James Bryce and the Origins of the Armenian Question
James Bryce's association with Armenia became well known from his, and Arnold Toynbee's, famous Blue Book on the Armenian Genocide (1916). However, only a handful of studies have been published about Bryce's life-long, and especially about his “early,” Armenian engagements. As this article aims to show, his Armenian mission from the 1870s until the massacres of 1894–1896 deserves greater attention. In these years Bryce attempted to stir up awareness of the suffering of the Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire. These efforts were mainly aimed toward the internal British scene. Some followed Bryce's lead and supported his Armenian cause, while others doubted his reports and regarded them as “exaggerations.” Bryce's comprehension of the Armenian Question resulted from his general assessment of the power struggle between the major European powers. This struggle has in recent years become, as seen for instance in Donald Bloxham's book The Great Game of Genocide (2005), a central theme in the study of the Armenian Question. In the context of this power struggle, especially between Britain and Russia, Bryce had, quite uniquely, grasped the ominous potential of the Armenian Question by the end of the 1870s. As elaborated in the article, despite Bryce's firm position about the urgent need to intervene in Armenia, there was an almost unbridgeable gap during these years between his moral or ideological stance and the actual abilities of the British government. In short, a breach existed between Bryce's compulsion and Britain's realpolitik constraints.
James Bryce’s Blue Book as Evidence
Investigations of the Armenian Genocide began as soon as news of the mass killings reached Great Britain in May 1915. The 1916 publication in Britain of The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a Parliamentary Blue Book by Viscount James Bryce provided compelling and verifiable evidence of the systematic elimination of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. Today the Blue Book is largely forgotten as a documentary and historical source on the massacres. This article situates the Blue Book in its historical context, arguing that its publication provided the foundation for the evidentiary standard by which the act of genocide is corroborated and judged by the international community. The uses and abuses of the Blue Book at the time by the British government and the humanitarian movement in making the case for genocide reveal the problematic legacy of the first efforts to catalog and document what the Allies labeled during World War I as “crimes against humanity.”
Lord Bryce and the Armenians in German Propaganda during World War I
It is often assumed that the Armenian Genocide was not debated in wartime Germany and in the newspapers because of censorship. While the full extent of what was happening was indeed not discussed, the violence against the Armenians was debated. One of the focal points in 1915 was an intervention by Lord Bryce and others in the British House of Lords. The debate in the German newspapers around Bryce illustrates the breadth of anti-Armenian sentiment, the scope of discourses justifying the alleged violence, and Germany’s overall entanglement with the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian Genocide in Interwar Hungarian Political Discourse
This article demonstrates how the Armenian Question and the interpretations of the Armenian Genocide—both justifying and opposing it—shaped political discourse during and after the First World War in Hungary, particularly with regard to the years preceding the Holocaust. The first part briefly presents the evolution of the Armenian Question in the Hungarian public and political discourse from the late nineteenth century up to the First World War. Next the article outlines the diverse nature of Hungarian sources on the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath, corroborating that interwar Hungarian governments had detailed knowledge of the past plight and current situation of Armenians in Turkey. The third part depicts the different manifestations of the discourse on the Armenian Genocide between the two world wars in connection with refugees, anti-Semitism, and Turkish-Hungarian economic and political relations. Finally, some preliminary conclusions are drawn and some possible consequences are examined.
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