At the age of only 36, Sir Mark Sykes was signatory to the Sykes-Picot agreement, one of the most reviled treaties of modern times. A century later, Christopher Sykes’ lively biography of his grandfather reassesses his life and work, and the political instability and violence in the Middle East attributed to it.
The Sykes–Picot agreement was drawn by the eponymous
British and French diplomats in 1916 to determine the divide
of the collapsing empire in the event of an allied victory in
World War I. Excluding Arab involvement, it negated their
earlier guarantee of independence made by the British –
and controversy has raged around it ever since.
But who was Mark Sykes?
A century on, Christopher Simon Sykes reveals new facets
of a misremembered diplomatic giant. Using previously
undisclosed family letters and cartoons by his grandfather,
he delivers a comprehensive and humbling account of the man behind one of the most impactful policies in the Middle East.
About the author
Christopher Simon Sykes grew up at Sledmere, and went on to become a journalist, photographer and writer. His work has appeared in ‘Vogue’, ‘House & Garden’, the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ magazine and ‘Architectural Digest’ amongst others, and he wrote and presented ‘Upper Crust’, a six-part series on country house cookery for BBC Two. He has written six and photographed fourteen books, including ‘The National Trust Country House Album’, ‘The Rolling Stones on Tour’ and ‘The Garden at Buckingham Palace’. Christopher Simon Sykes is married with two children and lives in North London.
- ‘Christopher Sykes produces a warm portrait of his inventive, ebullient grandfather’ Times Literary Supplement
- ‘[Christopher Simon Sykes] tells this story with gusto… put[s] a human face on a imperialist adventurer, and in this he succeeds brilliantly. Mark’s fiercely independent spirit shines through’ Spectator
- ‘Sykes shows his grandfather in a clearer light, damaged by parents, bubbling with enthusiasm, deeply in love with his wife, an entertaining father at home, an amusing observer of people in the world – the book is lightened by many of his character sketches’ Observer
- ‘Splendid and rather moving’ Norman Stone, Literary Review‘Christopher Simon Sykes has written a warts-and-all life of an erudite man who did his best to find a peaceful solution for the Middle East. He is remembered for signing a much-reviled treaty; this book should change that’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘This book is … fascinating’ The Times
- ‘[A] compelling biography’ Saul David, Sunday Telegraph
- ‘The contents of the book live up to its title and, in the last six chapters, its subtitle. The book succeeds as a sympathetic review of the life Mark Sykes and shows his depth of character beyond the stereotype of an aristocratic, deceptive British imperialist with connections in high places’, ASTENE bulletin
- Praise for Christopher Simon Sykes:
- ‘An unusually entertaining, instructive and engaging book … this book is a treat’ Sunday Telegraph
- ‘A meticulously researched labour of love’ Daily Mail
- ‘Romantic, accessible and absorbing … I cared passionately for every one of these people and wanted the book to continue indefinitely’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘Witty, absorbing and touching … a splendid book’ Sunday Times