Pre World War One and during World War One, the game of world politics was that of direct empirical rule, whereas afterwards, the mandate model was accepted. This stated that for A type mandates there would be a full withdrawal and free states would be founded.
Of course history shows that all mandates, even those who were given perpetually, were ended.
What caused that change to occur? Pressure from the U.S. alone? What made the (so called) winners of the war, Britain and France, accept that model, over the ruling model that they had before?
In essence, the system of mandates was a compromise between the Allies' desire to retain the former colonies of Germany and Turkey, and their prior acceptance of President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which effectively declared that annexing territory had not been the aim of the allies in the war.
The allies had issued their Conditional Acceptance of the Fourteen Points on 5 November 1918.
It is also worth noting that, had the former German and Ottoman territories been ceded to the victorious powers directly, their economic value might have been credited to offset the Allies' subsequent claims for war reparations.
The Mandate system was created by Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Tellingly, the League of Nations Official Journal for June 1922 includes a statement by the British Prime Minister, Lord Balfour, in which he made the point that the League's authority was strictly limited in the Mandates:
Mandates were not the creation of the League, and they could not in substance be altered by the League. The League's duties were confined to seeing that the specific and detailed terms of the mandates were in accordance with the decisions taken by the Allied and Associated Powers, and that in carrying out these mandates the Mandatory Powers should be under the supervision -- not under the control -- of the League.
Since the United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and never joined the League of Nations, there wasn't a great deal that they could do to challenge the implementation of the system.
Britain emerged from the 1939-1945 war triumphant, but economically exhausted. It was one of the top three superpowers, although in reality a distant third behind the United States and the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, its political system and the British state had been vindicated by success in war, and over the next few years Britain emerged as a model social democracy, combining planning and collectivism with civil liberties.
The 1945 Labour government was largely responsible for what is called the 'post-war consensus'. However, some of the key elements can trace their origins to the war-time coalition government and the influence of Liberals like William Beveridge and the economist John Maynard Keynes.
There was a belief that government could play a positive role in promoting greater equality through social engineering.
The major features of domestic politics included:
1. Governments accepted a commitment to maintain full employment by Keynesian techniques of economic management. Ministers would use their levers, such as cutting taxes and boosting state spending, to increase the level of economic activity.
2. Acceptance and some encouragement of the role of the trade unions. In contrast to the pre-war years, governments recognised and consulted them regularly on workplace relations and economic policy. The unions’ access to government was increased partly by full employment and partly by governments turning, post-1961, to income policies as a way of curbing inflation.
3. The mixed economy, with a large role for state ownership of the utilities (such as gas, electricity, coal, rail, etc) and intervention and planning in the economy.
4. The welfare state. The object of the national insurance system and the National Health Service was to provide an adequate income and free health when a family’s income was hit by, for example, sickness, old age, unemployment or death of the main breadwinner. The services were provided out of general taxation, or insurance, and represented social citizenship.
5. There was a belief that government could play a positive role in promoting greater equality through social engineering, for example, by progressive taxation, redistributive welfare spending, comprehensive schooling and regional policies.
Abroad, the parties agreed on: the transition of the empire to the British Commonwealth, an association of independent states British membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) nuclear weapons, (regarded as a mark of being a major power) and, on balance, that Britain should join the European Community.
These policies were pursued by both Labour and Conservative governments, the latter because they thought it was necessary to gain working class support to win general elections and gain the consent of the major interest groups.
Consensus is not an ideal term because it may be read as suggesting that there were no differences between the parties. In fact, the above ideas and policies were often challenged by the left of the Labour party and by the free market or right wing of the Conservatives. But much of the political elite – the media, civil service and the leaderships of the parties, particularly when they were in government - shared many of these ideas.
Find out more about Britain’s deal with Hussein bin Ali, pictured, in the documentary Promises and Betrayals: Britain and the Struggle for the Holy Land.Watch Now
After failing to make any meaningful progress in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, Britain turned its attention towards stirring Arab nationalism in the region against the Ottomans. Britain made a deal with Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, to grant Arab independence in the event of an Ottoman defeat. The objective was to create a unified Arab state stretching from Syria to Yemen.
