Reorganizing the Middle East, 1912-1948


Tuesday, November 13, 2018 (All day) to Wednesday, November 14, 2018 (All day)


Center for European Studies, Adolphus Busch Hall, 27 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University presents a conference

British soldiers, WWIReorganizing the Middle East, 1912-1948

The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the First World War led to the collapse and partition of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of League of Nations Mandates for Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria, and the creation of the state system of the twentieth century Middle East. This conference will consider these topics, with particular focus on the mandates system – their place within the post-war international world order, the transition of Middle Eastern territory from Ottoman to British and French governance, the practices of the mandates “on the ground,” and the formation of mandatory political identities, both ephemeral and durable.

The conference is free and open to the public. 

Pre-registration is required and may be completed via the conference web site:


Tuesday, November 13th 2018

9:00-9:15        Introduction and Welcome
Derek Penslar (Harvard University)

9:15-10:30      The First World War, the New International World Order, and the Mandates System
Carole Fink (Ohio State University): Woodrow Wilson and the Palestine Question at the Paris Peace Conference
Billie Melman (Tel Aviv University): Mandated Pasts: Internationalism and the New “Regime of Antiquities” between the Two World Wars

10:30-10:45    Coffee break

10:45-12:30    Drafting Borders? The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, Sykes-Picot Agreement, and Balfour Declaration
Eugene Rogan (University of Oxford): The Wartime Partition Diplomacy and the Resolution of the Eastern Question
Motti Golani (Tel Aviv University): The Letter That Became a Declaration: Weizmann, the Palestine Mandate and the Balfour Declaration
Derek Penslar (Harvard University): The Politics of Gratitude: Jewish Responses to British Wartime Diplomacy

12:30-1:30      Lunch

1:30-3:30       Old Empire to New Empire? From the Ottomans to the British and French
Leila Fawaz (Tufts University): The First World War in Levantine Memory
Abigail Jacobson (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Transitions between Empires: Jerusalem between Ottoman and British Rule
Elizabeth Thompson (University of Virginia): Europe’s Destruction of Arab Democracy in 1920
Dotan Halevy (Columbia University): Reconstruction Undone: The Ruins of Gaza and Post-War Palestine

3:30-3:45        Coffee break

3:45-5:15        Mandated Modernity and Alternative Forms of Governing
Arie Dubnov (George Washington University): Third Empire or Third Temple? A Few Thoughts on the British-Zionist Encounter, 1917-1923
Fredrik Meiton (University of New Hampshire): Palestine as a Technological Zone
Hilary Falb Kalisman (University of Colorado Boulder): Teachers without borders: Education across Britain's Middle Eastern Mandates

Wednesday, November 14th 2018

9:00-11:00      Mandated Environments
Sam Dolbee (Harvard University): Locusts and Borders in the Post-Ottoman Middle East
Dale Stahl (University of Colorado Denver): ‘Such was Noah’s Flood’: A River’s History of Iraq, 1919-1929
Netta Cohen (University of Oxford): Palestinian Heat, Jewish Bodies: Zionist Medical and Technological Approaches to the Local Climate in Palestine
Yaron Balslev (Tel Aviv University): Treating Urban Waste in Mandatory Palestine

11:00-11:15    Coffee Break

11:15-12:45    Mandatory Identities
Zaha Kheir (University of Oxford): The Institutionalization of National Identity in Interwar Lebanon and the Yishuv
Hagit Krik (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Being British in Mandate Palestine: A British Community and the Representations of Colonial Rule
Hadas Fischer (Tel Aviv University): Colonial Citizenship and Total War in Mandate Palestine

12:45-1:45      Concluding Remarks and Lunch

Co-sponsors: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University
Contact: Professor Derek Penslar

Funding for this conference is generously provided by the Knapp Family Foundation.