tv Book Discussion on The Guardians CSPAN October 18, 2015 8:00am-9:06am EDT
created back in the wake of the depression by roosevelt in order to help make home ownership more widely available. >> "after words" airs sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous "after words" programs at booktv.org. >> columbia university professor susan pedersen is next on booktv. she recalls the paris peace be conference after world war i and the creation of the league of nations. >> the great war had been a war of empires, and to the victorious allied powers, it seemed as if militaristic and aggressive empires had been defeated while the oppressive empire, the russians, had fallen by the wayside in the throes of revolt. it seemed as if the good empires who thought of themselves as having reluctantly acquired
their possessions and had administered these for the good of their peoples had triumphed. now it was left to the victors to clean up the mess, so to speak. president wilson had stressed the self-determination of nations as one of his 14 points, but this idea came up against demands by the allies to have the outlying provinces of their former enemies as spoils of war. and also against the idea that the populations of these to former colonies were sometimes seen rather paternal listically as not yet ready to govern themselves. how would the countries that the victorious nations sent toerer sigh deal with these -- to versailles deal with these problems? how would they be administered? would the territories be granted independents, or were they thought to need a period of
tutelage before they could join as full members of the family of nations? and perhaps most importantly of all, how would the people who lived in these states react to their newfound status? what the league of nations tried to do to solve these knotty problems the subject of the lecture tonight. one of a sort of semi-series which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first world war and its aftermath. susan pedersen's new book, "the guardians," tells this story in the light of new research, new scholarship and modern ideas about the first world war. susan fielder seven is the james p -- susan field -- susan fielder seven teachs
please welcome susan pedersen. [applause] >> thank you for coming today. i have to say it's a real pleasure to come to new york public library, because about half of this book was actually written right across the street at the schwartzman building. so i have in this incredible debt of gratitude to new york public and am a loyal member here. it's now a century, as you know, since the first world war. and in europe we've seen a whole lot of commemorations. but those were mostly about the war in europe. we don't always remember that this was also a world war. the story i'm going to tell you today starts from that fact. so let me start by taking you back a hundred years and
reminding you of some of the less-remembered theaters of the war. germany had an empire in 1914, and it actually wasn't a small one. new zealand started the scramble to seize those colonies by sending a ship to western samoa and bloodlessly deposing the german administration there. you can see western samoa right over there. then the australians booted the germans out of german new guinea and the bismarck archipelago. they found the japanese got their first. those are the ones in that little marked area. then there were the african possessions. british and french troops moved into togo and cameroon. these are the shaded areas, the
german colonies are shaded. dividing both territories between themselves. south african troops moved across the orange river into southwest africa. the belgians, with a lot of their homeland under german occupation, must have enjoyed seizing rwanda and burundi, but their rapacious demands for carriers and food caused terrible famine. the german general kept up a guerrilla war against british and south african forces too, devastating the local populations. let's remember the middle east campaigns too. britain's india empire -- indian army fought a bitter campaign against the ottomans in mesopotamia, now iraq. in 1916, britain made a secret deal with france defining postwar spheres in the middle east, but it looked for allies
too. by late 1917 british troops were in jerusalem. and at the end of 1918, alan let faysal precede him into damascus. when those conquests began, everyone was went on annexation. woodrow wilson brought the u.s. into the war promising no annexations, but it was a great anti-krone y'all movement with populations from ireland to korea claiming the right to govern themselves. by 1918 too, britain had made a lot of rash promises, promising an arab state to king hussein, support pump a -- for a jewish national home.
by 918 british officers were with the zionist, in palestine to assess the possibilities of jewish immigration. but britain was also subsidizing faysal's new government in syria . as it was put, an annexation slid off the table. instead at the paris peace conference, a compromise was agreed. the german and ottoman territories wouldn't be granted self-government because, as the covenant said, their people were, quote, not yet ready to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world. but the territories couldn't be annexed either. instead, they would be given tutors, so-called advanced nations who would govern them under mandate from the league of nations. three classes of mandates were
defined. the middle east a territories were supposed to be given advice and counsel by britain and france as they learned to govern themselves. the b territories, those african territories occupied by britain, france and belgium, were supposed to be governed under certain humanitarian and economic requirements such as a repression of the slave trade and free trade. finally, the c territories of southwest africa and the pacific occupied by japan and the dominions were handed over without too many stipulations at all, but all administering powers had to report to the league which would set up a commission to evaluate them and alert the league council -- which is like the security council -- to any concerns. now, it's important to realize neither governors, nor governed really welcomed this. at the peace conference, only the british and americans were enthusiastic, and when the u.s.