Hussein and his sons Abdullah and Faisal began amassing a force to take on the Ottomans. This force would be led by Faisal and become known as the Northern Army.
Over the course of 1917, however, a vigorous anti-Zionist movement within Parliament held up the progress of the planned declaration.
Led by Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India and one of the first Jews to serve in the cabinet, the anti-Zionists feared that British-sponsored Zionism would threaten the status of Jews who had settled in various European and American cities and also encourage anti-Semitic violence in the countries battling Britain in the war, especially within the Ottoman Empire.
This opposition was overruled, however, and after soliciting—with varying degrees of success—the approval of France, the United States and Italy (including the Vatican), Lloyd George’s government went ahead with its plan.
The Great War and Religion: A Neglected History
World War I--The Great War, as it was called at the time--is remarkable in military history for its massive scope and loss of life, with more than nine million combatants killed. But its role in religious history is less appreciated, and an array of books coinciding with the July centennial could change that. &ldquoWorld War I studies have not highlighted the role religion played,&rdquo says Roger Freet executive editor at HarperOne, publisher of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins (Apr.). &ldquoIt is an unexplored part of what led up to the war, motivated the war, and sustained it on all sides,&rdquo says Freet. &ldquoWorld War I reshaped and remapped the major religious traditions.&rdquo
That is especially true of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the triple focus of Jenkins&rsquo well-received book. The Baylor University history professor (The Next Christendom) argues that the fighting powers--especially the predominantly Christian nations--viewed the conflict as a holy war and a crusade, even using apocalyptic images from the Book of Revelation--seven-headed beasts, dragons--to depict the enemies. That set the stage for Nazism, which held that Aryans were created a superior race by God, as well as for America&rsquos Cold War against &ldquogodless Communism&rdquo in later decades both were framed in terms of one side being favored by God. The Great War, Jenkins writes, shaped how religions and global powers view each other today, such as in attitudes toward statehood for Israel and in how some Islamic cultures define themselves against other cultures. The book is HarperOne&rsquos first on religion and war, Freet says, and a rare examination of war through a religious, though critical, lens. &ldquoWe are still living in the shadow of World War I,&rdquo he says.
Another exploration of religion and World War I is Princeton University Press&rsquos Faith in the Fight: The American Soldier and the Great War by Jonathan H. Ebel (Feb.). Ebel (From Jeremiad to Jihad), an associate professor of religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, delves into the diaries, letters, and memoirs of American troops, nurses, and aid workers to show how they framed the conflict in religious terms. He also argues that contemporary attitudes about America as a God-favored or Christian nation have roots in 1914, something frequently overlooked by scholars. Fred Appel, executive editor at Princeton, says religion&rsquos influence on individual soldiers is an important subject. &ldquoUnfortunately, due perhaps to the secular bias of the scholarly community, such questions have until recently not received the attention they deserve. Things are changing, and the books by Jonathan Ebel and these other authors are making up for the past neglect of religion in American military history.&rdquo
Two more books explore the intersection of the Great War and religion. The Unknown Pope: Benedict XV and the Pursuit of Peace by John Pollard (Bloomsbury Continuum, Mar.) looks at the brief papacy of Benedict XV, a would-be peacemaker who eventually founded Save the Children. Lutterword Press is reprinting Alan Wilkinson&rsquos 1978 The Church of England and the First World War. (Jan.). But don&rsquot expect a stream of religion-and-war books, publishers say. The overlap of these titles with the war&rsquos anniversary seems less by design than serendipitous. Says Appel, &ldquoI was attracted to Ebel&rsquos book because I was intrigued.&rdquo
World War I and fascism
On Giolitti’s resignation in March 1914, the more conservative Antonio Salandra formed a new government. In June, “ Red Week,” a period of widespread rioting throughout the Romagna and the Marche, came in response to the killing of three antimilitarist demonstrators at Ancona. When World War I broke out in August, the Salandra government stayed neutral and began to negotiate with both sides—a policy that Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino described as “sacred egoism.” The Austrians eventually agreed to grant Trentino to Italy in exchange for an alliance, but the Triple Entente (France, Britain, and Russia) made a more generous offer, promising Italy not only Trentino but also South Tirol, Trieste, Gorizia, Istria, and northern Dalmatia. The Italians accepted this offer in the secret Treaty of London (April 1915) and joined the war against Austria-Hungary a month later, hoping for major territorial gains.
The negotiations, conducted by the foreign and prime ministers and a handful of diplomats, had been kept secret. The majority of deputies, meanwhile, favoured neutrality, as did former prime minister Giolitti, the major opposition groups (Catholics and Socialists), and most of the population. War therefore was supported only by the conservatives in government, by the Nationalist Association, a group formed in 1910 by Enrico Corradini and others to support Italian expansionism, by some Liberals who saw it as the culmination of the Risorgimento’s fight for national unity, by Republicans and reformist Socialists who knew nothing of the Treaty of London and thought they were fighting for national liberation, and by some syndicalists and extremist Socialists—including Benito Mussolini, then editor of the Socialist Party newspaper—who thought the war would bring about the overthrow of capitalism. Mussolini was soon expelled from the Socialist Party, but with help from the Triple Entente he managed to found his own alternative, pro-war newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia (“The People of Italy”). Futurists and nationalists (including Gabriele D’Annunzio) agitated for intervention. In April–May 1915 the government, helped by a series of noisy demonstrations by pro-war activists (the so-called “Radiant Days of May”), pushed through its war policy despite the opposition of the majority in parliament and in the country. Neither Giolitti nor any other “neutralist” could form a government without renouncing the Treaty of London, betraying Italy’s new allies, and compromising the king. The Salandra government officially declared war against Austria-Hungary on May 23 and entered combat the following day. Meanwhile, despite a series of defections to the nationalist cause, the Socialist Party expressed its official position in the slogan “Neither adherence, nor sabotage.” Unlike its sister parties in the Second International (an international meeting of trade unions and socialist parties), the PSI did not get behind the Italian war effort. The reformist Claudio Treves voiced the pacifist opinions of the movement in parliament in 1917, when he made a plea that the troops should not spend another winter in the trenches. Other Socialists took a more active role against the war and distributed antiwar propaganda or organized desertions. Many Catholics also failed to support Italy’s participation in the war, although others took an active part in the conflict. In August 1917 Pope Benedict XV called for an end to what he called a “useless slaughter.”
In June 1916, after a series of military failures, the Salandra government resigned. The new prime minister was Paolo Boselli, who in turn resigned after the momentous military disaster at Caporetto in October 1917, which enabled the Austrians to occupy much of the Veneto in 1917 and 1918. This single battle left 11,000 Italian soldiers dead, 29,000 injured, and 280,000 taken prisoner. Some 350,000 Italian soldiers deserted or went missing, and 400,000 people became refugees. Only a strong rearguard action in November and December prevented further Austrian advances.
Caporetto signified the end of the war for many Italians and encapsulated the disastrous leadership of General Luigi Cadorna, as well as the terrible conditions under which the war was being fought. In some mountain regions, far more soldiers died from cold and starvation than from actual fighting with the Austrians. The generals themselves tended to blame the defeat at Caporetto on poor morale and “defeatism.” Cadorna blamed “shirkers” and called Caporetto a “military strike.” (Caporetto had coincided with the Russian Revolution of 1917). Cadorna himself was replaced by General Armando Diaz in November. Nonetheless, the invasion of Italian territory helped consolidate the war effort on the home front, and thousands of support committees, often sustained by middle-class groups, were formed to “defend the nation.” Some Socialist deputies and intellectuals, such as Turati, rallied to the war effort as the threat to Italian territory became clearer. After the war, the wounds of the defeat in 1917 were reopened in the long Caporetto Inquest of 1918–19, which blamed the invasion largely on various top military leaders.
The war was deeply unpopular both among the troops—mostly conscripted peasants who were undernourished and fighting for a cause few could understand—and among the civilian population back home, which included almost one million workers in arms factories who were also subject to military discipline. Many rebelled within the army. (It has been estimated that some 470,000 conscripts resisted call-up, 310,000 committed acts of indiscipline under arms, and 300,000 deserted.) More than 1,000,000 soldiers came before military tribunals before a postwar amnesty was granted. Many once again saw the Italian state only as a repressive institution. Antiwar disturbances struck Milan in May 1917, and serious bread riots took place among the industrial workers of Turin in August 1917. Troops occupied Turin and took four days to restore order some 50 demonstrators and 10 soldiers were killed in the clashes.
After November 1917 a more liberal government under Vittorio Emanuele Orlando rallied the country to defend its frontiers. Diaz made welfare concessions to the troops and fought a far more defensive campaign until October 1918, when, in the closing stages of the war, the Italians won a final, decisive victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. In reality, Italy’s victory was as much the result of the internal collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany as of any radical transformation in the capacities and motivations of the Italian army.
Automotive History: The Ford Model T in World War I
An unabashed takeoff of Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din, this Hunka Tin version eloquently describes the feelings of soldiers toward the Ford Model T, a vitally important component of World War I.
The year 2014 will mark one hundred years since the beginning of World War I, the War to End All Wars. Despite the nine million deaths due to this war, this title sadly did not hold itself to be true.
Due to our ages, none of us have any firsthand experience with the role of the Ford Model T during those violent years of 1914 to 1918. Were it not for the writings and memories of various servicemen, especially ambulance drivers such as Ernest Hemingway, the multitude of experiences could have easily been lost to time.
Perhaps the role of ambulance is the best known of the Model T’s war efforts. It’s sheer versatility was certainly not limited to ambulance duty it was also a delivery truck, a staff car, and an artillery mover. When one looks at the current light duty vehicle of choice of the United States military, the four-wheel drive HUMVEE, the sheer ability and ruggedness of these off the shelf Model T’s truly sparkles.
From an automotive perspective, World War I was a major turning point previously, in every war ever waged equipment and supplies were moved in and around the battle areas by some combination of horsepower or manpower. World War I saw the first widespread use of motorized vehicles in various supporting roles. Even during the first battles of the war in 1914, the Ford Model T was a major player as many privately owned Model T’s were commandeered for various military uses.
Knowing the tactical advantages provided by automotile use, both Great Britain and France approached the subject of acquiring Model T trucks for various military purposes early on in the war. Henry Ford, very much a proponent of the isolationist movement prevalent in the United States prior to its war entrance in 1917, was not exactly cooperative with the request. While Ford wanted nothing to do with the war effort during this time, he did authorize the sale of a modest number of Model T chassis to the British military strictly for ambulance use.
Upon the United States becoming involved in the war, Ford’s mood shifted to fully supporting the effort. His change of heart prompted his selling the United States military thousands of chassis for various uses. In an effort to fulfill orders, Ford even pulled units from routine stock out of circulation to more rapidly respond to the war effort.
It should also be noted the chassis most often supplied was the basic and ordinary Model T chassis (not the heavier duty Model TT) upon which any number of aftermarket bodies could be fitted. It is even suspicioned the first set of chassis sent to Europe were designed such that the shipping crate could be repurposed to construct the box body for the T.
The United States military was a huge purchaser of the Model T, allowing the American Expeditionary Force to be the first truly motorized military operation in history. There was logic with that decision all materiel had to be shipped to Europe and that was always a mulit-week endeavor. Sending horses meant some amount of acclimation time after arrival whereas a Model T was ready to go.
At its peak, the American Expeditionary Force would have 60,000 motorized vehicles of various varieties in the European Theatre of those, approximately 15,000 were Model T’s.
Even though the United States had the largest number of Model T’s in use, the total number used by the American Expeditionary Force is difficult to determine. The length of time the United States was involved in the war was relatively short. This created some anticipated needs to be eliminated, orders being filled just after the cease-fire, or cancelled entirely.
