Between the Ottomans and the Entente: the First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora, 1908-1925

Oxford University Press | March 2019 cloth | February 2021 paper

Awarded the 2020 Evelyn Shakir Award by the Arab American National Museum, the 2019 Khayrallah Prize in Migration Studies, and the 2019 Syrian Studies Association Book Award.

This book examines the politics of Syrian and Lebanese migration during the First World War, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the rise of European Mandates in the Middle East. A half-million Arab migrants, nearly all still Ottoman subjects, lived in a diaspora concentrated in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States in 1914. This diaspora faced new demands for political loyalty from all sides. Istanbul commanded Arab migrants to resist European colonialism from abroad, and pro-Entente powers across the Americas marked Middle Eastern immigrants for political suspicion, travel restriction, simultaneously calling on them to support the war against the Ottomans. From their mahjar, Syrians abroad used their associations, commercial networks, and global Arabic press to oppose Ottoman rule, believing this war work would bolster the cause of Syria’s liberation. In doing so, they transformed this diaspora into an epicenter for Arab nationalist politics. Drawing on transnational sources from migrant activists, this wide-ranging work reveals the degree to which Ottoman migrants “became Syrians” while abroad and brought their politics home to the post-Ottoman Middle East.

Press Coverage

Al-Jazeera Culture interview with Othman Amghour (Mar 2021)

New Books Network interview with Joshua Donovan (June 2019)

Ottoman History Podcast interview with Chris Gratien (Mar 2019)

Reviews and Praise for Between the Ottomans and the Entente

It is Fahrenthold’s signal achievement to underscore the role migrants played in this story of political upheaval, global war, foreign occupation, and ideological change. Distance from the region, she demonstrates, did not make for detachment. On the contrary, migrants remained passionately committed to shaping their homelands’ political futures. —Andrew K. Arsan, American Historical Review

Fahrenthold’s book eloquently makes the case for ‘writing the mahjar back into Syrian history,’ effectively demonstrating how Syrian migrants were central to shaping the World War I-era politics that created the modern Middle East. By breaking out of the confines of state borders, [the book] offers students of Middle East history a fresh, methodologically rigorous history of the mahjar at the crossroads of empire and the emergent nation-state system. —Reem Bailony, Contemporary Levant

The archival researcher is rich and varied, offering accounts as to how the diaspora sat between oppositional forces that tried to pull its members in several directions. —Lauren Banko, Mashriq & Mahjar

This extensively documented examination of an ethnic population during a critical time in world history should be of interest to historians. Unlike other historical analyses that restrict the examination of the early Arab diaspora to the United States, this text attempts to link movements and events in the early 1900s by civilians in the Arab American diaspora in South America and the United States through their connections to the Ottoman Empire and the Entente (the Allied powers in World War I). —Rosina Hassoun, Journal of American History

Rather than presuming their marginality, Fahrenthold invests migrants with historical agency and centers them in their national histories. —James Casey, Global Change, Peace & Security

A groundbreaking book that contributes to the historiography of the modern Levant, imperial and international relations, histories of war and migration, and Syrian diasporic politics. This is a crisp and engaging read and a necessary one for anyone interested in why and how the mahjar matters. —Sarah M. A. Gualtieri, author of Arab Routes and Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora

With eloquent prose, expansive research, and probing analysis Stacy Fahrenthold forces us to rethink the rise of nationalism in the Middle East beyond parochial boundaries and to understand the central role the diaspora played in shaping its institutions. —Akram Khater, author of Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon

Fahrenthold overturns what we thought we knew about the bid for Syrian independence after World War I.  In rich detail based on documents from four continents, she recounts how emigres who still enjoyed Ottoman citizenship clamored for Syrian independence under an American mandate. —Elizabeth F. Thompson, author of Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

Between the Ottomans and the Entente sits creatively at the juncture of international and migration histories of Lebanese and Syrian mobility. Threaded throughout is an exquisite and concrete historian’s tale of how migrants become invisible in resolutely state-centered archives and systems of governance. —Donna R. Gabaccia, author of Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

This book is worthy of scholarly attention because it connects an island of authentic “movable texts” with domestic archival sources. It is striking for its global strokes in a sea of documents across archival regimes, whether painting an image of women up on a Brooklyn factory’s second floor, the mysteriously disappearing witnesses on sight, or a French consulate spy shadowing an anti-German diplomat-turned traitor. —Emrah Sahin, Tropics of Meta


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