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HST 504 - Week 7.docx

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Ryerson University
HST 504
Mike Kasprzak

HST 504 – Week 7 Keywords Hussein-McMahon Agreement Balfour Declaration Sykes-Picot Agreement oil “indirect rule” “direct and assimilation rule” Mohandas Gandhi Twenty-one Demands A Web of Unseemly Promises: The Hussein-McMahon letters, the Balfour Declaration, and the Sykes- Picot Agreement  The Great War had profound impact on international relations not only in Europe but also around the world. The war created a paradoxical situation.  On the one hand, all the Great Powers had no choice but to draw significantly on their colonial resources for the war effort.  Millions of non-Europeans fought on the battlefields in Europe, while colonies mobilized for war production.  The Europeans relentlessly exploited their colonies as the war of attrition drained their own capacity to manufacture goods and munitions.  On the other hand, by drawing them into the conflict, the war significantly transformed the colonies.  The growth of industrial production outside of Europe changed the socio-economic fabric of the colonized societies.  Many regions experienced tremendous industrialization and modernization, which fuelled resentment towards the colonial overseers.  Amidst all the fighting, many (including Wilson and Lenin) concluded that imperialism was one of the key causes of the Great War.  Yet, at the war’s end, the Great Powers did not believe that the right to self-determination should apply to the colonized territories.  They all saw the war as an opportunity to expand at the expense of the war’s losers.  In the postwar years, they legitimized their colonial aggrandizements through a system of territorial mandates under the League of Nations.  Almost from the very beginning of the war, it was clear that one of the key objectives of all the belligerents was colonial expansion.  The Great War pushed the Great Powers to take a somewhat contradictory approach to imperialism.  On the one hand, they needed allies and resources.  They provided incentives to their own colonies and those of their enemies (with promises of self- rule or independence) and to other Great Powers (with promises of territory or influence).  On the other hand, the war’s enormous costs pressured them to obtain greater gains, especially those of the imperial kind.  Hence, throughout the war, all the Great Powers (especially Britain and France) made conflicting promises and commitments to each other and to their colonies.  Firstly, in 1915 and 1916, the British high commissioner to Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, and the Arab Sharif Hussein of Mecca exchanged letters.  The British were hoping to convince the Arabs to revolt against the Ottomans (who had aligned with Germany).  In return, the British made a promise to support Arab independence across the Middle East.  By the summer of 1916, the Arabs revolted (and thwarted the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to declare a Holy War against the Allies), believing that their contribution to the war effort would be rewarded.  Secondly, Britain and France bought Italian allegiance by promising Rome control over the Adriatic coastline.  Soon after, the British and the French began to negotiate over postwar settlements.  Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the two were carving out colonial possessions in the Middle East.  This went in direct contradiction to the promises made to the Arabs.  As if the situation was not complicated enough, the British searched for more allies with even more flagrant promises.  London wanted to gain the loyalty of the Jewish lobby in Britain and the United States, taking a pro-Zionist stance on Palestine.  The ensuing Balfour Declaration made a commitment to create a homeland for the Jews in Palestinian territories.  France and
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