This light delivery vehicle was found at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City and was one of 5,492 acquired for delivery use. The original order was for 12,002 units. This particular Model T was never painted in olive drab as it was used on base. Early on Henry Ford, in his staunch opposition to the war before United States involvement, refused to do anything out of the ordinary for military purchases. This caused a vast number of deliveries to be of a chassis in standard black. It was not uncommon for GI’s to paint a Model T in olive drab upon delivery.
The Model T made a superb ambulance for the times. This particular ambulance, also found at the same museum, was one of 5,340 ordered for ambulance use by the United States Army this particular example was delivered at the conclusion of the war and did not see duty overseas.
France also saw the quality and potential of the Model T as an ambulance, ordering 2,400 for front line field use. According to information at the museum, the Model T was the first choice of the French High Commission responsible for medical affairs as it had earned a superior rating for field use.
Despite Ford’s initial reluctance to supply ambulances to European countries, the Model T still served the French and British Armies in both Europe and Africa.
Through some creative procurement via third parties and sheer industriousness, a Ford dealer in Paris was able to acquire chassis and assemble 11,000 Model T’s for use by the French Army. In turn, British forces were able to amass a fleet of Model T’s that numbered between 20,000 and 30,000.
The Jeep has certainly become associated with the Allied efforts of World War II. While one does not readily associate the Model T in a similar fashion to World War I, it was arguably just as durable while serving a number of similar roles.
William Seabrook, an American who drove a Model T ambulance in France once wrote, “our Fords could go over shell-pitted roads and torn terrain” at 30 miles per hour. He further wrote “the ambulance driver works over, under and upon it. He paints it and oils it and knows every bolt and nut, its every whim and fancy.”
There have been countless different cars built over the years. Yet of those, how many have repeatedly demonstrated a pronounced aptitude for such a dizzying array of varied and diverse tasks? The Ford Model T, as passenger car, pickup, delivery truck, tractor, and stationary power plant at home as well as being ambulance, delivery truck, and artillery mover in war-torn Europe and Africa, was certainly a formidable mechanical soldier during the Great War.
Thanks, Jason, for this fascinating piece. The WWI era is receding (if it has not fully receded) into the mists of forgotten history. As has the Model T. I suppose this is inevitable given the passage of time.
People forget what a high quality car the T was. It may have appeared cheap and flimsy, but was the first to use Vanadium steel, a super-strong alloy of the time, which was head and shoulders above the steel that even the most expensive cars were using at the time. The chassis of these cars were strong as anything made, never mind the price.
These things were fabulous off-road because of their light weight, short wheelbase and their relatively flexible structure. The frames on these cars were far from rigid. Frame members were rivited together rather than welded. This was the way the Model A frame was constructed as well. Between the rivits and the Vanadium steel, those Model T frames could twist and give quite a bit without cracking or tearing any metal, which made them well suited to really rough terrain.
Going from memory here, but I believe that Dodge Brothers vehicles may have been second only to Ford in their contribution to WWI.
If you like vintage Fords and Lincolns and you’re in the Netherlands you should visit the Den Hartogh Ford Museum. It’s a private collection, around 200 Fords from the 1903 to 1949 era (according to their website that’s more than the Ford Museum in Detroit) and 18 pre-1950 Lincolns. Furthermore a collection of vintage motorcycles.
Very good encapsulation of the history of military usage of the Model T in multiple countries. It reminds me that I need to dust off and use a pile of material on Harley-Davidsons in World War II that I have had sitting around for years.
Interesting you should say that. The WW1 museum in Kansas City had a 1917 Harley on display that had been used extensively during the war. While I took pictures of it, it didn’t exactly fit within this article.
US built Harleys or Japanese, both Armys used them Japanese licence built HDs saved that firm from bankruptcy.
You are correct that HDs served in both the US and Imperial Japanese Armies during WWII, built under license by Rikuo in Japan. That only scratches the surface of the subject, though HDs served in almost a dozen armies during WWII, and the Soviet Union was the largest user and the one that put them in the most important combat roles. I had to read Russian sources to learn the last part, because no one has ever covered it in English.