rejected the peace treaty, most of the occupying powers hoped the whole thing would go away. the british colonial secretary, lord miller in -- who was supposed to get the mandates drafted -- gave up. the french are determined just to be squatters, he concludeed. and like most squatters, they will by mere lapse of time become owners. the middle east -- in damascus syrian nationalists proclaimed independence and elected faysal king. they patched up their quarrels and came to terms. in april 1920, britain and france confirmed the carve-up agreed in 1916. britain then sent herbert samuel to palestine as high commissioner, still claiming international authority for the mandate it had written.
but france had given up on the idea of an arab state. and once it could shift troops from north africa, attacked faysal's army and forced him out of syria. this is the general reviewing senegalese troops before the battle. british officials felt a bit bad about that. and in 920 they engineered -- in 1920 they engineered his coronation at king of iraq. the league wasn't consulted much about any of this and certainly didn't oversee it. just what would happen to the mandate system wasn't clear. but the interesting thing is that this oversight system got set up anyway. why? well, because the league assembly and all the people who is believed in the league insisted on it. after millner and the imperial officials bowed out, league bureaucrats set up the system. by fall 1921 reports were arriving in geneva, and the mandates commission was meeting.
the book i've just written is a history of that system of league oversight, of the effort, let's say, to put imperialism under international supervision. it asks a simple question: what difference did that make? empires ran true to type. the british governed tanzania like they governed south africa. australia ran a harsher labor regime in mandating new guinea than they did in their colony right next door. but rule under mandate was more public and noisier. that's the main point. what was truly new about the mandate system was the level of international scrutiny, debate and publicity it generated. the imperial powers had to report or annually to the league and send administrators to geneva to answer the questions
of this body. the permanent mandates commission of the league of nations. as you can tell from this picture, this is no group of wild-eyed radicals. with the exception of the woman who was put on at the insistence of the assembly to represent women and of the representative from the international labor organization, most of the members were former colonial governors. but most were serious-minded men. they were accustomed to command. they served without term, and they proved much more outspoken and troublesome than anyone expected. the commission in turn, supported by this group now five, soon ten, the staff of the mandate section in the league's secretariat, they're the people who do the research and write the reports that the commissioners are too lazy to write and answer the mail. the director of that section was the man on the far right, william rap part, a
swiss-american political scientist and a really, really good choice. professor in geneva, a former instructive in government at harvard, he was effortlessly trilingual, had friends all over the world and was determined to uphold every letter of the covenant. he wasn't about working behind the scene to find allies. it's thanks to him colluding with british internationalists that the regime came to include its most surprising part, a petition process. people under mandate or even interested outsiders could petition if they felt the rules were broken. meet, for example, the members of the palestinian congress gathered in geneva in 1921. their secretary would set up an office there and become an indefatigable commissioner. coveredded by a vigilant press, the mandate system became the arena where arguments over imperial rule were fought out.
that's why the system mattered. this book investigates that 20-year conflict. let me pause be then though to share with you the worry that scuttles across the historian's brain as she gets to work on this project. this is simply how on earth am i going to manage something so huge? sure, i can draw on experts on different territories, but i have to track the working of the system myself, and if i want to get the whole picture, i need to rook at it from all -- look at it from all sides; that is, from the standpoint and through the around arrives of the imperial powers, of local movements and of the league. if i really want to figure out what difference the system mix, i have to look at all three. but wait a minute here, there were seven mandatory powers and 14 mandated territories, so how can i research this? the answer, i realized, is in the question, what difference does international oversight
make. if that's the question, you have to start by figuring out what the overseers see. so i had a selection principle which one might put this way. if a free -- tree fall in a mandated territory and geneva hears it, i hear it. i needed to pay attention to every territory, but i didn't have to pay them equal attention. i could and sowld concentrate on -- should concentrate on things that attracted the attention of geneva. so one of the first things i did was count how much time the commission spent on each territory. you can see from this slide, essentially, that they worry most about palestine, syria, southwest africa, so on. these other ones over there on the other side, they don't care about. so once i had my focus and my issues, i did then examine them not just from geneva, but on every level. theism peerl, the international
and the local. the research took me everywhere, not just to geneva, london and paris, but to berlin and brussels and jerusalem and other place, but for better or worse, i think that long archival track worked enabling me to write a national history of a significant experiment. what conclusions came out of that, briefly, that the mandate system wasn't a halfway house, it was something different; an attempt to construct an international order that really was an imperial order, a league of empires. that is, to subject imperial rule to international norms but based on the assumption that most of the nonwhite world would be under imperial rule for a long, long time. the british led this effort, convinced that their imperial practices were generalize bl and best. but against expectation -- and this is the second point -- that process of internationalization
far from stabilizing imperial rule made it controversial and absolutely nerchlt almost any scandal that erupted in a mandated territory made its way to geneva. imperial rule was the subject of relentless talk. nationalists came, but that also led the imperial powers to consider other arrangements. international oversight was sure a burden. economic ties in client states began to look like attractive alternatives to internationalize toed imperial rule. so the book tells this story in four parts. first, it just looks at the construction of the regime, powers and personalities who made it, the petitioners who took it on. the next three parts are about how it works, from about 1920 til its collapse until 1939. so let's go back to the early 1920s and eavesdrop on the commission as it got to work on its first real crisis.
