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Spies in ArabiaThe Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East$
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Priya Satia

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331417

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331417.001.0001

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The Cultural World of the Edwardian Agent

The Cultural World of the Edwardian Agent

(p.59) 2 The Cultural World of the Edwardian Agent
Spies in Arabia

Priya Satia (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains why Britons were particularly drawn to the Ottoman Empire in this period and how intelligence agents' particular cultural motivations disposed them to epistemological experimentation. It describes the agents' central role in cultural production about the region, as famous explorers and authors intimate with Edwardian literary society, with whom they fashioned a new literary cult of the desert, in which the spy novel figured centrally. Many of them had gone to the Middle East looking for literary inspiration, a modernist aesthetic, romantic adventure, and spiritual fulfillment in a time in which social change and modern science had made many Britons anxious about their place in society and the universe. The agents saw their work in the Middle East, particularly during the war, as an opportunity to shape their own lives and Middle Eastern reality in the image of fiction.

Keywords:   occultism, modernism, spy novel, travel writing, Arab revolt, cult of the desert, medievalism, nostalgia, exploration, Bloomsbury

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