handbooks for distribution. Once the Arab Revolt began in 1916, intelligence helped marshal Britain’s resources effectively in pursuit of victory. Placing pre-1914 intelligence in the context of British imperial concerns extends our understanding of Anglo-Ottoman relations by considering strategic and diplomatic issues within a single frame. It demonstrates the influence of the Boer War in initiating intelligence-gathering missions in the Ottoman Empire, showing that even those undertaken before the establishment of a professional intelligence service in 1909, although lacking organization, were surprisingly modern, and ultimately successful. Analysis of under-utilized sources, such as the handbooks created by the Arab Bureau and the Royal Geographical Society, demonstrates the value of pre-war intelligence in detailed ways. It deepens understanding of the role British intelligence played in the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and shows how one nation’s intelligence, military, and diplomatic bodies operated separately and collectively in an era that presented them with unprecedented challenges and opportunities.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32729
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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