we shouldn't be surprised that this would involve south africa, for of all the powers, south africa was the most bent on annexation. during the war south africa documented german atrocities to make the case for its own rule, but once the mandate was secure, policy changed. german settlers were urged to stay and offered south african citizenship and additional native lands were handed over to whites. africans were confined to shrinking reserves and their weapons taken away. then a heavy tax was imposed on hunting dogs to prevent them from living off the land and force them to labor on white farms. by 1922 these policies had driven a group of about 1500 near the orange river -- you can see there listed right there, right at the south of the country -- into real despair.
it had a also brought one abraham morris to the administration's attention. morris was a famous guy locally. he had fought against the germans, and he had acted as a scout for the south africans during the invasion. he was in south africa, and when he crossed the orange river into the mandated territory in 1922 with some companions and a few rifles, the new administrator of the territory or grew worried. when the people refused to surrender morris, he gathered a posse of some 200 whites and rode out to the encampment. about a hundred men with rifles then headed for the orange river but were tracked down, most were killed. southern ma anybody ya was -- namibia was a remote scrubland,
but when airplanes dropped those bombs, a scandal exploded. of course, bombing had been used before in colonial campaigns, but southwest africa was different, it was under mandate. liberal south african papers picked up the story, and then the international press. the anti-slavery society sent a petition. then one of the few black delegates at the league from haiti denounced south africa to the 1922 league assembly, and the mandates commission was asked to investigate. the commission spent 1923 grilling the south africans. those debates were published, and we can see how the system worked both to discipline and to rehabilitate imperial rule. virtually the whole commission agreed the south africans had used unnecessary, brutal force. only the portuguese member insisted that violence was justified. and when his colleagues disagreed, he leaked his views
to the -- their views to the south africans, packed his bags and went home. the italian member said mandatory rule had to be a complete break with imperial practice. and when his colleagues objected, he pleaded exhaustion and went home. it was left to the british member, the famous colonial governor, who persuaded the commission that while south an f africa had lapsed from imperial best practice, there was a model for what that practice should be. trusteeship, he clarified, meant administration that would keep both settlers and concessionary companies in check, prevent forced labor and uphold traditional authority. his views dominated the mandates commission in the 1920 rs and won the commendation of the league assembly. that consensus delegitimized the
south african regime which found itself under constant criticism. that's the mandates commission meeting in 1924. it's important to remember, though, that this vision of trusteeship wasn't egalitarian or particularly progressive. his predecessor had wanted to bring all mandates to independence as soon as possible. the danger of going too fast was much greater than not going fast enough, he thought. racial assumptions undergirded the thought. africans would require white guidance for a long time to come. but what should the league do if populations under mandate rejected paternalism and demanded self-government? in the mid and late 20s, the commission confronted that question. first, in 1925 a syrian -- a local syrian revolt against -- [inaudible] became a national rising. this is the sultan who led that.
