'Heart-Beguiling Araby' on the frontier of empire: Early Anglo-Arab relations in Transjordan

Yoav Alon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1920 the British government of Palestine sent six officers to establish a British presence in Transjordan. Lacking military and financial support, they could not possibly control a country populated by more than 200,000 tribespeople, many of them members of powerful tribal confederacies. The key to explaining why the British chose this unorthodox way to takeover a new territory lies in the special attitude towards Arabia entertained by the British following World War One. British policy derived from an alleged cultural affinity between the British and the 'Bedouin', coupled with a colonial tradition of attributing British administrators with a 'natural' ability to rule over natives. These two myths gave the British an inflated belief in their ability to rule local society. Drawing on official reports, private papers and local accounts, this article shows that the British grossly misunderstood local conditions and could not deal with the tribal communities that frustrated their attempt to assert British influence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-72
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2009


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