The 1st Session of History of West Asia and North Africa in the Twentieth Century | WWI: From Ottoman to European Imperialism

On the afternoon of April 6th, 2021, Prof. Eugene Logan, Member of the Academic Committee of Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) and Professor of Middle East History at Oxford University, gave a lecture on the theme of “World War I: From Ottoman to European Imperialism” to more than 100 faculty members and students at IIAS and some other leading universities at home and abroad. This event is the first in a series of lectures on “History of West Asia and North Africa in the Twentieth Century” hosted by IIAS and was presided over by Prof. Wang Tingyi, Assistant Research Professor at IIAS.

Prof. Logan stressed that understanding history is of great strategic significance for understanding the political and economic landscape in the Middle East today. “History of West Asia and North Africa in the Twentieth Century” will pave the way for the audience to understand the history of West Asia and North Africa in the last century.

This lecture consisted of two parts. The first part reviewed a series of changes in the domestic and international situations before the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, while the second part explored the Partition Policy of the Ottoman territory by UK, France and other imperialist forces after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the essence of which was the division of the territory.

From 1908 to 1909, the Ottoman Empire underwent several revolutions. Although the Young Turkish Party overthrew the autocratic Sudan through the revolutions, the weakness of the new regime plunged the Ottoman Empire into a more difficult and fragile situation. The decline of the Ottoman Empire led European powers to think that the former was dying and began to covet the territory of the “sick man of Europe”.

In 1914, the Ottoman Empire announced its formal engagement in World War I. As a result, WWI developed into a world war involving almost all countries on five continents, which had a great influence on the Ottoman Empire. Prof. Logan emphasized that WWI was an important historical turning point in the Middle East. With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, European powers began the Partition Policy, which laid the foundation of a modern political system in the Middle East based on European imperialism.

The second part elaborated that the European imperialist powers headed by UK and France kicked off the “wartime partition diplomacy” and concluded a series of partition agreements. The territory of the Ottoman Empire was fully carved up, and the modern Middle East pattern took shape. Among them, Constantinople Agreement, Sykes-Picot and Balfour Declaration are the main embodiment of the imperialist partition policy led by UK and France, which decided the political structure of the modern Middle East and buried the root of lasting regional contradictions.

After the lecture, Prof. Logan had warm interactions with the audience and gave thought-provoking and inspiring answers to a number of questions raised by the audience, including the relationship between Arab countries and Turkey, the political stability of the Kingdom of Jordan and the turning point of the s and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Professor Eugene Rogan
BA Columbia, MA PhD Harvard, MA Oxford
Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History
Director, St Antony’s College Middle East Centre

Eugene Rogan is Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He has a B.A. in economics from Columbia, and an M.A. and PhD in Middle Eastern history from Harvard. He taught at Boston College and Sarah Lawrence College before taking up his post in Oxford in 1991, where he teaches the modern history of the Middle East to both undergraduates and graduates as well as providing DPhil supervision. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017.

He is author of The Arabs: A History (Penguin, 2009, 3rd edition 2018), which has been translated in 18 languages and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. His earlier works include Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 1999), for which he received the Albert Hourani Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and the Fuad Köprülü Prize of the Turkish Studies Association; The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (Cambridge University Press, 2001, second edition 2007, with Avi Shlaim), which has been published in Arabic, French, Turkish and Italian editions; and Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2002).

His new book, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920, was published in February 2015.

Text by: Wang Zijing
Typeset & Edited by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Wang Tingyi & Zhang Yuan