Innlegg merkte med ‘Britain’

Colonial Racism

Posta: Tysdag, 10 mars, 2009 under Ymse
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The racist attitude among many of Britain’s colonialists towards «natives»  is well-known. I recently found another example in a quote from the British Consulate in French Syria dated 5th of September 1924. Syria was at the time not so fond of the Britain, especially if you believe the Syrian newspapers. The Consulate, who represented the merchants from Nejd in Arabia at the time, was frustrated by this anti-British attitude and it’s influence on Nejdian merchants:

«The local Newspapers, in common with others in the Near East, are filled with artilces [sic] that are anti-British, either openly or by insinuation and poison the minds of unthinking simple folk like Nejdians, and in fact most Arabs» and «the erroneous news is widely accepted as the truth.»

Representing the Sultanate of Nejd in Syria was apparently not the easiest task in the world. According to the Consulate:

«the Oriental is always on the look out for verbal traps, and it is not easy to convince him that none are intended.»

This attitude might not be so strange considering Britain’s diplomatic history of verbal traps.

Source: FO 684/1


In the early 1920’s the power balance in Arabia changed. Sultan Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Nejd was expanding his realm in all directions and defeated longstanding enemies. Ibn Saud was supported to a certain degree by Great Britain, but one of his main rivals, Hussein b. Ali, Sharif of Mecca and King of the Hejaz, was also supported by the British. A former British Agent once said that «ours is a Hussein policy» and there was no doubt that Britain focused most of their energy on Hussein. Britain’s ideas on Arabia, however, slowly changed as Ibn Saud grew more and more powerful and as Britain found Hussein more as a burden than a valuable ally. The same Agent, Col. Vickery, spoke of this growing power in November 1922:

I see also in Arabia, a growing power, a power not of our forging, a power which will eventually overrun the very homes of these we have so openly and so prodigally supported … The custodianship of the holy places lies now with the Sharif of Arabia [sic], but I feel that peace will not descend on Islam till the cities of the Prophet are once again under the aegis of a Mohamadan nation which unites both spiritual and temporal power.

Three years later the Hejaz fell to Ibn Saud’s fanatic fighting force, the Ikhwan, and thereby ending Hashemite rule over the holy cities of Islam. Hussein fled to Aqaba and was then «invited» by the British to Cyprus.

(The quote is from Randall Baker’s book King Husain and the Kingdom of Hejaz.)

A Consul’s View of King Hussein

Posta: Torsdag, 28 februar, 2008 under Books, Ymse
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Yesterday I found this description of Hussein b. Ali, the King of the Hejaz and the Sharif of Mecca, by the British Consul in Jedda from December 1923:

 Imagine a cunning, lying, credulous, suspicious , obstinate, vain, conceited, ignorant, greedy, cruel Arab sheikh suddenly thrust into a position where he has to deal with all sorts of questions he doesn’t understand, and where there is no human power to restrain him, and you have a picture of King Husein … Lying, robbing, and other crimes no more come amiss to him than they did to the founder of his religion.

The British Consul does not pain a pretty picture of him. I did not know it was possible to pack so much negativity into one sentence. King Hussein was Britain’s Arabian ally during the Great War, but their relationship hardened in the years that followed when King Hussein became a small annoyance to Britain and when Britain did not fulfill her war-time promises to him. According to the book where I found the quote he had, by 1924, become both a despot and a figure of fun.