a rising france put down by exemplary terror, the use of human shields and bombardment including of damascus. second, a passive resistance movement against new zealand's rule by virtually the entire population of western samoa was met by new zealand with incomprehension and then repression. this is new zealand troops removing the insignia of the mao movement. that's the movement. and then this is the death of -- [inaudible] who was killed in a demonstration. this movement proved impossible to repress. when the men were banished and took to the hills, the women took over x. this is the leadership and committee of the women's mao. in both cases these rebellions and their repression internationalized, spurring massive petition drives x they
ended up before the mandates commission. in both cases too, representatives came to rome or geneva to make the case. but in both cases the commission defended the mandatory power. why? because the movements called into question the regime's foundational assumptions; that is, syrians and samoans said they could govern themselves, but the covenant said they couldn't. and when they came and said they could, those appeals violated the covenant. the mandates commission would not entertain such arguments. they refused to receive olaf nelson of the samoan mao even though he traveled halfway around the world to talk to them. they dismissed them as unscrupulous agitators. privately, they thought as long as states cooperated, sent full report, replied to petitions, pledged their devotion to the
sacred trust, the mandates commission should support them. the league's publicity apparatus sent those deceptions winging around the world. in the period of the early '20s then, the mandate system worked to stabilize the imperial settlement. is so how did it come, instead, to undermine imperial authority? the third part of the book turns to that, and the simple answer is that germany joined the league. why was this so significant? well, germany had owned most of those territories. in 1919 germany had been required to surrender its colonial empire. it became, in other words, the first postchoan y'all great power -- colonial great power. it didn't want that distinction. all parties in germany except the commune its considered the seizures -- communists considered the seizures unjust. all resented the argument that german rule had been particularly brutal, all were committed to recovering the territories. led by germany's former colonial
governors and generals, seen here riding in triumph through the brandenburg gate in 919, the choan y'all movement took off. in 1924 when the pragmatic gustav -- [inaudible] decided to bring germ into the league -- germany into the league, the colonial associations argued he should get the colonies back as the price. the foreign ministry disagreed, but it wasn't because they didn't have a colonial strategy. the colonial lobby wanted their territories back, but the foreign ministries goal was to rebuild german power. in the past, colonies have been essential to that effort. but if the league's program proceeded, maybe they could do it differently. that is, germany could use the clauses of the mandates regime to rebuild its position in africa. to carry out that plan, germany needed a seat on the mandates
commission. to the complete disgust of all the other mandatory power, britain felt germany would cause less trouble inside than out. in 1927 after intense diplomacy, the director of the confederation of german industries joined the commission as the german member. his appointment wasn't popular with the colonial lobby. they wanted one of those ex-governors in the post, but the foreign ministry found him excellent and rightly so. his presence strengthened the independent bloc on the commission, but his correct manner, good english and otherwise conventional views shielded him from attack. although intensely busy, he prepared scrupulously for every session, pulling the commission towards a more robust assertion of league authority. the first part of that was economic. the a and b mandates were supposed to operate under the open door; that is, to give
equal economic right toss all league -- right toss all league states. even before germany joined the league, britain -- not finding oh buyers -- had sold the german plantations in its part of cameroon right back to their german owners. now germans went back, and german firms rebuilt their dominant position in the african carrying trade. but the commission went further than that. it became much more adepress you have about combating -- aggressive about combating annexation. the mandatory powers made three such moves, and in every case germany tried to block them. first in 1925 belgium passed a law turning rwanda and burundi into provinces of belgian congo, only to be forced by the commission to back down. in a second case too, south africa tried to incorporate
southwest africas railways and harbors into its own system. finally, germany and league mobilization helped destroy british plans to amalgamate kenya, uganda and tang knee ca. this was impossible, the commission said, because britain was not sovereign and could not bring it into its empire. if necessary, the german government added, it would take this case to the international court at the hague. in 1929 in the most important decision relating to mandates the league did, the council ruled that mandatory powers were not sovereign in territories under league oversight. so the period of germany's league membership proved the mandate system's most innovative period. in the foreign ministry's determination to use the system
to reassert german power but to do so by upholding league norms of anti-annexation can we see foreshadow the international order that would emerge after 1945. german policy was driven in this period by the determination not to reclaim colonies, but to make them matter less or even disappear. when britain then announced that it planned to move mandate iraq to independence, germany was the only great power truly supportive of that policy while at the same time disputing the treaties and trades concessions that ghei britain control -- gave britain control over iraq's airfields and oilfields. this is faysal in the public garden at baghdad on iraq's independence. but this left to limit imperial power was over by the mid '30s. the mandate system turned out to be an exception. why was in the case? the last part of the book is
about how it came apart. again, the simplest explanation is hitler's asession. in october 19 33, hitler took germany out of the league. all resigned immediately. but there's more to it than that, for even before germany left the league, that agenda of economic integration and liberalization had been compromised. britain and france both responded by throwing protection around their empires. al though the mandates remained free trade zones, they began to look like anomalies. trade flowed into imperial lines. by 1935 half of british trade was within the empire, up from a third four years earlier. liberal economists at the league worried protection would threaten peace as so-called have not nations made shriller and shriller demands for territory. this was the context for two land grabs that broke the
league. what bears notice though is that japan's attack on manchuria in 931 and italy's attack on ethiopia undermined the mandate system. for when japan and italy sought to justify their actions, they did so in terms embarrassingly reminiscent of the covenant. when the league found japan the aggressor, japan replied that it was building a state in a lawless territory just like britain had in iraq. italy subjected ethiopia with bombs and poison gas, but this doesn't keep mussolini from claiming he, too, was bringing civilization to a slave-trading, backward nation. both states exited the league. those arguments didn't work. appealing to the league to save his country from italian barbarism had public opinion if not military might on his side.
that's classy in geneva. he didn't just attack italian claims to civilization and promote his own, he denounced the idea there was a hierarchy of peoples anyway. apart from the kingdom of the lord, there is not on this earth any nation who is superior to any other, he said. but the language of backward and advanced, civilized and bash brows had always -- barbarous, now that language wasser redeemly tainted. western cartoonists pointed that out over and over. further damage was done by the sudden -- [inaudible] interest in german choan y'all claims, a project known as colonial appeasement. we know now that this was a nonstarter. hitler was determined on eastern expansion and didn't care about colonies. but many in his entourage did. including his economics minister who laid out the case in an
influential article in "foreign affairs." it suited hitler, too, to give the colonial movement its head. the mid '30s thus saw this enormous outpouring of colonial propaganda in germany. brightly-colored posters in train stations reminded passer-byes that their colonies could provide raw material. striking charts compared the huge expansion of territory enjoyed by other colonial powers to germany's state. rallies were held demanding germany's colonial rights. [audio difficulty] among germans in the former colonies too. this is a hitler youth rally in 1936. so southwest africa. all this may not have persuaded hitler, but it persuaded plenty
of people in britain and france. that was what the nazis wanted, for as french intelligence reported, germany's colonial propaganda was always directed at london. the british press published article after article about how to bring germany back into the imperial and also the league club. the times of london ran 160 articles on this in 1936 alone. some tried to get the ball rolling. the historian arnold doing by, now director of research at the royal institute for international affairs, devised a plan to redistribute colonies under an expanded system of international control. in february 1936 he took this to germany, meeting with foreign policy experts and winning a 90-minute audience with hitler. his account of that meeting made its way to the foreign secretary. did the cabinet take up colonial revision because of this intense public debate? timing suggests, yes.
in february then-chancellor neville chamberlain told the cabinet he'd happily trade for peace, and on march 8, 1936, the day after hitler's troops reoccupied the rhineland, the time had come to consider transferring colonies. one day later baldwin set up a secret subcommittee of the committee of imperial defense to do that. chapter 11 in this book tells the sad story of british and french consideration of various proposals to give germany african territory. as that account shows, both sides were deluded. no deal was possible. but it took the british much too long to understand that. in fact, the last proposal was one devised by neville chamberlain, now prime minister, and presented to hitler by ambassador henderson on march 3, 1938. all african territories below the 30th parallel and above the -- [inaudible] a chunk of real estate that included all of belgian and
portuguese africa as well as some british and french, would be put into a common pot and redistributed with germany getting some. in exchange, britain needed german cooperation to resolve the czech and austrian questions. hitler responded truculently but promised a written response. instead, german troops marched into vienna for a rapturous response. in cameroon hitler -- chamberlain had learned the hard way -- would not be deflected from his eastern plans. yet hitler's response signaled not only a refusal to trade eastern for african colonies, it was also a rejection of the international order britain had been trying to reconstruct. from 1936 until 1938, british politicians had tried to use the colonial issue to lure germany back into the international fold. but the whole purpose of colonies, as far as the nazis were concerned, was to limit
german dependence on an anglo-american international and economic political order. so this episode destroyed what little credibility the project of international control still had. after all, even it was found unthinkable to turn five million africans, as he put it, to -- like cattle to a country who has shown such cruelty, it seems plenty of other people were willing to turn africans over to nazis to solve european problems. nothing discredited the mandate system more than that proposal than to bring nazi germany into it. and the mandate system had, by that time, lost its main imperial battle as well. for in the late '30s, when britain found itself under attack, it too lost heart. i can't detail the complex story
of britain's palestine policy here, but suffice it to say that it pleased no one. between 1936 and 1939, britain found itself entirely on the defensive in geneva. it faced a major revolt in palestine for its unwillingness to limit jewish immigration and concede self-government. but then it was attacked by the mandates commission and the league council for not cracking down hard enough on that revolt. although it did chip in troops, built fortified posted and did its best to restore order. it then proposed a petition plan only to find that plan attacked in geneva both by european liberals on the mandates commission desperately seeking refuge for jews and by anti-semitic eastern european governments on the league council who were trying to get rid of their jewish populations. when it finally proposed -- this
