Britain and the Middle East: From the Earliest Times to 1952

Britain and the Middle East: From the Earliest Times to 1952

Britain and the Middle East: From the Earliest Times to 1952

Britain and the Middle East: From the Earliest Times to 1952

Excerpt

The Tin Islands (Kassiterides) to which the Phoenicians traded are believed to have been the Scillies and perhaps Cornwall. Matthew Arnold grave Tyrian trader, finding the competition of the Greek coaster too severe, sought for new markets beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. Other Phoenicians went further afield, until one of them sighted some British beach and there "undid his corded bales". Now what came out of those bales? Matthew Arnold does not say, though he might have compiled a probable and picturesque list from the 27th chapter of Ezekiel, where the Hebrew prophet enumerates the commodities which constituted the trade of Tyre and the countries whence they came. Tyre was then the principal state of Phoenicia, and the Phoenicians, living at the junction of many land and sea routes, received and exchanged goods from Sicily and Spain, Asia Minor and Egypt, Arabia and Iraq and countries further to the east. It is probable that the Phoenicians who came to the Scillies for tin gave in exchange much the same articles as English ships fetched from Syria in Elizabethan times: fine woven materials, dyed stuffs and spices.

The conditions which made Phoenicia a trading centre gave it also strategic importance: as the passageway between a ring of great empires it was an emporium in peace and a battleground or a line of communication in war. The ancient empires passed away, but the Middle East into which they were absorbed became an object of vital interest to new states -France, Great Britain, Austria, Russia, Germany, Italy, the United States. The number of "questions" which have had their origin in the Middle East is large: it is sufficient to mention those relating to the Straits, the Suez Canal, Persia, the Persian Gulf, the Baghdad Railway, Palestine.

The Middle East lost its value as the trading link between . . .

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