• 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.

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