is the special session on palestine in 1937 -- when it finally proposed to end jewish immigration and impose a binational state within ten years, that too caused consternation. especially among palestine's now-sizable jewish population which felt betrayed. at this point, britain gave up on the mandate system. if the league said its policy in palestine was in violation of the mandate, british officials would assist the mandate be rewritten. this was an admission of failure. britain officials had written most of the mandate text. now they blamed the league when those proved unworkable. after 1945 britain would try to hang onto some parts of its financially-shattered empire, but its enthusiasm for international oversight was over. this talk should be over too. i've gone on too long, so let me wrap up. what identify tried to do --
i've tried to do is recover the history of a forgotten but significant effort. we can see it worked in different ways in different periods. depending on who was in the room. it started out working to generalize british imperial ideals. then in what we might call the german period, it worked to limit imperial authority. that move was cut short by the depression and by the demand of the revisionist states for more territory of their own. the mandate system didn't really go away though. the middle east territories became independent, but the over or ones became trust territories, except southwest africa. i don't want to stress continuity too much though because the trusteeship regime of the u.n. was different. moving states to independence was an explicit part of its charter, and most important, its dominant figure wasn't a british colonial governor who thought
the british empire would last a long, long time, but an african-american political scientist, ralph bunch, who became director of the trusteeship division in the u.n. it's sort of fitting that bunch became the successor because he wrote his dissertation on the mandates system. he'd been a graduate student at harvard in 1932. when he decided to conduct a comparative study of mandate and choan y'all rule. so just like i did, he went off to geneva to go through the league records, and then he headed to togo to compare french administration in two places. bunch's dissertation won the top-end pride for the best dissertation in comparative politics in 1934. it was a meticulous account, but it was also a sharp criticism of the mandate's regime. bunch found that mandates territories were, on the margin, better governed than colonies, but he concluded that wasn't
enough. the problem was that they were still governed too much like colonies. their economic systems were too exploitive, their political regimes too oppressive. who on earth, bunche asked, could think the tog golese, africa might be weak, but its people were identical in aspirations to western people. with time and aid, afterwhat was as capable of self--- africa was as capable of self-government as anywhere else. the 1930s were the devil's decade. the european empires were strong, and the fascist and revisionist states demanding territory everywhere. bunche couldn't know that a mere ten years later he would be writing the clauses on nonself-governinger is stories in the u.n. charter or a few years after that he would be running the u.n. office charged with preparing those territories
for self-government. but he had already concluded that empire was to be superseded and not internationalized. whatever international order would succeed the league, it would have to be built on the principles of state and racial equality alike. he was waiting in the wigs, and he wasn't -- in the wings, and he wasn't going to change his mind. but his is another story. so thank you very much. [applause] i'm happy to take questions. yes. >> thank you for your talk. one of the principles that came out of versailles was self-determination. and the parties, the victors at versailles didn't give a nation of 30 million people in the
middle east a state. that the kurds. that is the kurds. this problem and this failure by the victors at versailles is still causing trouble today. in southeast turkey, in northern iraq and in northern syria. why didn't they consider the kurds for a state? >> it is -- that's one of the most interesting questions. i mean, really part of what you're asking why were all the territories in the middle east not given self-determination, and that's a complex subject with a long answer. but a major part of it was when the americans pulled out, frankly, the british and the
french pretty much imposed the mandate system on the middle east. the hope had been that the americans would actually accept mandates and particularly mandates in the middle east. and once the british realized that there would be no american presence in the middle east as ad moringing power -- administering power, their only partner could be the french. and so the french-british settlement is what was imposed on the middle east. and that ended up with armenians and kurds not receiving territories as well as the territories that were created were not granted self-government. it also has something to do with, i think, different british ideas about what kind of state they were building. the british tried to build a unitary state in iraq. and we've seen that come apart ever since. but that was the, that was the effort, to take those three
ottoman provinces and craft them together into a single state. and that created difficulties because of the sunni-shiite divide and also because of the kurdish north. and we're still living with that. yes. >> thank you for an excellent presentation. think the lack of instand town yous questions is a reflection on how well you covered the material. let me put the united states back into the equation. do you think if the united states had participated in the league, it would have made any impact on the mandate system and its eventual downfall? and second, is it worth contrast what the united states was doing in territories that it administered such as the philippines to the way the mandate system was administer ored? thank you. >> yeah, that's a really interesting question.
i'd have to, i have to beg off on the second part about the philippines because, frankly, i felt this was such an overwhelming project that that if i had brought yet more territories into it, i would have just -- it would have been really unmanageable. question about the americans, though, is very, very interesting. i think it isn't quite right, frankly, to say the americans were not present in geneva. the americans had an incredibly privileged position because they could choose to be a nonmember and then be in whenever they wanted to be in. so the americans had a lot to do with the, obviously, writing the league covenant, they had a lot to do with what the mandate system looked like, and they contracted individual treaties with every mandated, mandatory power to grant themselves equal
rights never mandate cans territory even though -- mandated territory even though they weren't a league member. america was critically important to the league because it funded a lot of the work through the carnegie and rockefeller endowment. all of these big american foundations were led by people who actually believed fervently in the league and worked through philanthropic and kind of tankse american presence alive. i mean, the league library wassen dowed by cash -- was endowed by carnegie, and there were members of the secretariat. the first british secretary of the league made a point of hiring americans and keeping them there so he could keep channels of communication open to the u.s. at the beginning, that didn't work well because the harding administration was just unwilling to even talk to geneva. but over time there was quite a lot of collaboration. some kind of behind the scenes, but some more explicit.
there was a league consul, an american consul in geneva who was brought in and got a lot of kind of private information whenever the league was discussing tricky issues. so, i mean, i think there would have been quite a different story if the americans had stayed in, because american and british aims were closer than american -- than british and french aims. i mean, the british and french operated quite differently as imperial powers, and with the americans gone it had to be an anglo-french system. yes. >> iraq got its independence in the '30s. syria and lebanon sometime in the '40s. >> yeah. >> would it be fair to say that
the mandated territories got their independence before most other colonial areas? >> that's a good question. i think you probably can't say that as a rule. i mean, it's morer the tomorrow, if you -- territorial, if you see what i mean. the middle east territories moved to independence kind of in lockstep x that independence -- and that independence was brought about, essentially -- not iraq, which is a different case, but for the rest of them, by the cataclysm of the war. and in africa, the mandated territories became independent basically on the same time frame as the other colonial territories in africa. western samoa is a bit of an exception. it's a very interesting little place. if one were to say, you know, what should have been a state in 99, my vote -- 1919, my vote
would have been western western samoa. it was the first pacific territory to move to independence, and that makes a lot of sense. and, you know, the samoans petitioned in 1919. they said why are we being given these new zealanders to run us? we can just do this ourselves. [laughter] yeah. >> hello. i have had some occasion to take a look at the mandate system as it operated in the bismarck ark archipelago, specifically the gazelle peninsula area in britain. and have had occasion to speak to the descendants of several australians who operated coconut plantations in the area. and they've told me that
relations between the australian coconut growers and their native workers were usually pretty good and pretty productive, so on. are you, are you going to tell me that that's not an accurate perception? [laughter] >> look, i don't have personal experience of that, obviously. i can tell you what the records and the archive would lead one to conclude. >> okay, please do. >> yeah. okay. australia operated an indentured labor system in new guinea, and so workers were under usually 2-3 year contracts. whether personal relations under that kind of a system are good or not will depend very much on
the personality of the people they're working for. the concern of the mandates commission was always a free labor concern, that they felt that indentured servitude, essentially, indentured labor was kind of skating on the edge of what were supposed to be the free labor practices of the regime. now, i have to say australia looked at the kind of censure south africans came under and did try quite hard to avoid that. so if you look at -- and i did look at a bit of this -- if you look, for instance, at how -- whether the local administration would crack down on things that came to their attention, the australians tended to try to do that which was interesting.