Over 125,000 Model Ts were built by Ford for use in WWI. Surprisingly, the largest producer of trucks for the war effort was the newly formed Nash Motor Company which built 128,000 trucks in 1917 alone.
Just a small correction. American soldiers in World War I were not referred to as “GI’s.” That’s a World War II thing.
“Doughboy” was common, as was “Yank” when used by the British.
Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” from their German adversaries at Belleau Wood.
Quite true I shall correct that later today.
Enjoyed the article, Jason. I’d love to visit the National World War I Museum. I need to put that on my list. Here, in central Texas, there’s a gathering of Model T’s called the Texas “T” Party. I attended a few years ago and got my first driving lesson in a model. I was impressed how willing they were to letting outsiders (but car nuts) man-handle their vintage babies… Very down to earth.
One guy drove his (don’t remember the year) from Austin down to San Antonio for the event. Said he’d had it for over 50 years. Very impressive car.
Thanks for this fine piece of history. The T was such a versatile vehicle: it was re-purposed so successfully, everything from racing cars, tractors,and army trucks.
Its petite dimensions really make it look like a Jeep precursor, which it was in so many was, except for the drive to the front axle.
Mom was born in 1905 and left several pages of written memory. I remember her telling me of her cousin who was a truck and ambulance driver in WW1. Saw pictures of him with his truck and can’t say it was a model T but this caused the memories to come flooding back.
You are right about the memories fading. I was born in WW2 and in my childhood the WW1 vet was very common. In the past couple years we lost two WW2 vets in my family and there are none left that I can think of. And so it goes……
Table of Contents
Before 1914, Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, and the majority of Polish and Lithuanian territories belonged to the Russian Empire, and were strongly integrated within it. Finland and the Kingdom of Poland were relatively well industrialised, a process which had started earlier than in Russia proper.  In the second half of the 19 th century, both states quickly grew rich, profiting from access to the huge Russian market. Their situation changed after 1891, when the league of the three emperors was replaced by an alliance between France and Russia, beginning fast industrialisation of the Russian hinterland. Thus, Finnish and Polish business gradually lost its position in Russia. The so called “calico war” of the 1890s between textile industries in Łódź and Moscow was one part of this process.  In the Polish case, the kingdom’s proximity to Germany and Austria made its strategic position precarious.
Riga was an influential industrial centre, and, together with Liepāja, the most important Russian seaport (apart from Odessa on the Black Sea). The Estonian territories contained a fairly developed arms industry, mostly supporting the Russian Baltic Fleet. Lithuania was the least industrialised.
The Russian food market, with its plentiful and cheap products, made local production less viable in the less favourable northern climate. As a result, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia found themselves not self-sufficient in this regard after independence. Poland and Lithuania did not have this problem because of their milder climates.
After World War I, five new nation states were formed on the western fringes of the disintegrating Russian Empire: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The first three included only Russian lands, whereas the latter two also covered parts of former Germany (Lithuania and Poland) and Austria-Hungary (Poland). Moreover, Romania took over Bessarabia, which had formerly belonged to Russia. Ukraine failed to maintain its independence.
The young states faced difficult challenges. Hostilities, stretching until 1920-1921, postponed the shift of their economies to a peacetime state. Governments had to curb inflation and regain macroeconomic equilibrium. New markets were needed to replace the lost Russian one. Shifting exports from east to west often required higher quality production. Some products, which had previously been imported from Russia, now needed to be procured otherwise, often through home production. Finland, Estonia, and Latvia thus sought food self-sufficiency. Agricultural reforms were another important issue, due to their social and national meaning, and to their positive economic consequences. Moreover, the countries in question were heavily undercapitalised, having lost their ties to the Russian financial market, and suffered from post-war inflation (or, in the Polish case, hyperinflation). Finally, transportation infrastructure needed to be adjusted to the new borders.
Understanding the Present: The Impact of World War I in the Middle East
Watching the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, I cannot but recall the suffering of Middle Eastern people at another time of great upheaval: during the First World War and following its settlement.
First British Guard, Jaffa Gate, 1917. Credit: Library of Congress.
