The Smith College Relief Unit, Near East Relief and visions of Armenian reconstruction, 1919–21
In 1919, Smith College – a liberal women’s college in Massachusetts – seconded five of its graduates to Near East Relief’s humanitarian operations in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Once they arrived, the five joined different relief parties and were spread widely throughout Near East Relief’s theatre of operations for the next eighteen months – from the Caucasus to Aleppo, and doing everything from clerical work, to running orphanages and rescue homes, and managing a medical lab. The Smith girls’ correspondence and photograph albums thus give us a rich, bottom-up view of many different fields and facets of NER’s relief operations. This chapter uses the previously unexplored archive of the ‘Smith Unit’ to provide the beginnings of a social history of NER relief workers and relief practices. It focuses on the varying humanitarian visions of NER policy-makers and their different types of relief worker, and the ensuing contestations, collaborations and innovations in practice on the ground. The discussion is framed within debates over the history of relief in Ottoman and post-Ottoman lands, the gendered politics of relief, and the transition from the ‘civilising mission’ to ‘modern’ humanitarianism after the First World War.
Etienne Brasil and Brazilian engagement with Armenia, 1912–22
This chapter examines how a humanitarian agenda towards Armenians arrived in Brazil became part of Brazilian foreign policy through the work of Etienne Brasil. The Armenian cause was incorporated into this policy agenda by a small interest group that had been able to obtain access to decision-makers through personal connections and intensive press propaganda. Brazil was trying to realign itself within the international system as a key player after the First World War. In this context, the Armenian cause was presented as an opportunity to show to the Great Powers that Brazil was ready to deal with challenges in the new global scenario and, therefore, deserved the prominent place that it had received at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and at the League of Nations. The hypothesis is that Brazilian support towards the Armenians was a pragmatic act that sought, through a humanitarian agenda, to gain prestige at the global level. Brazil’s attempt to act as mediator in the conflict between Armenians and Turks was therefore imbued with modern humanitarianism ideas, guided by the pragmatism and desire for prestige in the international system.
This chapter looks at the contemporary case of Syrian Armenians taking refuge/migrating to Armenia as a result of the current conflict in Syria. It looks at the different local, national and international actors involved in dealing with the Syrian humanitarian crisis in Armenia, engaging with their discourse, narratives, policies and practice, and crucially how these are being played out on the ground. The chapter is based on field research in Armenia in November 2016. It looks at how international organisations like the UNHCR as well as diaspora institutions like the AGBU are tackling the Syrian refugee crisis in Armenia. It also situates these activities in relation to how the Armenian government is dealing with the Syrians. In addition, the chapter examines the crucial role played by local civil society groups set up by Syrian Armenians in Armenia. The Syrian Armenians are the latest significant wave of diasporan Armenians seeking refuge from troubled homes. While it is yet unclear how many of these refugees will stay in Armenia in the long-term, this chapter addresses the problematic concepts and realities of diasporan ‘home’, ‘homeland’ and ‘return’, within the Armenian state and society.
Humanitarian interventions after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia
The 1988 earthquake in Armenia is frequently anecdotally referred to as a turning point in international humanitarian relief operations due to both the scale of destruction and the appeal of the Soviet authorities for international assistance, which followed in its wake. Such an appeal brought international relief workers to a Soviet republic for the first time in decades. At the same time, limited scholarly attention has been accorded to the way humanitarian aid impacted trajectories of change within Soviet Armenia during the final days of the Soviet Union. In light of this, the chapter looks at the changing character of the humanitarian cooperation between the Soviet Union and the West. It pays particular attention to the response of the Armenian diaspora to the earthquake and their changing relationship to the newly independent Republic of Armenia.
This chapter situates Freeman’s complex views on race and English nationalism in the context of his wider belief in Aryanism and narratives on European development. Through a study of his Comparative Politics – Freeman’s definitive work on race – I show that his racial theory was not idiosyncratic, but closely aligned with the scholarship of Thomas Arnold, Friedrich Max Müller, and Henry Sumner Maine. It is argued that Freeman defined the Aryan community in terms of political heritage and culture, rather than biology, and this led him to produce a narrative on Aryan development that was cyclical rather than unilinear. It is clear that, for Freeman, the success of a nation was determined by its ability to include all of its citizens in the processes of government. He demonstrates this argument by a consideration of the rise and fall of ancient Rome and ancient Greece. While the invention of representative government in modern Europe was an advance on the systems of the ancients, Freeman feared that imperial expansionism and over-extension jeopardised the stability of the modern nation-state.
The conclusion draws together the themes of the monograph to reconsider Freeman’s thought in relationship to the new readings of his work advanced in this book. Far from being a confident proponent of white racial supremacy, Freeman’s writing shows that he was fearful and anxious about the future of the Aryan nations. For Freeman, British imperialism, the ‘Judeo-Islamic’ conspiracy, and contact with the Orient, each posed a threat to Western stability.
Chapter 6 focuses on Freeman’s second neglected volume on Oriental history, the Ottoman Power in Europe. Written at the height of the Great Eastern Crisis, which was the consequence of the Bulgarian atrocities, Freeman wrote the volume as a polemic against the Ottoman Empire. Freeman narrates the history of the Turks in order to demonstrate that their religion has meant that they have never been able to treat Christians fairly, and that they have consistently committed barbarous and violent acts. I argue that Freeman’s work is suffused by his fear of the ‘Oriental conspiracy’ between Jews and Muslims, and examine his call for a war which would, finally and permanently, remove the Ottoman power from Europe.
This chapter considers Freeman’s hostility towards the contemporary Ottoman Empire as a representative of the ‘backwardness’ of Muslim nations. Freeman was especially incensed by the Ottoman rule over the Christians of south-eastern Europe as he believed that the Turkish Empire was preventing the Aryans of those nations from progressing. These attitudes were dramatically reinforced, for Freeman, by the news that the Ottomans had committed atrocities against their Bulgarian subjects in 1876. Together with Gladstone, Freeman led a nation-wide campaign calling on the British government to intervene on behalf of the subjects of the Ottoman Empire. That the Premier, Benjamin Disraeli, refused to do so was taken by Freeman as evidence of his natural sympathy for the Islamic power. I argue that the hysterical tone of much of Freeman’s writing on this topic was underpinned by his belief that Disraeli, as a ‘Jew’, was conspiring with the Muslim Turks in a plot to destroy Euro-Christendom.
This book seeks to reclaim E. A. Freeman (1823–92) as a leading Victorian historian and public moralist. Freeman was a prolific writer of history, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and outspoken commentator on current affairs. His reputation declined sharply in the twentieth century, however, and the last full-scale biography was W. R. W. Stephens’ Life and Letters of Edward A. Freeman (1895). When Freeman is remembered today, it is for his six-volume History of the Norman Conquest (1867–79), celebrations of English progress, and extreme racial views. Revisiting Freeman and drawing on previously unpublished materials, this study analyses his historical texts in relationship to the scholarly practices and intellectual preoccupations of their time. Most importantly, it draws out Thomas Arnold’s influence on Freeman’s understanding of history as a cyclical process in which the present collapsed into the past and vice versa. While Freeman repeatedly insisted on the superiority of the so-called ‘Aryans’, a deeper reading shows that he defined race in terms of culture rather than biology and articulated anxieties about decline and recapitulation. Contrasting Freeman’s volumes on Western and Eastern history, this book foregrounds religion as the central category in Freeman’s scheme of universal history. Ultimately, he conceived world-historical development as a battleground between Euro-Christendom and the Judeo-Islamic Orient and feared that the contemporary expansion of the British Empire and contact with the East would prove disastrous.
This chapter considers Freeman’s determined public campaign against late Victorian proposals for Imperial Federation. Where proponents of this scheme argued for formal constitutional union between Britain and the white settler colonies, including Canada and Australia, Freeman maintained that such schemes were dangerously unprecedented in Western history. Joining forces with W. E. Gladstone, Freeman argued that a better model of co-operation, based on free and mutual friendship between the metropolis and its outposts, could be found in the loose federations of ancient Greece. Through an examination of Freeman’s letters to the press, his History of Federal Government in Greece and Italy, and Rede lecture on ‘The Unity of History’, I demonstrate that Freeman was a leading critic of the British Empire. Freeman was hostile to the Empire due to his fear of over-extension and disaster and because the Empire included non-Aryans. Ultimately, I demonstrate that Freeman viewed the West and the East as two separately co-existing and conflicting cultures and was anxious about the possible outcomes of contact between the two civilisations.