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.
Nicholas Canny writes on the evolution of Atlantic History from the Cold War era onward. From the 1960s historians such as Jack P. Greene and Edmund S. Morgan challenged Robert Palmer’s Liberal-consensus narrative of the Democratic Revolutions in the Atlantic World. With more research on the Black Atlantic it became clear that the rise of an Atlantic Community had heavily relied on slavery and violence. Economic history further strengthened insights into how the Atlantic empires evolved out of the exploitation of Africans and indigenous peoples in the Americas. Moreover, from the mid-1990s the concept of multiple Atlantics made Atlantic History more transnational in its scope.
Philip D. Morgan shows in his chapter on ‘Atlantic Studies today’ how in recent years, studies on the early-modern Atlantic World have become global and multi-faceted, giving rise to comparative and entangled histories. Atlantic History tackles themes that are prevalent in twenty-first-century history at large: ecology, port towns and cities, multinational and religious societies, networks, scientific revolutions, families, and the individual.
Konrad Jarausch analyses the transatlantic cooperation of historians dealing with National Socialism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War. He examines historiography as well as infrastructure, like the building of new institutions and the founding of periodicals. He also traces the way sources were handled and made accessible, from the collection of data for the Nuremberg Trials to digitization projects of the recent decade. How did this affect the writing of history both in central Europe and in the Anglo-American world? He points out that the historical writing which emerged in this particular framework was at once collaborative, implicitly comparative, and decidedly distinctive.
A programme for the teaching of history in the post- national era
Teaching Transnational History in an environment still formed by a national history agenda poses many challenges, as Thomas Adam contemplates in his chapter. He develops an alternative approach to defining Atlantic History. He explains how we ought to think of the Atlantic no longer merely as a geographical space but conceive of it through the methodological approach of intercultural transfer. According to this premise the Atlantic World becomes ‘a space created through human activity’, namely the transfer, exchange of people and goods as well as the modification, re-interpretation, and sometimes rejections of cultural practices, ideas, and concepts in the process. Transatlantic relations in this context are treated as one example of transnational interaction. This framework not only allows for an interdisciplinary but also an inter-epochal exploration of the field.
The interview discusses the history of the research field ‘Atlantic History’ with one of the leading scholars in Atlantic History, Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn. It looks into the founding of the Harvard Atlantic History Seminar, themes and topics and how the field has evolved since the 1990s.
The introduction assesses the development of the concept of the Atlantic World and its related research fields, Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History. The chapter opts for a new understanding of Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History as it has evolved after the end of the Cold War and emphasizes the need for self-reflexivity, transnational, and global perspectives in Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History alike.