The First World War in the Middle East

February 2019 9781787380295 280pp
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The First World War in the Middle East is an accessibly written military and social history of the clash of world empires in the Dardanelles, Egypt and Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia and the Caucasus. Coates Ulrichsen demonstrates how wartime exigen­cies shaped the parameters of the modern Middle East, and describes and assesses the major campaigns against the Ottoman Empire and Germany involving British and imperial troops from the French and Russian Empires, as well as their Arab and Armenian allies.

Also documented are the enormous logistical demands placed on host societies by the Great Powers’ conduct of industrialised warfare in hostile terrain. The resulting deepening of imperial penetration, and the extension of state con­trols across a heterogeneous sprawl of territories, generated a powerful backlash both during and immediately after the war, which played a pivotal role in shaping national identities as the Ottoman Empire was dismembered.

This is a multidimensional account of the many seemingly discrete yet interlinked campaigns that resulted in one to one and a half million casualties. It details not just their military outcome but relates them to intelligence-gathering, industrial organisation, authoritarianism and the political economy of empires at war.


‘This is a splendid book we have long been waiting for: the first comprehensive account of the fierce fighting all over the Middle East during World War One. As good on the logistical nightmares facing military planners in a region with few proper road and rail communications as it is on the set-piece battles at Gallipoli, Gaza and up and down the Tigris in Iraq.’ — Roger Owen, A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History, Emeritus, Harvard University, and author of The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life

‘A welcome overview of the Great War in the Middle East. … Ulrichsen manages to achieve a comprehensive synthesis of the military and diplomatic history of the war. Moreover, he captures the full extent of the conflict in the Middle East, from skirmishes in Aden to the Turco-Sanussi campaign against the British in the western deserts of Egypt. … Its clarity and its concision will make this work of use to scholars of the Great War and the emergence of the modern Middle East alike.’ — Eugene Rogan, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Oxford, and author of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920

‘…fascinating and insightful … the most comprehensive single-volume history of the war in the Middle East available today. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen’s The First World War in the Middle East presents readers with a single-volume, multidisciplinary history of the war across the entire region, and it does so brilliantly, filling an otherwise glaring gap in the subject’s literature.’ — Middle East Policy

‘In this meticulously researched, engaging book, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen explores the devastating consequences of the Great War for the Middle East and the battles fought there on behalf of the European belligerents, as well as the lasting imprints of the War on the region’s political geography. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the Middle East and the study of the formation of modern state-system in the region.’ — Mehran Kamrava, author of The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

‘In this concise yet deeply researched book, Ulrichsen seeks to correct widely held Western misperceptions about WWI and its role in staging the collapse of the Islamic Caliphate and the resultant shaping of arbitrary Middle Eastern borders. … Relevant for anyone with an interest in the Middle East.’ — Publishers Weekly

‘This is a timely and important book. In an age when the post-war imperial political system across the region is being eroded by warfare and turmoil, it is indeed edifying to reflect on the causes and consequences of the First World War in the Middle East. The significance of this book lies in the fact that it is not merely a military history, but also excellently weaves together the differing European and Middle Eastern perspectives on the war, situating it in its proper geo-political context by examining not just the war itself, but also what preceded it, and, above all, what the war brought about in terms of socio-economic, cultural, and political transformations.’ — Johan Franzén, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern History, University of East Anglia, and author of Red Star Over Iraq: Iraqi Communism Before Saddam

‘Lively and compelling…gives a particularly thorough account of the diplomatic relations between the powers, and also of the ways in which policy was formulated within and between Britain, France and Russia, and by the Ottoman government.’ — International Affairs

‘Kristian Coates Ulrichsen’s important study is the first account of the Middle East during the First World War. It is both very readable and a scholarly synthesis of the military, political and social history of the region as well as detailing the legacy of the war.’ — Alan Jeffreys, Senior Curator, Social History at the Imperial War Museum

‘Ulrichsen’s valuable new book…underscores how soldiers and local civilian populations in the Middle East often suffered as much as those in Europe.’— W. Andrew Terrill, Middle East Journal, 2014

‘A comprehensive and thoughtful overview of the region’s major battles and their consequences grounded in the social realities of the time.’ — Elizabeth F Thompson, H -Diplo

‘…impressive … Concise but comprehensive, this book deftly synthesizes accounts of the various military campaigns [in the Middle East] with broader analysis of its massive social, geopolitical and economic consequences.’ — William Armstrong, Hurriyet Daily News

‘The book is academically robust, detailed and well sourced. It is written in an accessible style and the index and chapter headings enable the reader who does not have the time to read from cover to cover to identify areas of specific interest.’ — The Arab Banker

‘This book is an extremely interesting overview of events in Palestine and the wider Middle East during World War I and the resulting peace settlement.’ — C.W. Squire, HM Ambassador to Israel 1984-88, The Overseas Pensioner



Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. His books with Hurst include Qatar and the Gulf Crisis and Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States. He supports West Ham.

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