Today the West tends to understand the Middle East primarily in terms of geopolitics: Islam, oil, and nuclear weapons. But in the nineteenth century it was imagined differently. The interplay of geography and politics found definition in a broader set of concerns that understood the region in terms of the moral, humanitarian, and religious commitments of the British empire. Smyrna’s Ashes reevaluates how this story of the “Eastern Question” shaped the cultural politics of geography, war, and genocide in the mapping of a larger Middle East after World War I.
Quoted from the book, and relevant to the fate of the Ottoman Greeks are:
Writing in 1907 the traveler and journalist William LeQueux argued that “t[he] countries denominated by the general name of the Near East are, by their geographical position and fertility, of immense importance. They have been the cradle of the ancient civilization and of rich and powerful empires. The reason of their gloomy present does not lie either in the exhaustion of the soil or in the loss of their geographical importance, but in the administration which the Turk has established for centuries over them. A change in administration will bring resurrection. - p74.
(Sir Andrew) Ryan was assigned to a special section of the High Commission designed to “deal with the affairs of Armenian and Greek victims of persecution.” As Ryan understood his role, “The Greeks had suffered greatly before the war and probably during it, although anything they suffered from 1915 to 1918 was overshadowed by the persecution of the Armenians, most of whom had been deported or massacred. We had in the British High Commission an Armenian and Greek section for the purpose of redressing their wrongs. - pp 160-61.