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The Lighter Side of Making History

People have been writing biographies and studies of Mark Sykes ever since his untimely death at the age of 39 from Spanish influenza during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He was a prolific writer both as an author and later as a public servant, and also a talented amateur cartoonist, so there is plenty of material to draw upon. One of the delights of this book by his grandson is that almost every page has a sketch by Sykes himself. Originally they helped bridge the gap for a father-traveller and official who was usually away from home but wanted to share his life a little with his wife and children.

Today they enable us to see things as he saw them and to share his amusement.The collapse and partition of the Ottoman Empire was something the world had known was coming for almost a century. The first wave of partition in 1878 created a set of fully independent Balkan states which survive to this day. After 1918 the Islamic Middle East fared differently, with an imperialist carve-up of former Ottoman territories in the Middle East.

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