The question of how countries treat their minority populations has become a major international preoccupation in the modern world. The importance of the treatment and position of ethnic minority populations has increased perhaps as international human rights legislation has been increasingly debated and applied. In addressing the issues of minority cultures in the predominantly Muslim Middle East, we have divided the subject primarily by ethnic minority, on a country-by-country basis though, in common with many diplomats and legislators over the last 150 years, the researchers found that ethnicity is no respecter of formal boundaries and cannot be contained comfortably within state lines.
In the early part of the work, (the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century), the government of the Middle East revolved around the power of the Porte – Constantinople. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire the Paris Peace Conference saw the Great Powers’ re-drawing of the borders causing great distress to large numbers of ethnic groups. During the first decade of the twentieth century the waning power of the Ottoman Empire had raised the hopes of nationalist movements and during the First World War many nationalists fought on the Allied side with a view to furthering their nationalist ambitions. The new borders, and the French and British Mandates, both denied the hopes for new culturally-based nation states and upset the previous status quo.
The foregoing collections on Kurdish Communities and Druze Communities have begun to address the questions of minorities with nationalist aspirations. Within this set there are two more discrete cultural groups whose ambitions would include the reclamation or recognition of a homeland beyond or outside of the conventional state boundaries of the Middle Eastern States – the Armenians and the Assyrians. However, in concentrating on ethnicity, we have drawn together here the Christian minorities in the Middle East and so nationalism is not specifically addressed but is included when arising from a sense of cultural difference or a difference in treatment of populations.
Geographically the collection covers the Arab Middle East, centring on the Levant, but it includes the (non-Arab) states of Turkey and Iran in order to include the majority of the Assyrian and Armenian peoples. The first three volumes in some ways provide an overview to the whole work introducing the subject of the treatment of Christian minorities using a few central file classes and the research is presented from the point of view of the Government receiving information from its Ambassadors.
The remaining seven volumes reflect a wider range of file classes, this cross-examination of the files provides greater detail from the minority point of view, although inevitably it also produces crossover. There are two volumes of material on the Assyrians from 1880 to 1951 with an emphasis on the period following the Paris Peace Conference after World War One. Two volumes of material detailing the treatment of the Armenians cover the years 1846 to 1958 but the main body of material is from the 1890s regarding the reports of massacres by the Turks at Azvot and Lattakia and from 1915 – the withdrawal of the Turks from Trebizond and its aftermath. One volume of material covers the position of the Maronite communities in Syria and Lebanon including their relations with the Druzes. Coverage of Protestant communities, particularly in Jerusalem and Nazareth, is represented by one volume and includes the massacre by the Druzes of both Maronite and Protestant Christians at Deir-el-Kamar. One volume covers Catholic denominations including the Greek Orthodox population, Roman Catholic, Jacobite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic communities and this material is fairly evenly spread from 1844 to 1955. Although there was an Ambassador in Cairo from 1883, the documents covering Coptic Christian communities in the Levant and Egypt begin with the expulsion by the Turkish Authorities of the Coptic Archbishop of Jerusalem and his clergy to Nablus in 1917. There is also some, perhaps unusually extended, coverage of the Jeddah murders of 1858 and 1895. The shock of the murder of the British and French Consuls was responded to by bombing of the town, and a huge correspondence arose thereafter between the British, French and Ottoman authorities, a proportion of which has been included.
ARRANGEMENT OF VOLUMES