because that was not the case in southwest africa. so, you know, i think it's a mixed bag. >> that's fairly accurate with what i've come across. and the other thing i'd ask you just briefly if i may is i've also heard descendants of the islanders as the australians who lived there were known say that australia was too, shall we say, stringent to a fault in abiding by the restrictions on fortifying the mandated territories which, in turn, made japan's seizure of them a lot easier. >> that's a very interesting point, and it's something that actually i've been quite curious about. there's almost nothing written on this. there's, like, one or two article, and they do tend to confirm that point, that australia did abide by the
nonfortification requirements of the mandates system and, obviously, that became a huge problem. and the only -- and the mandates commission also was very reluctant to look closely into the japanese-mandated islands. and there were lots of charges of fortification. it was very hard to get into them. they have almost no information. and so nonfortification ended up being a problem. now, the trusteeship system didn't work that way. it was, you know, trust territories could be fortified, and that was because of that experience. on the other hand, it's part of -- it makes you understand what the league was like. i mean, of course the league was set up to try and make war impossible. so they aren't going to say it's completely fine to build fortifications in trust territories. they're trying to demilitarize them. even the french who raised their
troops out of west africa did not recruit troops in mandated togo and cameroon. so nonfortification and nonmilitarization was a real requirement. yeah. >> given the muddle that we've made in the middle east recently in the last few years, do you think maybe we were smart to have stayed out of engagement over there in the past? >> that's a great question. you know, i'm not the kind of historian who does contemporary affairs. i just -- it's way beyond me. i have to say i think there's no -- i've always felt looking at this, this is a global system. no one stays out. if you see what i mean. you cannot participate, in which case you live with the
consequences of a system that's made by other people. so, you know, america ended up, will end up involved in things even if it chooses not to take a role in planning that, i think. i mean, that's certainly what happened in the case of the mandate system. right? >> [inaudible] >> yes. >> [inaudible] >> yes. yes. i mean, i, i don't see how i can, you know, i can't say there are clear lessons that you can apply from this story. right? [laughter] >> it says ralph bunche howard, is it supposed to be howard which is -- >> oh, it is supposed to be howard. he was, he was a graduate student at harvard, but he was also on the faculty at
harvard -- sorry, he was a graduate student at harvard, but he was on the faculty at howard. and i can't go on and on about that here. it is in the book, but howard university had this collection of very brilliant political scientists and historians, alan locke, ralph bunche in the '30s, and they were some of the first scholars of the mandate system. it's a very interesting batch of people. and so he was there, and it made sense that he would end up writing his dissertation on something that was seen as, you know, the question for him was is this a way to foresee independence? right. p.m. -- ..
the imperial order was on its way out, and so the trusteeship council choose to work is somewhat eberly from the mandate system. i think the of the lesson, the main lesson is that it has to be all in. what's interesting about this is states kind of kept picking up a box and go home. now if your estate bears hardly
any state that does want to be part of the united nations. because it began as an alliance as the wartime alliance and some of its main personnel were kind of borrowed from enter allied bodies, it started out as the and its relations to the latin american states, to the americans, you know, and then later to the revisionist powers were always very complex. a difference of what the united nations has done is said that we are going to allow a veto on the part of great powers and in certain things will be dealt with but that means everybody stays in. that's right to the way of approaching things. the lake had great trouble making decisions because it operated according to unanimity.
>> thank you for the presentation. i want to ask if you could talk a little bit about a difference of the aims of the british empire and the french, welcome you said it quite differently. >> i think, i mean, that's a huge question but i think for the british it's interesting. they thought of themselves as an am-pro but also thought of themselves as kind of the global police. and the british didn't have come they are also in an alliance, not just an empire but an alliance of independent states as well because at this point the british have six separate states essentially as members of the league.
south africa, australia and new zealand, canada and even india are independent members of the league even india didn't actually meet the requirements of self-government. a british captain is as members and so they operate as a block. so the french are in competition with that because o of the kindf powers of that. france and britain also different economic attitudes essentially. britain is tha everywhere. it's not a regional power. so what operates, it has tended to favor kind of more liberal trade policies because it was all over the globe. and that the time france wasn't quite like the. they get an invite in southeast asia and in north east africa and central africa, and that's the main chunk of territory. they just operate a little bit differently, and they can be as
well as collude. we tend to think of them as colluding come as empires collude in. but if you look at 1918-1921, anglo-french relations are terrible. >> should we stop? [inaudible] >> oh, yes. my book is a better. [applause] -- my book is better. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv is on twitter and