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Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P 
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Post Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
In chapter 3, IV Fromkin mentions two Brits stationed in Constantinople who reported to the Empire and helped shape British perceptions of the Middle Eastern situation -- Sir Gerard Lowther and Gerald FitzMaurice. He means to contrast them to more level heads like that of Wyndham Deedes, I think, but not much contrast is needed. Lowther and FitzMaurice are, in Fromkin's account, obviously poor choices for informants. They're anti-semetic and given to conspiracy theory explanations of events. It's even suggested that British support of Zionism was founded on their reports that a powerful cabal of Jews practically ruled the world, and that building a strong relationship with those Jews would ensure their support of England. Crazy stuff.




Sat Jul 08, 2006 1:29 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Imagine what the situation would have been like had Britain had accurate, relatively unbiased information coming from its ambassador...

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:30 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
When reading the section about the Lowther and FitzMaurice report, I had some questions about it. One of these questions was how important were the misconceptions generated by the report. Another question was about the extent to which British misconceptions were the product of this report.

On page 42 Fromkin says that the FitzMaurice and Lowther report "won wide acceptance among British officials and led the British government into at least three profound misconceptions that had important consequences." The first of these was that the report "misled their government into believing that the Young Turks were controlled by two men." The second misconception was "that a group of Jews wielded political power in the Ottoman Empire..." And the third profound misconception was that the "...Young Turk leaders were foreigners, not Turks, and that they served foreign interests."

The first misconception doesn't seem to be much off the mark to me, and to the extent that it was off the mark it is understandable because it was and still is a confusing situation. On page 44 Fromkin claims that this misconception led to the British cabinet thinking that the C.U.P. was a "monolithic body" though he doesn't explain how Lowther and FitzMaurice's "controlled by two men" morphed into this "monolithic body" on the way to the British cabinet. Furthermore, Fromkin states on page 44 that "according to later reports--followed by most historians--[the C.U.P.] was ruled by a dictatorial triumvirate", but that in fact "power was wielded by the C.U.P.'s Central Committee of about forty members, and especially by its general directorate of about twelve members..." 1? 2? 3? 12? 40? Take your pick. Wouldn't surprise me if all those numbers were correct depending on the timeframe and the various issues on the table. That being the case I'm not sure that the Lowther/FitzMaurice estimate of two was wrong to any great extent. By the way, I don't recall Fromkin saying much else in this book about the Central Committe and the general directorate and all those factions ripe for British exploitation.

The second misconception has to do with the supposed control of the Ottoman Empire by a group of Jews. My impression of this period of European history was that such speculation was rampant. First of all, conspiracy theories were everywhere in part because conspiracies existed in many places. Fromkin mentions on p.39-40 that in Turkey starting around 1876 open political opposition was dangerous and "political life was driven underground where secret societies proliferated." This did not take place just in Turkey but was a response in many places to the reactionary forces in Europe that increasingly held power in the second half of the 19th and early years of the 20th century. And in an era where nationalism was an especially potent force, the influence of the international, cosmopolitan Jew was an obvious and easy default explanation for the unexplainable. All this was layered upon centuries of anti-Semitism within Christendom. I suspect that this portion of the Lowther/FitzMaurice report was more symptom than cause, and I don't believe Fromkin makes a convincing case to the contrary.

The third misconception dealt with the belief that the leaders of the C.U.P. were foreigners and served foreign interests. What underlies this argument, I believe, was the widespread, ingrained belief in the inferiority of non-Europeans--since Turks were not capable of sophisticated European political activity then if they engaged in sophisticated European political activity it is because they were actually Europeans or being directed by Europeans. Lowther and FitzMaurice were repackaging a prejudice of the day. Many readers of this report were predisposed toward this argument, and Lowther and FitzMaurice provided a few facts that reinforced that predisposition. In this case Lowther and FitzMaurice may have significantly strengthened this misconception, and the misconception may have had profound effects as Britain and others consistently misread the intentions of the Young Turks and, later, the intentions and abilities of Mustapha Kemal.




Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:32 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Very briefly...

Fromkin's assertions in regards to these two men and their report may not deserve defense -- it's impossible to tell without some secondary source of information -- but I do think some context is necessary.

J Seabolt: The first misconception doesn't seem to be much off the mark to me, and to the extent that it was off the mark it is understandable because it was and still is a confusing situation.

It's possible that Fromkin's implication is that the Lowther report disposed the British government to treat the Porte Sublime as a monolithic body ruled over by two men, and that this treatment essentially made it true, in terms of foreign policy, at least. It's difficult to say how broadly conceived their domestic policy may or may not have been simply because that's not the topic of the book. At any rate, if that's Fromkin's point -- that the Lowther report made it a self-fulfulling prophecy of sorts -- he could have made that clearer.

The second misconception has to do with the supposed control of the Ottoman Empire by a group of Jews. My impression of this period of European history was that such speculation was rampant.

The Jews have been the brunt of conspiracy theories more of less since the fall of the Roman Empire -- maybe before. That said, I'd have to see some outside references before I concluded that it was typical of European governments to build policy around the idea of a shadowy conspiracy of Jews who all but rule the world.

And in an era where nationalism was an especially potent force, the influence of the international, cosmopolitan Jew was an obvious and easy default explanation for the unexplainable.

