A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Archives of King-Crane Commission Digitzed Online by Oberlin

The King-Crane Commission in Damascus, 1919
If you remember your modern Middle East history course, you probably learned about the American Section of the Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey. You won't remember it under that name, however, since everyone then and since has called it the King-Crane Commission. It took its name from Henry Churchill King, President of Oberlin College, and Charles Crane, a Chicago businessman, who were designated by President Woodrow Wilson to visit the defeated Ottoman territories at the end of World War I in 1919, as the Peace Conference was planning League of Nations Mandates in the region. Idealist that he was, Wilson had the crazy idea to actually ask the people who lived in the area what they wanted their future to be. Long story short, the Armenians wanted either independence or a mandate under the US, while the inhabitants of the Levant preferred independence, or, failing that, anything other than to be under the British and French. (I'm oversimplifying, but not by much.) Of course the Peace Conference divided the Levant between British and French mandates, and the aftermath of the war saw a resurgent Turkey and Russia divide the Armenian lands. King and Crane wrote a report on their findings when they returned to the US, but it was not released until 1922, when Wilson was out of office and the British and French were ensconced securely in the Middle East.

Oberlin (King was President of the College, remember) has joined with other repositories and is hosting an open-access digitized archive of the papers of the commission (including petitions and testimony by locals throughout the region), combining holdings from several different locations and intending to add other collections that relate tot he Commission in the future. The home page is here; the overall history and background of the Commission is here; and there is an interactive map showing the Commission's travels and with links to the documents relating to those localities.

One would have had to travel to multiple repositories to access these documents; now they're digially available with a few mouse clicks.

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