Inventing the Middle East: Britain and the Persian Gulf in the Age of Global Imperialism by Guillemette Crouzet
The "Middle East" has long been an indispensable and ubiquitous term in discussing world affairs, yet its history remains curiously underexplored. Few question the origin of the term or the boundaries of the region, commonly understood to have emerged in the twentieth century after World War I. Guillemette Crouzet offers a new account in Inventing the Middle East. The book traces the idea of the Middle East to a century-long British imperial zenith in the Indian subcontinent and its violent overspill into the Persian Gulf and its hinterlands. Encroachment into the Gulf region began under the expansionist East India Company. It was catalyzed by Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and heightened by gunboat attacks conducted in the name of pacifying Arab "pirates." Throughout the 1800s the British secured this crucial geopolitical arena, transforming it into both a crossroads of land and sea and a borderland guarding British India's western flank. Establishing this informal imperial system involved a triangle of actors in London, the subcontinent, and the Gulf region itself. By the nineteenth century's end, amid renewed waves of inter-imperial competition, this nexus of British interests and narratives in the Gulf region would occasion the appearance of a new name: the Middle East. Charting the spatial, political, and cultural emergence of the Middle East, Inventing the Middle East reveals the deep roots of the twentieth century's geographic upheavals.