Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Susan Kent, Ph.D.

Abstract

This thesis seeks to explain inconsistencies in British imperial policy in the Middle East during the interwar period, specifically from 1918 to 1922. The British Empire during this time faced numerous challenges to its hegemonic authority, including a rising tide of nationalism in the developing world and a new Bolshevik Russian state that seemed determined to spread the principles of communist revolution across the world. In the Middle East, this Bolshevik threat was particularly acute, given the close geographic proximity of Russian and Central Asia. In the years after World War One, the records of the British Empire display an official anxiety about the spread of Bolshevism that bordered on paranoia. This paranoia generated a great deal of British policy apparently in reaction to Bolshevism, and these various policies tended to pull an overstretched imperial administration in multiple directions at once. This all took place in a context of post-war military draw-down and public war weariness, both which threatened to pull the rug out from under officials seeking to remake the British Empire in Central Asia. This study first examines the British intelligence community in the Middle East to ascertain how Britain understood and failed to understand the Middle East and Bolshevism itself. It then explores the variety of different British policies relating to Bolshevism and the motivations behind each. Finally, this thesis seeks to explain the inconsistencies and incongruities present in Britain’s Middle Eastern Bolshevik policy. In explaining these policies, it will explore the ways in which Bolshevism as a term was used and manipulated by British officials and colonial elites. We find that the variety of different policy reactions to Bolshevism were products of multiple different policy agendas that all co-opted the idea of Bolshevik uprising and used it rhetorically to further divergent goals. Specifically, the Bolshevik threat was most often misrepresented in order to justify and explain the expansion of the British Empire in societies that continually rejected Britain’s interfering presence.

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