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ERC Securing Europe, Fighting its enemies, 1815-1914

Research

Dangerous Gifts: Imperialism, Security and Civil Wars in the Ottoman Middle East, 1798-1864

By dr. Ozan Ozavci –

From Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 to the interventions in the on-going civil war in Syria today, global empires, or the so-called Great Powers, have long assumed the responsibility to bring security in the Middle East. The past two centuries have witnessed their numerous military occupations to ‘liberate’, ‘secure’ and ‘educate’ local populations. They staged the first ‘humanitarian’ interventions in history. And they established hitherto unseen international and local institutions to obtain security. The proposed book revisits the long-nineteenth century examples and arguably origins of these imperial security practices, and asks why Great Power interventions in the Ottoman Middle East tended to result in a paradox, an ever-increasing demand despite an increasing supply of security.

Dangerous Gifts reconstructs the history of a cycle of civil wars as a prism to spell out how local violence in the Ottoman Middle East was fuelled by global exchanges, interactions and connections, and then how it was sustained and suppressed almost always through the filter of imperial interests. How was the fate of security in the region knotted to the reconciliation of global strategic calculations? And, whose security was it at the heart of the agenda of imperial actors during each intervention? Were these imperial practices truly considered a “foreigner’s gift” to Middle Eastern inhabitants, as often framed by their exponents? Or were they more of an unwelcome intrusion in local eyes?

 

French_expeditionary_corps_landing_in_Beyrouth_16_August_1860

The French expeditionary corps landing in Beyrouth on 16 August 1860