Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire
by Peter Hopkirk
New York: Kodansha International, 1994. $25.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
When it comes to history, many of the most engrossing books are what the French call haute vulgarisation -- popularizing studies with an emphasis on a tale well-told. Like Hidden Fire is this; but it more too, rescuing from obscurity a forgotten yet critical series of events during World War I.
Hopkirk recounts how the Germans and Ottomans worked together from 1914 on to dislodge the British and Russians from the Caucasus, Iran, and Central Asia. For the Germans, this was the route to India; for the Turks, it offered a Pan-Turkic realm. Even readers versed in twentieth-century history will probably shake their head in amazement at their own ignorance of the German role in this jihad, a story full of drama and memorable figures. Highlights include the career of Wilhelm Wassmuss, "the German Lawrence," singlehandedly causing havoc for the British in southern Iran; the Niedermeyer-Hentig expedition to Afghanistan which came close to lighting the fuse of revolution in India; the near-success of Prince Henry of Reuss, Germany's minister to the shah's court, in bringing Iran into the war on the Entente side; and how the loss of a German codebook in the Persian desert contributed to the United States entry into the war. In addition, Hopkirk also tells the remarkable tale of British diplomats, spies, and soldiers in the anti-Soviet rebellion in Baku.
The Great War so profoundly changed the Middle East that its consequences continue to be felt; therefore, the events described in Like Hidden Fire need urgently to be incorporated into the standard history.
Related Topics: History | Daniel Pipes | March 1995 MEQ
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