British Interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East

British Interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East

British Interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East

British Interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East

Excerpt

The question of British interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East cannot be discussed without some consideration of the past history of British relations with the area. These relations have been of two kinds, relations with the states and peoples of the area, and relations with other European powers possessing influence or seeking influence there. For the Mediterranean has served from the very earliest days as both a highway of trade and a passage for conquest, and on both counts Great Britain eventually became involved. The eastern end of this inland sea was closed by the bloc of land known as the Middle East, and for this reason the countries of Western Europe have also become caught up in Middle Eastern history.

These lands east of the Mediterranean have played a leading part in European history. They have been a great seat of civilization, and were foster-mother to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They also made a bridge between Asia and Africa, across which a number of invaders have marched in the attempt to outflank Europe. Furthermore they have acted as a barrier to the sea-borne expansion of European trade and influence, a barrier sometimes to be circumvented by sailing round Africa, a barrier over which goods had otherwise to go by portage to Suez, or via the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. Revenue from the portage traffic has always been a major source of income to the inhabitants of the area. The control of such a potential obstacle to trade became of major importance once European sea power had led to the establishment of Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British empires in the Indian Ocean and farther eastwards. For in building these empires the main lure was trade and the control of trade.

For a long time after the European sea Powers had circumvented this land barrier, the Middle East continued to be controlled by the Ottoman Empire. At their greatest period of expansion the Turks threatened to dominate the Mediterranean by sea, while their land armies penetrated repeatedly . . .

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