College Relations Press Release Letterhead

October 13, 1998




OBERLIN, OHIO--How Oberlin College, in 1919, took part in the first steps toward peace in the Middle East will be outlined Oct. 26, when an exhibition presented by the College Archives opens on the main floor of Mudd Center. The exhibition will continue through Nov. 15.

Titled "Controversial Diplomacy: The 1919 King-Crane Commission," the exhibition--and a talk on Nov. 9--will focus on the involvement of Henry Churchill King (1858-1934) "in an idealistic though unsuccessful effort to construct an American peace policy for the Middle East," says Archivist Roland Baumann. King served as Oberlin's president from 1902 to 1927.

The Nov. 9 program will include a talk by Tahseen Basheer, former Egyptian ambassador to Canada, who will discuss "The King-Crane Commission and the Challenge of Molding Modern Arab States." He will be introduced by U.S. career diplomat Richard B. Parker, scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute. Also speaking will be Middle East expert Janice J. Terry of Eastern Michigan University, who will give an overview of the King-Crane Commission. The program will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Room 106 of Oberlin's King Building, 10 North Professor Street.

"Not only will the program offer a scholarly assessment of the work of the King-Crane Commission," Baumann points out, "but it also will examine the different perceptions of the commission held by residents of the Middle East and how these views may have affected the peace process over the last half century."

Among the items on view will be the letter from President Woodrow Wilson summoning King to serve on the Commission, a copy of the King-Crane report; photographs of their 1919 journey and leaders of the Great Powers; and Turkish artifacts (1908-1918) on loan from author Guneli Gun, whose father served in the Ottoman Army.

The historical materials and reproductions are drawn from the archives/special collections units of Princeton University and the University of Illinois at Urbana as well as from Oberlin's archival holdings.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson summoned King to serve on an Inter-Allied Commission in the Middle East with Chicago businessman Charles R. Crane, a trustee of Robert College in Istanbul. Their mission was to investigate and report on the conditions and wishes of the people in Anatolian Turkey and the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in regard to self-government, after their defeat by the Great Powers.

For 42 days during the summer of 1919, King and Crane undertook a strenuous schedule that combined hospitality and official business, touring the region by automobile, horse and railway. The Commission, which included former Oberlin history faculty member Albert H. Lybyer and Donald M. Brodie, a member of the Class of 1911, received 1,863 petitions with approximately 19,000 signatures, and heard presentations by representatives from about 1,500 villages, including numerous oral statements recorded by interpreters.

The Commission's final report to President Wilson and the Peace Conference was drafted in Constantinople during the last days of August 1919. Presented late that summer, the King-Crane report "was filled with Wilsonian idealism," says Baumann, "but it was suppressed or ignored at the peace conference, which was dominated by the imperial ambitions of the French and British."

The King-Crane report was not published officially until 1947.


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