Field Notes. Mesopotamia … February 1915

GENERAL STAFF, INDIA. Field Notes. Mesopotamia … February 1915.

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GENERAL STAFF, INDIA. Field Notes. Mesopotamia … February 1915. Simla, Printed at the Government Monotype Press, 1916.

Small 8vo. Original eggshell cloth wallet binding, spine and front cover lettered in black; pp. [2], iv, 211, folding lithographic map in three colours of Lower Mesopotamia, north-eastern Arabia and the Gulf coast down to Tanajib (in front pocket); cloth a bit marked and rubbed, internally very good.
Rare first 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 waning 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 and give an outline of British operations on the Gulf and in Iraq. The amount of details on the geography, infrastructure and military strength of the enemy is astonishing. Kuwait features strongly in this handbook, most likely derived from Captain Shakespear's gathering of intelligence and topographical data. Kuwait is described as a Sheikhdom having to balance the influence of the Ottoman Empire (which had a colony South of Kuwait, Al Hasa), Wahhabism, the Ibn Saud family, and British 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. 40). The harbour is described as 'a fine bay some 20 miles long and 10 miles wide' with a hill fort 180 feet above sea level. 'It is a well-built square erection, with towers at the corners' (p. 37). The entire Western coast of the Gulf and its geostrategic role is dealt with as a region important to British interests.
Only this first edition contains two chapters on Qatar and Doha and the members of the ruling family (pp. 179/180). 'Shaik 'Abdullah, who succeeded the chiefship of Quatar in 1913, is friendly towards the British, and afraid of Bin S'aud. He would no doubt be glad to get rid of the Turks' (p. 180). The Ottomans still had a military presence, but their 12 gunners were in charge of old guns.