Anton La Guardia

A Hero of the Hashemites

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace


Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 720pp £30 order from our bookshop

When the Hashemite rulers of the Hijaz rose up against their Turkish overlords in the First World War with the help of Britain, they imagined they would lead a great Arab kingdom encompassing Mecca, Damascus and Baghdad. This notion of Arab emancipation, however, collided brutally with the realities of European imperialism. Over the decades, the Hashemites’ ambitions were reduced by trickery, violence and their own errors.

The Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire were carved up: Palestine and Lebanon came under direct rule by the British and the French respectively. One Hashemite prince, Faisal, was evicted from Syria by the French, but then placed on the new throne of Iraq by the British. His brother, Abdallah, was given a consolation prize, the emirate of Transjordan, conjured up by the stroke of Winston Churchill’s pen out of the eastern half of the mandate of Palestine.

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