The Arab Bulletin was written by experts for officials concerned with the area and for military commanders. The authors assumed on the part of their readers a very considerable background knowledge of recent events and of various individuals then of special significance. It is more difficult for people today to recall off-hand the exact position of the war in the Middle East in June 1916, the date of the first issue, or to grasp why intelligence officers took such a special interest in people now largely forgotten. Knowledge of the background of the contributors helps to assess the authoritativeness of what they wrote. A new introduction and comments upon significant points in the individual numbers of the Bulletin were provided for this edition by Dr Robin Bidwell, formerly Secretary of the Middle East Centre, Cambridge University.
The Arab Bulletin appeared in June 1916 – the first month of the Arab Revolt. The final issue, no. 114, came out in August 1919. Thus the Bulletin covers one of the most significant periods in the history of the modern Middle East. Not only does it describe in detail the campaign, known as the Arab Revolt, which ended Turkish domination in the Arabian peninsula. The Bulletin also reflects the emerging perception by the British of the idea of Arab unity.
In 1915 British forces in the Middle East were fighting virtually separate wars on a variety of fronts - on the Suez Canal, at the Dardanelles, in Aden, Iraq and Persia - with two lines of command through London and India, and little or no exchange of information between the battle zones. Only following a special report to the Minister of War, Lord Kitchener, did the Foreign Office, the India Office and the directors of military and naval intelligence jointly recommend that an 'Arab Bureau' be established in Cairo under the auspices of the Foreign Office. In the spring of 1916, the Arab Bureau came into existence to co-ordinate intelligence, political and propaganda activities in the Middle East. One of the Bureau's first activities was to prepare a bulletin for distribution to key officials in the area.
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