Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

C. Eugene Scruggs , Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Tucker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Earl Conteh-Morgan, Ph.D.


france, middle east, foreign policy, league of nations, interwar period


In the early years of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire began to crumble due to external wars and internal rebellions dating from about 1908. Due to European influence at the end of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire lost much of its territory in 1919, including Palestine and Syria, comprised of modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq. The European powers incited rebellion among the Middle Eastern peoples to the end of aiding their cause in the portions of the war fought in the Middle East. In return, they promised the Arabs independent nations; in the Treaty of Versailles, the regions were indeed freed from Ottoman rule. The European Allies, however, considered it their responsibility to guide these fledgling independent states; aided by the conclusions of the secretive Sykes-Picot Agreement, as well as preexisting assumptions of the inadequacies of the newly-formed nations to effectively self-rule, the League of Nations decided to create a mandatory system, dividing the regions between Britain and France.

Syria and Lebanon fell under French control, and despite the outward appearance of good intentions on the part of the French and British, they were quite imperious in their role as mandatory powers. The Europeans, under the guidance of Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France, carved the region into nations that did little to reflect the ethnic and cultural divisions of the region. Dissenters from the Arab world were quickly dealt with, as in the case of Faysal, who argued for the unity and independence of Syria and Lebanon; he eventually lost and was forced to leave Syria, but became the first king of Iraq under British mandate. Popular opinion in Europe tended towards the idea of Arab nations being less civilized, and many nations were more concerned with the status of Germany than with developing an unprejudiced policy towards the Arab nations. Thus those in control of the mandate quickly fell back on old assumptions and past experiences with the region. In this way, inequalities developed that would prove to have a profound impact on regional politics.