It was only obvious and easy when nationalism was your primary consideration. The Lowther report may have been merely voicing a fear that was common in the upper echelons of British government; it just as easily may not have been. What makes it more damaging than the vague suspicions of domestic policy makers is Lowther and FitzMaurice's status as insiders in the Turkish political arena. If they claimed that the Young Turk party was ruled by Jews, that claim was probably accorded a great deal more consideration at home than would be the mutterings of your average homebody anti-semite. But where was there evidence on the matter?

What underlies this argument, I believe, was the widespread, ingrained belief in the inferiority of non-Europeans--since Turks were not capable of sophisticated European political activity then if they engaged in sophisticated European political activity it is because they were actually Europeans or being directed by Europeans.

Probably so, but Lowther and FitzMaurice should have known better. Again, the contrast to Wyndham Deedes is operative here. It apparantly was possible to get a good lead on what Turkish politics really were, but the two men responsible (as Fromkin would have it) for determining British policy weren't terribly interested in doing so.




Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:15 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Let me start with a quick chronology. In 1908 unrest triggered by the Young Turks caused a reorganization of the government, but the Young Turks did not participate directly in this government. In 1910 Lowther and FitzMaurice issued their report about the Young Turks and their C.U.P. Also in 1910 Wyndham Deedes joined the Gendarmie and came to Turkey. In 1913 the Young Turks seized power. In 1914 Wyndham Deedes went to work for Mehmed Talaat in the Interior Ministry.

MadArchitect: ...if that's Fromkin's point -- that the Lowther report made it a self-fulfulling prophecy of sorts...

No. I don't think that is Fromkin's point. In the case of this misconception I think he is making the point that the L and F report was incorrect in 1910 and even more incorrect in 1914 yet was still misleading the government. I'm not convinced by his argument because I don't believe, given the uncertainty, he makes the case that this was a "profound" misconception.

MA: I'd have to see some outside references before I concluded that it was typical of European governments to build policy around the idea of a shadowy conspiracy of Jews who all but rule the world.

Me too. Not sure if you're referring to me or to Fromkin here, but I'm not making that point. If anything, I'm trying to make the opposite point. I see these speculations as a kind of background noise that people of the era got used to hearing, and Fromkin doesn't make the case that L and F's version rose above the background noise and had a broad impact.

MA: If they claimed that the Young Turk party was ruled by Jews, that claim was probably accorded a great deal more consideration at home than would be the mutterings of your average homebody anti-semite. But where was there evidence on the matter?

Are you looking for evidence from Lowther and FitzMaurice or from Fromkin or from me? As I said, my point is that Fromkin doesn't offer convincing evidence that these speculations had much of an impact. In Chapter 3 (p.43) he provides quotes from a work of fiction to help bolster his contention that the "British government never learned that Lowther and FitzMaurice had supplied it with a warped view of Ottoman politics." On page 92 he quotes Wingate at the end of 1914 mumbling something about "Jews, financiers, and low-born intriguers." Background noise.

MA: Again, the contrast to Wyndham Deedes is operative here. It apparantly was possible to get a good lead on what Turkish politics really were, but the two men responsible (as Fromkin would have it) for determining British policy weren't terribly interested in doing so.

As for Deedes, Fromkin is thrifty with details about exactly what intelligence he was reporting and when he was reporting it. Deedes didn't make it to Turkey until 1910. By 1914, when he worked for Talaat, he indoubtably was valuable. But when between 1910 and 1914 did he become valuable? We aren't told. We are told in Chapter 3 that he was virtually ignored. But on page 171 we are told that in December 1915 he was brought in by Clayton to became one of the early members of the Arab Bureau (Mr. Deedes goes to Cairo) where "his knowledge of Turkish affairs proved an invaluable asset", so somewhere along the way people started to listen to him. Fromkin holds Deedes up as the guy everyone ignored in favor of the Lowther and FitzMaurice report. But Fromkin never gives us enough information to rule out the possibility that Deedes, as just another member of the Gendarmie, was of limited value, but became valuable in 1914. This makes it plausible that there was then a time lag between his becoming valuable and being recognized as valuable that Fromkin exploits to make his argument in comparing him to L and F. This is pure speculation on my part, but it bugs me. Is Fromkin stacking the deck?




Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:59 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Devil's advocate aside, it bugs me a little, too, but I can see why Fromkin was light on the details. More expansive evidence is a matter for a more minute account of that particular episode -- the framework of the book doesn't leave all that much space for it.

So for the time being, I suppose I have to suspend judgement. If you're interested, I can make a note of it, and try to find some more in depth information of the Lowther report and the two figures behind it.




Tue Jul 11, 2006 7:40 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Good point, MA, that this is just six pages out of six hundred. It remains to be seen how important those pages are to the book as a whole. As for doing more research on the topic, I'm always in favor of other people doing extra work.




Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:09 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
I'll make a brief scan of the catalog system next time I'm at the university library. At the very least, maybe I can find a copy of the report.




Wed Jul 12, 2006 1:19 pm
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Post Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
Can't say that I'm much of a researcher, but I have a hunch you'll have a tough time finding the original report. In fact, I wonder if Fromkin had access to the report. The page 41-2 material is footnoted as coming from a book by Elie Kedourie, which looks like it might be a collection of papers. After Googling and Asking around I found a mention of a Kedourie paper titled 'Young Turks, Freemasons and Jews' from the January 1971 issue of Middle Eastern Studies. Here's a link to the online source that mentions the paper: www.grberridge.co.uk/currsrch.html.




Wed Jul 12, 2006 7:17 pm
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