Field Notes. Mesopotamia

GENERAL STAFF, INDIA. Field Notes. Mesopotamia.

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GENERAL STAFF, INDIA. Field Notes. Mesopotamia. Calcutta, Superintendent Government Printing, India, February, 1917.

Small 8vo. Original green cloth wallet binding, spine lettered in black; pp. [iv], 326 [pp. 274 to 279 are fold-out tables], folding lithographic map in three colours of Lower Mesopotamia, north-eastern Arabia and the Gulf coast down to Tanajib (in rear pocket), without the often missing separately printed index (although there is a 10-page index at the end),
Very rare second and enlarged edition of a top-secret military publication. This book reports on the ups and downs of the Saudi dynasty based in Najd, the expansion and vaining of power during the 19th century, the first appearance of the Ottomans in 1818, who were driven from the country in 1831. The authors then go into detail about the more recent events and rise of the Saudi dynasty. 'The Balkan war and and the internal dissesions of the Bin Rashid house at last offered him [Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud] an opportunity, and the presence of rebel grandson of Sa'ud at Hofuf, an excuse: and early in 1913 he descended on Hasa, captred the central oasis, and ten days later, Qatif. He sent the Turkish governor and garrison down to Ojair, whence they made their way into el-Katr. At the end of that year he had a conference with two representatives of the Indian Government and, after a show of negotiating with the Ottoman Power and accepting the title "Wali of Najd", he invited a British agent to his court, and declared for us and and against Bin Rashid, the ally of the Turks. The latter advanced early in 1915 into Sadair, but retired after a drawn battle at Majma, in the course of which our newly arrived agent, Captain Shakespear, was unfortunately killed' (p. 10). Highly sensitive information, not only in 1917. The authors then give an outline of British operations on the Gulf and in Iraq. The amount of details on the geography, infrastucture and military strength of the enemey is astonishing. Kuwait features strongly and a lot in this handbook, most likely derived from Captain Shakepear's gathering of intelligence. Kuwait is decribed as a Sheikhdom having to balance the influence of the Ottoman Empire (who had a colony South of Kuwait, Al Hasa), Wahhabism, the Ibn Saud family, and Britsh interests. 'The population is Muhammadan, Arab fashion, that is tolerant to others and not over-rigid to themselves. The Wahaby faith is proscribed, and all the effort of the Najd have never succeeded in making one single proselyte at Kuwait' (p. 47). The entire Western coast of the Gulf and its geostratetic role is decribed, and its importance for Britain emphasized.
This restricted military handbook had been published compiled in February 1915. It countained fewer routes marked on the map in red and had only 211 pages. During the intervening years a lot more information had been gathered and corrected to be published here. The List of Routes in the present edition contains 36 routes between cities, compared to 14 routes in the previous handbook. Comparing the version of this map with the one of 1915, it becomes clear that Captain Shakespear's notes and observations had been taken into account and many more topographical features were filled in and previous errors corrected. In the first edition the political agent in Kuwait, Captain Shakespeare is not mentioned at all.
Provenance: From the Library of Peter Duckers (rubber stamp at the end), who researched and wrote on British military medals. He was an antiques and book dealer, and seved as well for 16 years as curator of Shrewsbury's Regimental Museum.