The history of the Great War helps us to understand how the violent past is responsible for the current turmoil in the Middle East. Historians have covered the destruction caused by the First World War in Europe extensively, but many in the West do not realize the level of destruction and upheaval it caused in the Middle East. The losses in the Middle East were staggering: the war not only ravaged the land and decimated armies, it destroyed whole societies and economies. In this way, the experience of World War I in the Middle East is perhaps more akin to the experience of World War II in Europe. The social, economic, and psychological effects were deep and devastating.
The title of my book, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War (Harvard University Press, 2014), which I spoke on recently at the Washington History Seminar, comes from a line in the journal of a Turkish feminist, Halidé Edib. In an episode about her travels by train through villages from Anatolia to Homs during the Great War, she remarked on a haunting sense of misery. In the villages, not a man was to be seen because so many had died or been conscripted. Locusts had devoured fields. Famine shadowed families and took many lives. She wrote, “I have seen, I have gone through, a land full of aching hearts and torturing remembrances” (1). As the memory of the war evolved decades later, people began to describe it as a great war of suffering—the safarbarlik, or mobilization—in which barefoot soldiers crossed cities, deserts, whole regions away from their homes, and millions of civilians faced starvation, disease, relocation, and levels of misery so profound and so lasting that their memory was passed on from one generation to the other.
Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia. Credit: The National Archives (United Kingdom).
The conclusion of the war introduced additional political upheaval to the region. In the West the war solidified already formed national identities. But in the East it shattered the imperial Ottoman system that, for all its faults, let a multiplicity of identities coexist for much of the time. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, drawn during the war in 1916, divided the region into spheres of influence between the British and the French: roughly, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq were designated British while Lebanon and Syria were assigned to the French, should the Allies win the war. No representatives of these regions were privy to the agreement. It was negotiated in secret and contrary to the principles of self-determination that would become a centerpiece of Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” plan for world peace at the end of the war. The French Mandate that replaced the Ottomans in 1923 introduced a new foreign rule to the Lebanese and Syrian people, who once again had no say in their government. The region was thus entrapped in new structures of imperial governance, and the foundations were laid for enduring mutual suspicion.
When the Islamic State bulldozed the berm between Iraq and Syria in June 2014, it publicized the event as the destruction of the Sykes-Picot border. The reference is indicative of the level of lingering resentment towards the West’s unilateral redrawing of borders 100 years ago. Why are old agreements from a century ago at the center of heated debates in the Middle East? The answer is that the suffering the region endured during the Great War lives on in the memory of its people, and decisions made then continue to affect relations among Middle Eastern peoples to this day.
The current refugee crisis is an opportunity to reflect back 100 years ago to the mistakes made following the Great War that caused—and continue to trigger—so much suffering and conflict. This is why the study of history is invaluable to understanding the present. Like memory, history’s influence is not fleeting but longstanding. We must account for it as we move forward.
1. Halidé Edib, Memoirs of Halidé Edib (London: John Murray, 1926), 375.
Leila Fawaz is the Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University. Fawaz received her PhD in history from Harvard University. She is currently researching the changing nature of collective memory and the evolving legacy of World War I in Lebanon and Syria. In 2012 Fawaz was awarded the title of Chevalier in the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.
Under Flavelle’s supervision, the Board oversaw an impressive expansion in wartime production, from only a few companies having the capacity to produce shells to, in 1917, dozens of companies, including crown corporations, that collectively produced some $2 million worth of goods per day.
The IMB’s mandate later expanded to include propellants, brass casings, and complicated fuses. By 1917, almost one-third of all British shells were being manufactured in Canada. The IMB constructed ships and aircraft and developed airfields for a large pilot training program. By war’s end, its 600 factories had completed some 103 naval vessels, 2,600 training aircraft, and 30 flying boats. When the IMB ceased operations in 1919, it was Canada’s largest civilian employer, with over 289,000 employees.
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Objects & Photos
This painting by George Reid depicts women working in a factory. Of the almost 300,000 factory workers engaged in war production in 1917, approximately one in eight were women.