How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: A Reassessment of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference

Professor Elizabeth Thompson
Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Elizabeth F. Thompson will present her newest book, How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020), and its argument that the Syrian Congress of 1920 established the most democratic regime ever in the Arab world.  Her research further suggests that the British and French colluded to destroy the nascent Syrian state not just out of their well-known imperial rivalry, but also because they feared the demonstration effect of the Damascus regime upon Muslim and Arab populations they already ruled.   Thompson concludes that destruction of the Syrian Arab Kingdom profoundly compromised the future of democratic politics throughout the eastern Arab world.

Elizabeth F. Thompson is Professor of History and Mohamed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace at the American University in Washington, DC.  She researches the history of democratic struggles in the Middle East since the early 20th century, with a special interest in how gender, race, and foreign intervention have shaped popular movements.  Research for her recent book was supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Thompson is also author of Justice Interrupted:  Struggles for Constitutional Government in the Middle East (Harvard 2013) and Colonial Citizens:  Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (Columbia, 2000), which won two national book awards.

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