WWI in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora

Episode 404

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By the time of the First World War, there were roughly 500,000 Lebanese and Syrians in the Americas. And as Stacy Fahrenthold argues in a new book entitled Between the Ottomans and the Entente, this diaspora played a critical role in the transformation of politics in Greater Syria over a period of incredible flux. In our conversation, we discuss how the diaspora embraced and sustained the revolutionary fervor of the post-1908 Ottoman Empire into the First World War, when loyalties to the Ottomans and their Entente adversaries were divided. After the war, this diaspora likewise sought to influence the outcome of the postwar map after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. But what would be the fate of the Greater Syrian diaspora with the establishment of the French Mandates?

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Contributor Bios

Stacy Fahrenthold is an assistant professor of history at University of California, Davis, currently focusing on labor migration and mass politics in Middle Eastern diasporas. She is the author of Between the Ottomans and the Entente: the First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora (Oxford, 2019).
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.


Episode No. 404
Release Date: 1 March 2019
Recording Location: Washington, DC
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Zé Trigueiros; Muhyiddin Bayun - Taxim Alal Wahidat
Bibliography and images courtesy of Stacy Fahrenthold


Syrian and Lebanese returnees await departure via A.K. Hitti Shipping Company in New York City, 1920. Source: Sallum Mukarzil, Tarikh al-Tijara al-Suriyya fi-l-Muhajara al-Amrikiyya (New York: al-Matbaʿa al-Suriyya al-Amrikiyya, 1921), 140. James Ansara Papers, IHRC208, Immigration History Research Center Archives, University of Minnesota.

1921 map of peddling routes from New York City. Mukarzil, Tarikh al-Tijara al-Suriyya, 144. James Ansara Papers, IHRC208, Immigration History Research Center Archives, University of Minnesota.

Syrian and Lebanese settlement patterns in the Americas and Egypt, according to 1926 French Mandate estimates. Kohei Hashimoto, “Lebanese Population Movement 1920–1939, Towards a Study,” in Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration, eds. Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi (London: I.B. Tauris, 1992), 105.

Lebanese Census of 1921. The inclusion of 130,000 Lebanese emigrants in this census bolstered a Christian electoral majority for French Lebanon at a ratio of 6:5 (Christians to Muslims). The census piqued emigrant expectations that they would subsequently be granted rights of nationality, repatriation, or suffrage in Lebanese elections, rights that the Mandate was not prepared to grant to the diaspora. The 6:5 electoral ratio derived by this census was replicated in Lebanon's second census of 1932, and it underpinned the confessional demography of Lebanon's republican structures through independence.

Select Bibliography

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Bailony, Reem. “From Mandate Borders to the Diaspora: Rashaya’s Transnational Suffering and the Making of Lebanon in 1925.” Arab Studies Journal 26, no. 2 (2018): 34-57.

Balloffet, Lily Pearl. “Argentine and Egyptian History Entangled: from Peron to Nasser.” Journal of Latin American Studies 50, no. 3 (2018): 549-57.

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Gratien, Chris and Pope-Obeda, Emily K. “Ottoman Migrants, U.S. Deportation Law, and Statelessness during the Interwar Era.” Mashriq & Mahjar 5, no. 2 (2018): 125-158.

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