Hugh Wilford – America’s Great Game: The CIA and the Arab World in the Early Cold War

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Professor Hugh Wilford (California State University Long Beach) – America’s Great Game: The CIA and the Arab World in the Early Cold War

The phenomenon of State Department “Arabism” – meaning both area expertise and personal identification with the Arab world – has been explored in several publications. Less well understood is Arabism in the CIA, despite the Agency’s importance as an instrument of U.S. power in the Middle East, especially during the early years of the Cold War. This paper considers the origins, forms, and decline of CIA Arabism from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s. Its major theme is the tension within Agency Arabism between the influence of British imperial culture (symbolized by the ubiquity of references to Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim, especially the trope of the “Great Game”) and the distinctive American experience of earlier non-governmental – and non-colonial – engagement with the Arab world.

Hugh Wilford is Professor of United States History at California State University, Long Beach, and author of several books, including The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Harvard, 2008). He is currently working on a study of the CIA and Cold War Middle East for Basic Books.

Contact Information: Department of History, California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, California 90840 USA.

Email: hwilford@csulb.edu

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