Imperialism In Middle East

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Imperialism in Middle East

Imperialism in Middle East

Out line

History can never be objective. Although it may appear to be a record of events and trends it is actually a matter of interpretation. Interpretations, moreover, will constantly change. From one time to another and one society, or culture, to another.

In 1870 there was, therefore, nothing whatever new about the extension of European control and power over other parts of the earth. This argument ignored the awkward facts that much of the foreign investment of the European powers was not in colonial territories at all but in countries such as South America and Russia (Rempel, Imperialism), and that the standard of living of the working classes was high in countries like Denmark and Sweden which had no colonies, but low in France and Belgium which had large colonial territories.

Historical interpretation will therefore be a matter of current intellectual fashions in any culture. Until after 1870 national policies, and even more national public opinion, in most European countries had been hostile to colonies. By the 1820's several countries, after having long colonial connections, had lost these connections without suffering any apparent economic deprivation. By 1815 France had lost most of her colonial possessions in America and in the east, and Spain had lost her vast South American territories.

The Middle East 1870-1956

Imperialism and particularly the European imperialism as it applied to the Middle East between 1870 and 1956 is a good example of this phenomenon. This is particularly so as the interpretations of imperialism have relied so heavily on empirical evidence in terms of economic and military dynamics that have apparently driven the process. Yet even in this case the essential relativism of the interpretation of imperialism is very clear.

European imperialism in the Middle East from 1870 to 1956 took both formal and informal expressions. The occupation of the Middle East by the declining Turkish Empire was an expression of formal imperialism. The British annexation of Egypt in 1881 and the French possessions in the Levant were also formal imperialist gestures. After the First World War Britain and France exercised less formal, but no less influential, power over the region, creating the states of Transjordan and Iraq, for example in the 1920s and exploiting the oil wealth of the Middle East as energy became ever more important. In the Second World War Britain fought hard to retain its influence across the Middle East. In 1948 it was forced to give up its control of Palestine under the UN mandate but it was still very influential, especially as the Cold War was regarded as a vital reason to maintain western presence.

The United States saw the region as an important strategic battleground for energy and influence over the Soviet Union. In 1953 Britain and the United States used the Mosaddeq crisis in Iran to install a government of their choosing. In 1956 Britain and France, not with US backing, launched a disastrous invasion of the Suez Canal while Israel attacked Egyptian forces in ...
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