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The Emirate of Transjordan (Arabic: ) was a former Ottoman territory incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine in 1921 as an autonomous political division under as-Sayyid Abdullah bin al-Husayn. This move was formalized by the addition of an August 1922 clause to the charter governing the Mandate for Palestine. Transjordan was geographically equivalent to 1942–1965 Kingdom of Jordanmarker (slightly different from today's borders), and remained under the nominal auspices of the League of Nations and British administration, until its independence in 1928.

Ottoman rule

Under the Ottoman empire, Transjordan did not correspond to any previous historical, cultural or political division, though most of it belonged to the Vilayet of Syria and a strategically important southern section with an outlet to the Red Seamarker were incorporated into Transjordan by Abdullah, the provinces of Ma'anmarker and Aqabamarker from the Vilayet of Hejaz. The inhabitants of northern Jordan had traditionally associated with Syria, those of southern Jordan with the Arabian Peninsula, and those of western Jordan with the administrative districts west of the Jordan River.

However, the creation of the Hejaz railway by the Ottoman Empire had started to reshape the associations within the territory. Historically the territory had formed part of various empires; among these are the Babylonian, Assyrian, Achaemenid, Macedonian (Seleucid), Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine, Sassanid and Ottoman empires. Jordan also incorporates areas of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judahmarker, Hauran, Edom, Nabatean Judeamarker, Moab, Canaan and the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

British mandate

The British administration in Jerusalem only ever covered the area west of the Jordan, while the area east of the Jordan was administered by the British representative in Ma'an, Captain Alex Kirkbride until the arrival in November 1920 of Abdullah. The Mandate for Palestine, while specifying actions in support of Jewish immigration and political status, stated that in the territory to the east of the Jordan River, Britain could 'postpone or withhold' those articles of the Mandate concerning a Jewish National Home.

In August 1922, the British government presented a memorandum to the League of Nations stating that Transjordan would be excluded from all the provisions dealing with Jewish settlement, and this memorandum was approved by the League on 12 August. From that point onwards, Britain administered the part west of the Jordan as Palestine, and the part east of the Jordan as Transjordan. Technically they remained one mandate, but most official documents referred to them as if they were two separate mandates. In May 1923 Transjordan was granted a degree of independence with Abdullah as ruler and Harry St. John Philby as chief representative.

Transjordan remained under British control until the first Anglo-Jordanian treaty was concluded in 1928. Transjordan became nominally independent, although the British still maintained a military presence and control of foreign affairs and retained some financial control over the kingdom. This failed to respond to Jordanian demands for a fully sovereign and independent state, a failure that led to widespread disaffection with the treaty among Jordanians, prompting them to seek a national conference (25 July 1928), the first of its kind, to examine the articles of the treaty and adopt a plan of political action.

The borders and territory of Transjordan were not determined until after the Mandate came into effect. The borders in the east of the country were designed so as to aid the British in building an oil pipeline from their Mandate of Iraqmarker through Transjordan to seaports in the Palestine Mandate.


The Hashemite Emir Abdullah, elder son of Britain's wartime Arab ally Sharif Hussein of Mecca, was placed on the throne of Transjordan. Britain recognized Transjordan as a state on May 15, 1923, and gradually relinquished control, limiting its oversight to financial, military and foreign policy matters. This had an impact on the goals of Revisionist Zionism, which sought a state on both banks of the Jordan, as it effectively severed Transjordan from Palestine and so reduced the area on which a future Jewish state in the region could be established. In March 1946, under the Treaty of London, Transjordan became a kingdom and on May 25, 1946, the parliament of Transjordan proclaimed the emir king, and formally changed the name of the country from the Emirate of Transjordan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. After capturing the 'West Bank' area of Cisjordan during the 1948–49 war with Israel, Abdullah took the title King of Jordan, and he officially changed the country's name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordanmarker in April 1949. The following year he annexed the West Bank.

See also


  1. Bernard Wasserstein, 2004, pp. 105-106.: "In a telegram to the Foreign Office summarizing the conclusions of the [San Remo] conference, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, stated: 'The boundaries will not be defined in Peace Treaty but are to be determined at a later date by principal Allied Powers.' When Samuel set up the civil mandatory government in mid-1920 he was explicitly instructed by Curzon that his jurisdiction did not include Transjordan. Following the French occupation in Damascus in July 1920, the French, acting in accordance with their wartime agreements with Britain refrained from extending their rule south into Transjordan. That autumn Emir Faisal's brother, Abdullah, led a band of armed men north from the Hedjaz into Transjordan and threatened to attack Syria and vindicate the Hashemites' right to overlordship there. Samuel seized the opportunity to press the case for British control. He succeeded. In March 1921 the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, visited the Middle East and endorsed an arrangement whereby Transjordan would be added to the Palestine mandate, with Abdullah as the emir under the authority of the High Commissioner, and with the condition that the Jewish National Home provisions of the Palestine mandate would not apply there. Palestine, therefore, was not partitioned in 1921-1922. Transjordan was not excised but, on the contrary, added to the mandatory area. Zionism was barred from seeking to expand there - but the Balfour Declaration had never previously applied to the area east of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because the myth of Palestine's 'first partition' has become part of the concept of 'Greater Israel' and of the ideology of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement.
  2. Avi Shlaim (2007) p 16.
  3. Avi Shlaim (2007) p 11
  4. 10th August 1922:- Order of Palestine created by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, (Balfour Declaration). Where article 86 of the Palestine Order In Council 1922 Shall Not Apply To Such Parts Of The Territory Comprised In Palestine To The East Of The Jordan And The Dead Sea As Shall Be Defined By Order Of The High Commissioner. Subject To The Provisions Of Article 25 Of The Mandate, The High Commissioner May Make Such Provision For The Administration Of Any Territories So Defined As Aforesaid As With The Approval Of The Secretary Of State May be prescribed. The Palestine Order of Council 1922 duly received Royal assent and Given at Our Court at Saint James's this Fourteenth day of August, 1922, in the Thirteenth Year of Our Reign.
  5. 12 August 1922 Britain is given the Mandate of the League of Nations to Administer Palestine.
  6. Avi Shlaim (2007) p 14.
  7. Avi Shlaim, Lion of Jordan (2007) p 17.
  8. Wasserstein, 2004; The Making of Transjordan


  • Wasserstein, Bernard (2004). Israel and Palestine: Why They Fight and Can They Stop?. Profile Books. ISBN 1861975341

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