The British Arabists

Victorian travellers had made Arab studies a romantic discipline; but, writes Alaric Jacob, British involvement in Arab affairs arose from the First World War.

The collapse of the Turkish Empire in 1918 added a new field of responsibility to what, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now discern to have been a dangerously over-extended British Empire. It also brought to light a new cadre in the Imperial service which had scarcely existed before - the Arabist.

British support of the ailing Ottoman Empire throughout most of the nineteenth century, as a barrier against Tsarist incursion into the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, had made Arabia terra incognita to the normally ubiquitous British traveller.

The exception was Aden, captured by Captain Haines of the Indian Navy for a coaling station in 1839: Haines became the virtual Sultan of Aden and his long years of diplomacy with the sheiks of the hinterland entitle him, perhaps, to be considered the first Arabist.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.