Last updated on: 6/26/2008 2:09:00 PM PST

What Was the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence?



General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Deborah J. Gerner, PhD, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas, in her 1994 book titled One Land, Two Peoples: The Conflict Over Palestine, wrote the following:

"The Hussein-McMahon correspondence between Sharif Hussein of Mecca, governor of the Hijaz province of Arabia, and Sir Henry McMahon, the British high commissioner to Egypt, represents one of the most controversial aspects of British involvement in the Middle East. In a series of eight letters written between 14 July 1915 and 30 January 1916, the two men negotiated the terms under which Hussein would encourage the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Empire and enter World War I on the side of the Allies. In particular, Hussein demanded British recognition of the independence of the Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire now known as Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Saudi Arabia. Under the assumption of British support for Arab independence as discussed in the letters, Hussein led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire that began on 5 June 1916. The Arabs faced disappointment once the war ended, however, when McMahon and Hussein disagreed on what areas had been included in the territory to be granted independence. In particular, McMahon later claimed he never meant to guarantee the independence of Palestine, while Hussein believed Palestine was included in the commitment. The letters themselves, which were kept secret for a number of years, are ambiguous, and their interpretation has been a subject of great controversy."

1994 - Deborah J. Gerner, PhD 

Bruce Westrate, PhD, Professor of History at Indiana University, South Bend, wrote in his 1992 book titled The Arab Bureau: British Policy in the Middle East, 1916-1920:

"The Hussein - McMahon Correspondence was a milestone in the diplomatic history of the Middle East. It was composed of a series of letters exchanged between [British] High Commissioner McMahon and Sharif Hussein [Arab ruler of the Hejaz]. In effect, this correspondence constituted the last stage in a process of communication and negotiation set in motion by Lord Kitchener [British Minister of War], supposedly outlining the political price to be paid by Great Britain (and a vanquished Turkey) for the Sharif's revolt against his suzerains in Constantinople [the Ottoman Empire]...

These negotiations rank as some of the most controversial ever conducted and in many ways the most difficult to chronicle precisely. Largely, this was due to the unorthodox manner in which communications were received and transmitted. Mohammad al-Faruqi, the intermediary through whom the sharif's correspondence was channeled, held a position of authority in the Arab movement that was, and still is, rather unclear. It is uncertain just how accurate or effective he and Storrs were in communicating the true feelings of, or translating and interpreting messages for, their superiors. Storrs himself acknowledged that he was 'often under high pressure,' and that his assistant Ruhi was 'a fair though not profound Arabist.' Regrettably, during Storrs's absences the work was carried on by others, and 'the continuity was lost.' Moreover, both parties often sent verbal communications through these two men, messages that were never recorded and are therefore impossible for later historians to reckon with."

1915 McMahon letter to Hussein


1992 - Bruce Westrate, PhD