The scholarship of Mandate history and CBRL open-access resources

Husayni and Arslan sitting together at the 1934 Saudi-Yemen peace conference.

Over recent years, CBRL has actively supported and promoted scholarship that critically looks at the British Mandate period in Palestine as well as the Western colonial presence in the region at the end of the Ottoman Empire. CBRL has a hundred-year history in the Levant starting with our founding institute, the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ) today, CBRL’s Kenyon Institute. As a British-based organisation that continues to work in the region, we feel a responsibility to look critically at Britain’s involvement here and to open this scholarship up to wider discussion.

Our most recent webinar, “How British spies ruled Mandatory Palestine” with Dr Steven Wagner (Brunel University London), chaired by Dr Andrew Patrick (Tennessee State University) held on 3rd June 2020 surveys the first two decades of British rule in Palestine through the eyes of its intelligence services. It shows the moments where intelligence officers influenced British policy in Palestine, but also, how the now-declassified records they left behind help us to understand the early years of the conflict. The talk is now available as a video here and as a Podcast here.

You can also find a feature article, written by Steven in CBRL’s 2018-19 Bulletin entitled, ‘Unearthed: the wartime archive of Amin al-Husayni’ available (on page 46) here.

Tegarts Wall. (Copyright: Matson photo collection).

Another CBRL grant recipient, Dr Lauren Banko (Yale) wrote about her research that focuses on a different aspect of Mandate Palestine for a CBRL blog post, ‘Migrants, deportees, and identity: challenging the Mandate.’

To mark the centenary of our founding institute, the 2019 special issue of our journal Contemporary Levant focused on this period: ‘The British Mandate in Palestine: new histories, new agents and re-framing old paradigms’. The journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, have kindly made this issue available as open-access from now until the 30th September 2020. You can access the journal here.

Mayor of Kuneitra and delegation.

1919 was also the year in which Woodrow Wilson commissioned an Inter-Allied investigation from the Paris Peace Conference into the desires of the populations in the former Ottoman Empire. Britain and France pulled out of that commission leaving two Americans, Henry King and Charles Crane to lead a quixotic mission to get the borders of Greater Syria right. The investigation into the desires of the populations in the former Ottoman Empire and the response to that report by the 1st Pan-Syrian Congress in Damascus was the focus of a workshop and lecture that we held last year as part of CBRL’s centenary year activities. The workshop, held on 2nd May 2019 at the London Middle East Institute included talks from four pre-eminent scholars in this field: Dr Andrew Patrick (Tennessee State University), Dr Lori Allen (SOAS University of London), Dr Lauren Banko (Yale), James Barr (Historian and Writer) and was chaired by Prof. Dawn Chatty (University of Oxford). A recording of this workshop along with the keynote lecture given by Dr Andrew Patrick is available here.

In November 2017 we held events in both Jerusalem and in the UK to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. In Jerusalem we hosted the conference, ‘100 years after… the British legacy in Palestine, Balfour and beyond’ in partnership with the Educational Bookshop. Videos from of the panel discussions and of the conference’s keynote speaker, Prof. Avi Shlaim (University of Oxford) are available to watch here:

Keynote address given by Prof. Avi Shlaim (University of Oxford), ‘Britain and Palestine: from Balfour to May’.

The Balfour Declaration: what was meant and how to interpret it.’ Speakers Dr Salim Tamari (Institute of Palestine Studies), Dr Roberto Mazza (University of Limerick), Dr Steven Wagner (Brunel University of London), chaired by Dr Reema Hammami (Birzeit University).

‘The historical legacy of the Balfour Declaration. Speakers Dr Jacob Norris (Sussex University), Dr Lauren Banko (Yale), Dr Rana Barakat (Birzeit University), chaired by Dr Raja Shehadeh (Birzeit University).

In London in November 2017 at the British Academy we held an academic seminar  to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and its genesis in the context of British policy at the time and Podcasts of the talks can be found here.

This includes the following talks:

‘The History of the Balfour Declaration’ with Dr Jonathan Schneer (Georgia Institute of Technology):

‘The rise and fall of the Balfour Declaration’ with Dr Victor Kattan (National University of Singapore)

‘The legacy of the Balfour Declaration’ with Prof. Rosemary Hollis (City University)