A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Century On From Sir Edward Grey, Are the Lamps Going Out Again, This Time in the Middle East?

Sir Edward Grey in 1914
A century ago today, as dusk gathered in London, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, was awaiting a response from Germany to the British Ultimatum sent earlier that evening, promising war if Germany did not withdraw from Belgium. A friend (John Alfred Spender), who later confirmed the version Grey gives in his memoirs, dropped by the Foreign Office, and as Grey watched out the window while lamplighters were lighting the gaslights, the Foreign Secretary made the remark by which he is still remembered. As Grey recalled it:

A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

The power has been out in Gaza for days now, and in Syria and Iraq and (increasingly) Libya,darkness seems to be settling in. So on this centenary of Grey's (only) famous remark, I wonder if this time the lights are going out in the Middle East. A gloomy thought for a grim anniversary.

No comments: