Fiction and Britain's Middle East Mandate

Britain’s involvement in the Middle East between the wars proved a rich seam for authors of adventure stories which, in turn, helped to reinforce the imperial mission.

Cover of ‘Biggles Flies East’.
Cover of ‘Biggles Flies East’.

Between 1914 and 1918 adventure fiction for boys and young men was dominated by heroic tales of the Western Front, the war in the air or at sea. After 1918, however, and while many stories of the Great War continued to be published, authors began to seek new sites of adventure in which to locate their stories. Many were attracted by the new imperial territories of the Middle East. Here were unlimited opportunities for thrilling tales of young Britons bringing peace and order to a region made unstable by conflict, contrasting honest and upright Britons with cruel Turks, untrustworthy Arabs and rascally Egyptians. Such stories not only offered opportunities for manly heroics in an exotic location but served a patriotic purpose, for they justified the British presence in the Middle East, demonstrated the great advantages of British imperialism for indigenous peoples and allowed those of a more squeamish disposition to resolve through literature some of the tensions created by the occupation of the Middle East.

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