Strickland Visiting Scholar presents lecture on World War I, formation of modern Middle East

Photo and story by Brandon  Donoho / Contributing Writer

Eugene Rogan, a professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Oxford and director of the Middle East Center at St. Antony’s College at Oxford, gave this semester’s Strickland Visiting Scholar Lecture Thursday night. The Strickland Visiting Scholar Program is an opportunity for scholars with diverse historical backgrounds to present their research and areas of expertise at MTSU. Rogan spoke to a packed crowd of roughly four hundred at the James Union Building.

The main topic of the night was the formation of the modern Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. This is a favorite topic for Rogan, who has published five books on the subject.

The majority of the speech covered the Treaty of Sevres, which split the Ottoman Empire into seven sections and gave autonomous land to the Armenian people as reparations for the Armenian genocide.

Rogan also spoke extensively about the widespread denial of the Armenian Genocide, particularly in Turkey, where he has many colleagues.

“One of the hardest parts of writing for me was writing on the Armenian genocide,” he said, adding that, as a child in Lebanon, he saw the taboo nature of the subject first hand. “It’s become such a charged political field … but if you’re going to write a history of the Ottomans and the first World War, this was the single biggest instance of civilian suffering.”

A short question and answer portion after the speech allowed the professor an opportunity to comment on the current struggles in the Middle East.

“I’m really skeptical about Westerners putting their cartographic skills to work in the Middle East,” Rogan said. “We just don’t have a good track record … Go to the field, talk to the people getting ready to live the solution. You’re posing and make sure that they are consulted.”

He went on to call the current layout a “bastard map.”

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