The author would like to thank Matthew Fitzpatrick, associate professor in international history, Flinders University, and Evan Smith, postdoctoral fellow, Flinders University, for commenting on earlier versions of this article. Thanks are also due to the audiences at the Flinders History Research Seminar Series (18 March 2011) and at the Australasian Association for European History, XXII biennial conference, ‘War and peace, civilisation and barbarism in modern Europe and its empires’, Perth (11–14 July 2011), where the author presented earlier versions of this article. Research for this article was conducted in 2010 in England when the author was granted funds under the Flinders Research Scheme, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, for which he is most grateful.
Imperialism first, the war second: the British, an Armenian legion, and deliberations on where to attack the Ottoman empire, November 1914–April 1915†
Article first published online: 12 MAR 2014
© 2014 Institute of Historical Research
Volume 87, Issue 237, pages 533–555, August 2014
How to Cite
Varnava, A. (2014), Imperialism first, the war second: the British, an Armenian legion, and deliberations on where to attack the Ottoman empire, November 1914–April 1915. Historical Research, 87: 533–555. doi: 10.1111/1468-2281.12054
- Issue published online: 15 JUL 2014
- Article first published online: 12 MAR 2014
- Flinders Research Scheme, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Scrutinizing and questioning contentious and failed policy decisions should result in discussing ‘ifs, buts, and maybes’, particularly when there are policy alternatives. This article scrutinizes and questions the British decision to reject Armenian proposals to form a legion of Armenian volunteers in 1914 and 1915, especially since in late 1916 the French, with British approval, established an Armenian legion (until 1919 called the Legion d'Orient); and because the first proposals for a legion were connected to British considerations, also overlooked, to land a force at Alexandretta. Nothing of substance has been published on the initial proposals to form an Armenian legion, and on its connection to the Armenian genocide and the proposed British landing at Alexandretta. By focusing on why the British rejected the proposal to form an Armenian legion and the implications, if any, for the Armenian genocide and the Allied discussions on where to attack the Ottoman empire during the first four months of 1915, this article offers important new insights into why the British and French failed to do anything to prevent the Armenian genocide, and got it wrong with their decision to land forces at Gallipoli in April 1915 instead of at Alexandretta. Imperialism lies at the heart of the explanation.