In the spring of 2016, a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge put a motion before Regent House, the governing body of the university, to hold a discussion on the Prevent program—the British government’s counter-radicalization scheme. The scene during the discussion was palpably grim, with scholar after scholar imploring the university to refuse implementation of a program that had already spread across most public institutions and universities in the country.
We asked a few MERIP friends and Iraq scholars for their reflections on what they have read so far of the report now regarded as the official assessment of British involvement in the Iraq war.
During four months in Oxford last fall, I spent part of my time pursuing the charge of my editorial colleagues to seek out new and distinctively British approaches to the Middle East. My main finding is that British nostalgia for empire, which many North Americans came to know in the popular television series The Jewel in the Crown, has expanded its geographic ambit beyond the Indian raj and encompassed the Middle East as well. The prominent display of large quantities of several new books of this genre in the book shops of Oxford and London suggests that they appeal to an audience beyond Middle East specialists.
Wm. Roger Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, The United States and Post-War Imperialism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).
This rich and highly informative book charts the history of the post-war British Labor government’s policies in the Middle East. It is immensely detailed, but so very well written that the reader will easily follow the main tenor of the author’s arguments. Louis, a well-known and prolific historian of the last years of the British Empire, achieves much of his effect by a judicious mixture of quotation (mostly from British and American diplomatic archives) and comment.