Elisabeth Hope Murray – Amy Grubb
British Perspectives on Atrocities Against the Christian Populations of the Ottoman Empire following the Balkan Wars and World War I
In the early 20th century, Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire had a close and profitable relationship, largely avoiding discussions over human rights abuses and atrocities committed. However, during the 1913-1923 period, while genocide and other horrors occurred against Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, and others, British officials took more notice of crimes committed by the Ottoman government and other authorities in the region. Indeed, in the political contexts of a shrinking empire, global war, and Great Power territorial ambitions, diplomats, military personnel, and engaged citizens traversed the region, bearing witness to these atrocities. Scholarship in this area has largely focused on American responses to the Armenian genocide or centered on humanitarianism in terms of relief agency activities. British governmental influence, despite being at its height following the Ottoman defeats in the Balkan Wars and World War I, is rarely discussed, leading to questions about the role of British officials in witnessing, influencing, and reacting to these crimes. Consequently, this study examines British responses to the humanitarian crises occurring in the Eastern Mediterranean in the aftermaths of the Balkan Wars and World War I. We find the responses to three major issue areas–security, atrocity, and refugee crises– differed between the two periods in objectives and methods but ultimately were similar in their limited effect on outcomes. The study shows that the impact of British power was weak, resulting in the continuation of violence and repression for years after the time generally considered the cessation of conflict. In order to examine relationships between British officials and local actors, we utilize government documents from the British National Archives that have rarely been accessed and include first-hand accounts from victim groups, lower level diplomats, and witnesses. Funding for this piece has been provided by a grant from the Ivan Savvidis Foundation and the AMPHRC.