The First World War and the making of the Modern Middle East

Topic summary:

The period just before, during and following the First World War witnessed momentous events that gave rise to the Middle East as we know it today. This lecture will review military and diplomatic maneuverings surrounding the Great War, and will follow developments that resulted in the collapse of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire, the dashing of hopes and the enflaming of passions of millions in the region, and the drawing of borders, both literally and figuratively, that continue to shape politics in the region till the present day.


28 July 1914 Outbreak of WWI in Europe
02 November 1914 Ottoman Empire declares war
06 November 1914 British and Indian troops lands in Fao, Mesopotamia
17 December 1914 Egypt is placed under the protection of Britain
22 Dec 1914 -17 Jan 15 Ottoman defeat to Russians in the Caucasus
Jan 1915- Feb 1915 Cemal Pasha is repulsed in his attack on the Suez Canal
Feb 1915-Jan 1916 Gallipoli Campaign
29 April 1916 Capitulation of British Army in Kut, Mesopotamia
16 December 1915 Mark Sykes meets the War Cabinet in London and suggests drawing a line “from the e in Acre to the second k in Kirkuk”
Aug 1915-March 1916 Husayn-McMahon correspondence
08 May 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement signed
10 June 1916 Launch of the Great Arab Revolt
06 July 1917 T.E. Lawrence and Prince Faysal capture Aqaba
02 November 1917 Balfour Declaration
11 December 1917 British troops enter Jerusalem
11 November 1918 Armistice
01 December 1918 British troops enter Damascus
03 December 1918 Faysal enters Damascus
18 January 1919 Paris Peace Conference officially starts (it lasted till 21 Jan 1920)
March-July 1919 1919 Revolution in Egypt
28 June 1919 Treaty of Versailles incorporating the Covenant of the League of Nations
08 March 1920 Syrian National Congress declares an independent Syrian Kingdom with Faysal as King
20 April 1920 San Remo Conference
April 1920 Jerusalem riots against the British Mandate over Palestine
10 June-20 July 1920 King-Crane Commission
June 1920 Great Iraqi Revolt against British occupation of Iraq
10 August 1920 Treaty of Sèvres
24 July 1920 French troops enter Damascus; Faysal goes into exile
12-30 March 1921 Cairo Conference
01 April 1921 Abdullah declared Emir of Transjordan
August 1921 Faysal declared King of Iraq
22 February 1922 Britain grants Egypt independence
22 September 1922 Turkish troops under Mustafa Kemal enter Izmir
I Nov 1922 Turkish Grand National Assembly abolishes Ottoman sultanate
29 October 1923 Declaration of the new Turkish republic
24 July 1923 Treaty of Lausanne
03 March 1924 Turkish Grand National Assembly abolishes the caliphate


Recommended readings:

James Barr,A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East

David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920



What the Middle East looked like in 1914

Ottoman Turks commit genocide against the Armenians 1915

Sykes-Picot and the breakup of the Ottoman empire 1916

Britain conquers Palestine 1917

Lawrence of Arabia and Britain’s betrayal of Arab allies 1918

The map of the Middle East: 1914 compared to 1922

Videos / Films / Radio:

BBC Radio program on World War One and Redrawing the Middle East (50 mins.)

Gallipoli (Paramount, 1981, Peter Weir, 110 mins.)

Lawrence of Arabia (Columbia Pictures, 1962, David Lean, 222 mins.)

The full talk can be seen here: