Letter from Sir Henry McMahon to Sharif Hussein, October 24, 1915

 Below the letter are several articles expanding on Britain’s duplicity over WW1 and after.

Letter from Sir Henry McMahon to Sharif Hussein Oct 24th 1915

I have received your letter of the 29th Shawal, 1333, with much pleasure and your expressions of friendliness and sincerity have given me the greatest satisfaction.

I regret that you should have received from my last letter the impression that I regarded the question of the limits and boundaries with coldness and hesitation; such was not the case, but it appeared to me that the time had not yet come when that question could be discussed in a conclusive manner.

I have realised, however, from your last letter that you regard this question as one of vital and urgent importance. I have, therefore, lost no time in informing the Government of Great Britain of the contents of your letter, and it is with great pleasure that I communicate to you on their behalf the following statement, which I am confident you will receive with satisfaction:-


This map from JMN Jeffries, Palestine, The Reality, (London 1939) shows that Palestine was in the area promised to Hussein by McMahon. Only Lebanon and part of current Syria to the North were excluded.

The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded.

With the above modification, and without prejudice of our existing treaties with Arab chiefs, we accept those limits.

As for those regions lying within those frontiers wherein Great Britain is free to act without detriment to the interest of her ally, France, I am empowered in the name of the Government of Great Britain to give the following assurances and make the following reply to your letter:-

1. Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.

2. Great Britain will guarantee the Holy Places against all external aggression and will recognise their inviolability.

3. When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories.

4. On the other hand, it is understood that the Arabs have decided to seek the advice and guidance of Great Britain only, and that such European advisers and officials as may be required for the formation of a sound form of administration will be British.

5. With regard to the vilayets of Bagdad and Basra, the Arabs will recognise that the established position and interests of Great Britain necessitate special administrative arrangements in order to secure these territories from foreign aggression, to promote the welfare of the local populations and to safeguard our mutual economic interests.

I am convinced that this declaration will assure you beyond all possible doubt of the sympathy of Great Britain towards the aspirations of her friends the Arabs and will result in a firm and lasting alliance, the immediate results of which will be the expulsion of the Turks from the Arab countries and the freeing of the Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke, which for so many years has pressed heavily upon them.

I have confined myself in this letter to the more vital and important questions, and if there are any other matters dealt with in your letter which I have omitted to mention, we may discuss them at some convenient date in the future.

It was with very great relief and satisfaction that I heard of the safe arrival of the Holy Carpet and the accompanying offerings which, thanks to the clearness of your directions and the excellence of your arrangements, were landed without trouble or mishap in spite of the dangers and difficulties occasioned by the present sad war. May God soon bring a lasting peace and freedom to all peoples!

I am sending this letter by the hand of your trusted and excellent messenger, Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Arif Ibn Uraifan, and he will inform you of the various matters of interest, but of less vital importance, which I have not mentioned in this letter.

(Signed) A. H. McMAHON

Articles on the Promise

Britain’s policy of deceit  In 2023 Peter Shambrook proved conclusively that McMahon’s offer of an Arab state including Palestine was a promise and the British knew it was a promise.

McMahon’s promise to Hussein, Roger Spooner summarises the effective sweeping under the imperial carpet of any mention of the McMahon Hussein correspondence. From promising Hussein support for an Arab state in 1915 to exile to Cyprus in 1926 where his wife died in 1931

The Palestine deception, Bill  Mathew republishes the articles written by Joseph Jeffries in the Daily Mail in 1923. These stimulated pressure for a major rethink of Britain’s Palestine policy, which could and should have led to a change of policy.

The McMahon-Hussein revisited. A lapse into clarity.…,Peter Shambrook’s talk at the Balfour Project  Durham conference. The Foreign Office records of the 1920s and 1930s clearly show that Sir Henry McMahon, given the urgency of the hour with the impending defeat in Gallipoli and in order to keep the Arabs onside, included Palestine in the regions promised.

McMahon, Sykes, Balfour:  Contradictions and Concealments in British Palestine Policy 1915-1917 Bill Mathew looks at three war-time initiatives over a two-year sequence set against the changing circumstances of international rivalries, imperial anxieties, and domestic politics.  This combination of contradiction and concealment, corroding trust in British good faith, did serious long-term damage to relations between the imperial power and the Arab and Jewish communities under its authority, the consequences enduring to the present day.

Contradictory promises,  Peter Shambrook summarises the contradictory promises Britain made between 1915 and 1918

British policy and Arab displacement in Palestine, 1915-23: Contingency, Imperialism and Double DealingBill Mathew, in a lecture at  SOAS in 2014 explores the central issue of Arab political displacement in Palestine at the outset of the British Mandate – and the related general point that in seeking some proper historical understanding of the present continuing conflict, it is essential to go back beyond 1967, and beyond 1948, to the effective year zero, the Balfour year, 1917.

Under double dealing he shows how the Balfour Declaration implicitly contradicted earlier promises of Palestine independence made by the British government in the form of the celebrated McMahon-Hussein correspondence, 1915-16

UPDATE 2024 Britian


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