France and the First Saudi State
Number: 14
Louis Blin


The emergence of the first Saudi state and its territorial expansion coincided with a period of weakening and internal crisis in France, resulting in a lack of interest in political developments in the Arabian Peninsula. But Bonaparte revived the French ambition of undoing the British hold on India by landing in Egypt in 1798. He then failed to forge an alliance against the British with the grand Sharif of Mecca. Once back in France, his interest in developments in the interior of Arabia shows that he was simultaneously exploring the land route to India. In 1803 he instructed his consul in Baghdad, Olivier de Corancez, to get in touch with the Amir Saud ibn Abdelaziz, in case the latter would take Jeddah and thus complete the conquest of the Hedjaz. But the failure of the third head of the first Saudi state to grasp this city, cut short this attempted alliance. Napoleon then sent several agents on mission in the region, in particular Ali Bey al-Abbassi. Other writings testify to the interest of the French in the first Saudi state, in particular those of Fathallah Sayegh, and Joseph Rousseau, the author of the first known map of its capital, al-Dir‘iyya.