The ʿAmārāt, their Sheikh, and the Colonial State: Patronage and Politics in a Partitioned Middle East

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Robert S.G. Fletcher University of Exeter

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How did the era of colonial divide-and-rule in the Arab East—the creation of the new mandates of Great Britain and France—appear to the Bedouin communities who lived through it? This article examines this important period of change from the perspective of a prominent Bedouin sheikh, Fahd Ibn Hadhdhāl of the ʿAmārāt (ʿAnaza). Moving between the southern and western frontiers of Iraq, the ʿAmārāt have seldom been the focus of historical enquiry, but their attempts to navigate the disturbed interwar landscape offer a window onto the changing prospects for Bedouin groups across the Arab East. Building on a close reading of colonial sources, the article reveals how important social, economic, and political dynamics of Bedouin life persisted to shape relations within the new mandates, as the ʿAmārāt, their sheikh, and the young colonial state all jostled for influence and authority.

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