This article shows how emergency humanitarian food relief efforts fitted into the gradual establishment of French imperial occupation in Syria-Lebanon between 1915 and 1925. It argues that we should grasp the years from 1915–1925 as a unit – a distinctively transformative “occupation decade” in the Middle East, as the Ottoman Empire was replaced by the League of Nations Mandate system. It contributes thereby to current debates on the scope and chronology of the First World War. It also engages with a central question in the historiography of modern humanitarianism – the idea of emergency relief and socio-economic development as “dual modes” of humanitarianism, and concludes that state and non-state humanitarian relief are not easily separated.
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This post appears in conjunction with a dossier on transformative occupations in Humanity issue 8.2 There are two schools of thought on transformative occupations. Adam Scheffer narrowly contrasts it with the international humanitarian law (IHL) concept of belligerent occupation, whose main hallmark is its temporary character. Nehal Bhuta offers a broad historical version, running the gamut from the occupatio bellica of the post-Napoleonic settlement to transformative humanitarian interventions both in the post-WWII and the post-Cold War era, and more recently in Iraq. The 20th century Continue reading →