Last updated on: 5/20/2008 3:16:00 PM PST

Did the Sykes-Picot Agreement Contradict British Promises Made to the Arabs in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Bruce Westrate, PhD, Nancy & Jeffrey Marcus Master Teaching Chair in Humanities at St. Mark's School of Texas, in his 1992 book titled The Arab Bureau: British Policy in the Middle East, 1916-1920, wrote the following:

"The written record does point to two salient qualifications by which [British High Commissioner] McMahon may be said to have technically shielded British policymakers from charges of perfidy. The first is that Hussein [Sherif of Mecca, ruler of the Hejaz] was never promised personal rule of the territory in question, and an Arab caliphate was only obliquely 'approved' in the written correspondence. Secondly, the qualifications included in McMahon's letters of 24 October and 14 December, which pledged Britain to the fulfillment of the terms as far as it was 'free to act without detriment to the interests of her ally, France,' seems, at least technically, to absolve London of responsibility for outrage aroused by subsequent and allegedly contravening accords with France [Sykes-Picot Agreement]...

While this may be true, it remains difficult to acquit McMahon and his superiors of the charge that Hussein was misled as to British intent both toward himself and the French. Indeed, many officials directly involved seem to have been aware that the sharif would be disappointed by the fruit of the correspondence. This was partially attributable to the nature of the communication itself. Never set down with the specificity of a formal treaty (as Britain had always used before in its dealings with Arab chiefs), the wording was more permissively ambiguous and sometimes self-negating. Whether purposely or not, such procedures constituted a blueprint for misunderstanding—and such was their unfortunate result."

1992 - Bruce Westrate, PhD 

PRO (yes)

Don Peretz, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at State University of New York at Binghamton, in his 1996 book titled The Arab-Israel Dispute, wrote the following:

"The secret agreements concerning partition of the Ottoman Empire among the various Allied powers [Sykes-Picot Agreement] conflicted with promises made by Great Britain to both Zionist and Arab nationalists [Hussein McMahon Correspondence]."

1996 - Don Peretz, PhD 

Deborah J. Gerner, PhD, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas, in her 1994 book titled On Land, Two Peoples: The Conflict Over Palestine, wrote the following:

"It is clear from this agreement [Sykes-Picot] that Britain had no intention of fulfilling its commitment to support Arab independence in the Levant at the end of the war, whatever might have been promised in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence."

1994 - Deborah J. Gerner, PhD 

CON (no)

Efraim Karsh, PhD, in his 1999 book titled Empires of the Sand, wrote the following:

"If the Anglo-Hashemite negotiations involved 'a startling piece of double-dealing,' as indeed they did, it was on the part of Hussein and his sons rather than their British interlocutors. By providing for the establishment of a large independent Arab State or Confederation, the Sykes-Picot Agreement acted as a catalyst for Arab unification rather than fragmentation. There was no fundamental contradiction between the territorial provisions of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and those of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence..."

1999 - Efraim Karsh, PhD 

Elie Kedourie, the late Professor of Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), in his 1987 book titled England and the Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire, 1914-1921, wrote the following:

"The division into areas to be annexed or to be protected by England and France respectively, the stipulations about economic activities and administrative supervision were all arranged to fit in with the preferences and desires of the Arab leaders, as far as these could be ascertained."

1987 - Elie Kedourie