In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, two men secretly agreed to divide the Middle East between them. Sir Mark Sykes was a visionary politician; François Georges-Picot a diplomat with a grudge. The deal they struck, which was designed to relieve tensions that threatened to engulf the Entente Cordiale, drew a line in the sand from the Mediterranean to the Persian frontier. Territory north of that stark line would go to France; land south of it, to Britain. The creation of Britain’s ‘mandates’ of Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq, and France’s in Lebanon and Syria, made the two powers uneasy neighbours for the following thirty years.
In 1946, after many years of intrigue and espionage, Britain succeeded in ousting France from Lebanon and Syria, and hoped that, having done so, it would be able to cling on to Palestine. Using newly declassified papers from the British and French archives, James Barr brings this clandestine struggle back to life, and reveals, for the first time, the stunning way in which the French finally got their revenge.
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