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Spies in ArabiaThe Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East$
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Priya Satia

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331417

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331417.001.0001

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Imperial Expiation

Imperial Expiation

Chapter:
(p.165) 5 Imperial Expiation
Source:
Spies in Arabia
Author(s):

Priya Satia (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331417.003.0006

This chapter describes the cultural legacy of the Middle Eastern campaigns. It argues that they offered the hope of some continuity with the past, undercutting the sense of total rupture produced by the Western front. They offered a vision of a glamorous, biblical, Arabian‐Nights theater in which the old, adventurous, mobile sort of warfare still worked. The Kut disaster of the Mesopotamia campaign produced a redemptive vision of empire as a tool of colonial development. This helped package the new Middle East empire as a selfless endeavor in the increasingly anti‐imperialist postwar world. Central in the romantic image of these campaigns were the heroic figures that participated in them, including Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, and others, who acquired positions of enormous political and cultural influence after the war. Their celebrity was a product of an increasingly democratic public sphere fascinated with Arabia and struggling with changing notions of Englishness.

Keywords:   redemption, postwar culture, Lawrence of Arabia, heroism, development, Bloomsbury, postwar literature, radical politics, Englishness

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