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Ibn Sa’ud and Britain: Early changing relationship and pre-state formation 1902-1914

Alotaibi, Dhaifallah (2017) Ibn Sa’ud and Britain: Early changing relationship and pre-state formation 1902-1914. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Abstract

The period under study, 1902-1914, has received little attention in Arab and British historiography. The study of the British-Sa’udi relationship has tended only to enter western historiography when the relationship was performing well and linked, directly, to economic, diplomatic and military scenarios. Such periods include the 1930s, after the creation of the Kingdom of Sa’udi Arabia, and the 1940s with regard to economic and political issues based on oil exploitation. Publication of books on Sa’udi Arabia boomed in the 1970s as a result of the increasingly important role of the country in international affairs. To the knowledge of the author, the present work is the first Ph.D. thesis that focuses entirely on the period from 1902 (the re-capture of Riyadh) to 1914 (the first formal British- Sa’udi negotiation). The study focuses on two regions: Najd and Al-Hasa. Overall, it explores the multiple factors influencing pre-state formation in Sa’udi Arabia. In particular, this thesis investigates the British–Sa’udi relationship with a focus on understanding British and international point of views, as well as the internal developments in the Arabian Peninsula under Ibn Sa’ud. This work studies the transformation of the ‘no interference’ British policy (first established in the appendix of the 1840 London Convention for the Pacification of the Levant) from 1902 to the point direct communications with Ibn Sa’ud were established in 1914 and before the Anglo- Najdi (Darin) Treaty in 1915. A major contribution to this research is the plurality of primary sources. These materials include correspondence between the various parties involved, and encompass – amongst other material - reports, public records, private papers, newspapers, and photographs. The author has consulted both English and Arabic literature. Special attention has been given to British primary sources as well as to Arabic translations of British documents. Finally, this thesis takes a refreshing approach to pre-state formation in Sa’udi Arabia. This approach is not focused on religious or nationalistic studies but rather a transnational perspective. It does so in order to discuss relationships that arose and were created between people and institutions. In practical terms this meant that the research took place within a specified spatial and chronological context. Moreover, and with regard to contents, the thesis identifies key players/protagonists and assesses the connections and relationships that emerged between them. In so doing it sought to identify the themes that emerged from the study of primary sources instead of starting with a general system (such as globalisation or nationalism) and thereafter exploring their manifestations. This approach informed the in depth analysis of the period from 1902 to 1914 which is critical to this study. In so doing it further explores the internal and external factors that shaped the development of the British-Sa’udi relationship. This relationship was initiated by Ibn Sa’ud, went through a series of turbulations, refusals and frustrations that did not alter Ibn Sa’ud’s commitment to gain British support. From these early stages, after gaining control over local and regional conflicts, Ibn Sa’ud emerged as a political leader with strategic plans to engage the British in the future of his country. The annexation of Al-Qassim and Al-Hasa, were game changers since they have transformed the central Arabia problem into a Gulf situation where the British had to take action and engage in direct communications with Ibn Sa’ud. The change in British attitude has traditionally been understood within the geopolitical dynamics of WWI and the deteriorating British- Ottoman relationship. This thesis recognises that the changing British - Ottoman, Ottoman -Arab relationships and the challenges of WW1, are crucial in understanding the developments during the end of this early period; however, it shifts the focus from the study of large scale imperial dynamics to local/regional changes taking place in central Arabia and discusses their impact. The years leading to WW1 might have eased the change in British position most crucially after the Ottoman Empire seceded completely following the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 (which caused several national and ethnic confrontations leading to the outbreak of WWI). Nevertheless, this thesis posits that within this international context, local events have had a significant impact in forging a direct Arab-British relationship in the early period of pre-state formation in central Arabia from 1902 to 1914: by expanding to Hasa, Ibn Sa’ud brought the previously isolated central Arabia to the centre of long term British Imperial interests in the Gulf. The decisive factor should therefore be found in Ibn Sa’ud’s strategic expansion from 1902-1914 that positioned him (deliberately) in a complex, polycentric world where he could claim new boundaries for his territories, negotiate relationships and force a change in the British attitude to his advantage.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Arts and Humanities > School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2018 09:49
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2018 09:49
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/10877
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