Near East Relief operations, 1921, Source: Near East Foundation Archives

The following blog post was published on Refugee History in september 2021. See attached PDF Research guide.

We’ve just added a research guide to refugee settlement and encampment in the Middle East and North Africa from the 1860s to the 1940s to our Resources page. Produced by our contributor Baher Ibrahim, it’s a four-page PDF that gives an overview of archives and resources for researchers interested in this subject, especially those available online (it contains many links and pointers).

The guide starts with the period of late Ottoman population displacements, for which digitized archival material is rare (especially that’s accessible to English-readers), though some good recent doctoral dissertations provide a starting point. For the history of refugee movements caused by the first world war and the Armenian genocide, more material is available. Sources range from humanitarian fundraising materials to memoirs by military officers: this was a formative period in the development of modern (Western) humanitarianism as well as a time of military occupation in the region. Between the wars, the new international agencies of the League of Nations worked with refugees in the region. And during the second world war, many European refugees fled south across the Mediterranean to North Africa and the Middle East, where an Allied military agency ran a far-flung network of camps to accommodate them. The Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration (MERRA) was later absorbed into the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA), and lots of documentation about the camps it ran—some of which started out as other facilities, like army camps, and/or later hosted other refugees—has been digitized by the UN archives.

We hope that the guide [PDF] will be useful to anyone interested in researching this subject, for example for a dissertation project. Please let us know what you find!

The guide was produced as an output of the research project SuperCamp: Genealogies of Humanitarian Containment in the Middle East, hosted at the Chr. Michelsen Institute Bergen and funded by the Research Council of Norway (FRIHUMSAM 288398). We would like to thank project PI Are John Knudsen and researcher Kjersti G. Berg for suggesting this guide and helping to produce it.

Recent CMI publications: