Dr Eugene Rogan, University of Oxford

 

The Great War in the Middle East will be the first comprehensive history of the Middle East and North Africa in the First World War, and will be published to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 2014. The book will be based on new research in Arabic, Turkish and Western sources, both archival and published, to provide a balanced narrative based on the perspectives of all belligerent states involved.

While there are numerous studies of the Western Front, there has yet to be a comprehensive account of the Great War in the Middle East. This is all the more surprising for, unlike the static killing fields of the Western Front, the war in the Middle East was quick moving and unpredictable. British and Dominion campaigns that might have expected to prevail over the Ottomans instead met with total defeat — in the Dardanelles as well as in Mesopotamia.

The Great War in the Middle East will be the first book to examine all of the Middle Eastern fronts – Egypt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, the Arab Revolt and the Palestine Campaign. While there are numerous books about individual campaigns (there are scores of books on T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt alone), they seldom address campaigns in other parts of the Middle East. Yet the different fronts were clearly linked. Stalemate in the Dardanelles drove British commanders to make an ill-fated attempt on Baghdad in 1914 ending in the disastrous surrender at Kut al-Amara. Many of the same British and Ottoman soldiers who fought in Gallipoli were to fight again in the Palestine campaign. Such connections are captured in the rifle used by T.E. Lawrence in the Arab Revolt, now preserved in the Imperial War Museum. The rifle was collected from a dead British soldier in Gallipoli and given as a trophy to the Ottoman commander Cemal Pasha in Damascus, who later presented it to the Amir Faisal of Mecca, who in turn gave it to Lawrence to turn against the Turks. As the many hands Lawrence’s rifle passed through demonstrate, it makes far more sense to study the Middle Eastern battlefields together than in isolation of each other.

The book will address the impact of war on Middle Eastern societies. With the arrival of foreign troops, the region witnessed the introduction of new technologies like electricity, the motor car and the airplane. Yet the war years were remembered as a time of great hardship for civilians in the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands were conscripted to serve in the Ottoman army. Egyptians were recruited for labour gangs to assist the British war effort in the West. North Africans were conscripted in their tens of thousands to serve in the French army in the Western Front. Moreover, the war was close at hand, as many parts of the Middle East became theaters of military operations. Civilians were forced to deliver crops and livestock at prices set by the Ottoman government and paid for in paper money that became increasingly worthless in the course of the war. The British and French imposed a maritime blockade on the Eastern Mediterranean that blocked key trade routes for food and grain. After two years of crop failures, much of the Syrian coastline was reduced to famine, in which hundreds of thousands were reported to have died. Thousands of Ottoman civilians suffered exile and the Armenians became the target of the first modern genocide for their real or suspected loyalties to Russia.

Finally, the book will examine the political developments that resulted from the war, including the emergence of nationalist movements in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Zionism, aspirations for independence in Egypt, and claims for full French citizenship by North Africans who fought for France on the Western Front. The book will demonstrate how the Middle East turned a European conflict into a world war, and how the war created the modern Middle East.

 

Dr Eugene Rogan

RCUK Gateway to Research

 

Outputs and Publications:

 

Book:

The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East.

Currently available in English (UK: Penguin), (USA: Basic Books); and Spanish under the title La Caída de los Otomanos (Barcelona: Editorial Criticá).

Forthcoming editions soon to be available in: Greek (Athens: Alexandria); Traditional Chinese (Taiwan: Owl Publishing House); Simplified Chinese (Beijing: Beijing Imaginist Time Culture Co.); Japanese (Tokyo: Hakasui-Sha); Danish (Copenhagen: Kristelight Dagsblads Forlag); Korean (Seoul: Geulhangari Publishers); Italian (Milan: Bompiani); Bangali (Bangladesh: Kaloharaph); Arabic (Doha: Forum for Arab and International Relations).

Versions also envisioned in Turkish, French, and German.

 

Articles:

No Stake in Victory: North African Soldiers of the Great War. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, vol 14 number 2, 2014 (pp. 322-33.)

Rival Jihads: Islam and the Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1918. Journal of the British Academy, 2015 *in press*

Beirut on the Stage: The Ottoman Great War in Four Acts. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. Article drawn from 2015 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Annual Lecture.

 

Magazine essays/articles:

“Systematic Joe Comes to Town” – Outlook India, 31st March 2015

“Regard d’Eugene Rogan sur la Première Guerre mondiale au Moyen-Orient” – Moyen-Orient, July-Sept 2014 (pp. 10-14)

“Clash of Empires” – BBC History Magazine, 2015 Collectors’ Edition, ‘The Story of the Holy Land: Three Thousand Years of Faith, War and Conquest’ (pp. 78-83)

 

Interviews and Public Lectures

“Così noi europei inventammo il Medio Oriente,” Limes – rivista italiana di geoploitica