Tales from the India Office

November 1 2014

As well as India, the East India Company (1600-1858, dissolution 1874) and then the India Office (1858-1947) administered the Gulf as far west as Aden.

The Qatar Foundation paid the British Library £8.7m to digitise nearly half a million documents relating to the Gulf. Many of them have now gone online at the Qatar National Library’s digital portal.

What about north of Aden? The Foreign Office administered the Hejaz during and after the First World War, where it promoted the Hashemites, Sharifs of the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina, who had sided with the British against the Hejazis’ Turkish masters. It placed junior members of the family on thrones in Transjordan and Iraq. The Kingdom of Hejaz lasted from 1916 to 1925.

The India Office looked to the Sultanate of Nejd and its ruler, Ibn Saud. Here the family was aligned to a puritanical Islamic sect, the Wahhabis. The India Office won the contest. Ibn Saud ousted the Hashemites from Mecca and Medina in 1925 and formed the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz, which became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The officials of the India Office, had they been driven into a corner by infuriated British tax-payers, might have represented with some plausibility that in purchasing Ibn Saʿud’s benevolent neutrality at £5,000 sterling a month they had made a better bargain than their colleagues at the Foreign Office who had contracted to pay £200,000 a month of the tax-payers’ money for Husayn’s military co-operation.

Survey of International Affairs, 1925, Vol I of III, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1927

2 Responses to “Tales from the India Office”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Is there a history of the India Office?

    If the milder Hashemites had won the day in Arabia, how different would the middle east be now?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s