Finding Aid

The Rise of Modern Turkey, c. 1906-1939

Published by IDC Publishers, 2007

Descriptive Summary

Creator: India Office Library and Records.
Title: The Rise of Modern Turkey, c. 1906-1939
Dates (inclusive): c. 1906-1939
Abstract: The collection focuses on the last years of the Ottoman Empire, the First World War and the emergence of the modern Turkish Republic up to the death of Atatürk.
Language(s): Predominantly English, with a few items in other (also local) languages.
Extent: 318 microfiches/ 28 reels.
Ordernumber: BIT-1 - BIT-4

Location of Originals

Originals are held at the The British Library, Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections (APAC, formerly OIOC).

History Note

British relations with the Ottoman Empire in the late-nineteenth century were the responsibility of both the Foreign Office and the India Office. The East India Company had regularly appointed agents at Constantinople from the late-eighteenth century onwards and the Government of India subsequently maintained a continuous political interest, particularly after the Ottoman expansion into the Arabian Peninsula in the 1870s. International rivalry in the Gulf in the period immediately before World War I focused on oil concessions in Ottoman territories and on the construction of the Baghdad railway and the international implications of German involvement in the project. After the cessation of hostilities in 1918 the India Office was closely involved in the lengthy peace settlement negotiations, the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the official diplomatic recognition of the modern Turkish state by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

Scope and Content

The collection focuses on the last years of the Ottoman Empire, the First World War and the emergence of the modern Turkish Republic up to the death of Atatürk. It begins with the build up of international tension before the War, symbolised by the Baghdad railway project. At the same time the material also presents a picture of the internal political development of modern Turkey from the Young Turk revolution in 1908 and 1909. A series of printed confidential Foreign Office correspondence describes the political situation in Constantinople and events in other Ottoman territories in the 1900s. During the First World War there are secret and confidential intelligence reports and handbooks on all the Turkish provinces.

After the end of hostilities in 1918 the files detail the lengthy peace negotiations, the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the official diplomatic recognition of the new Turkish state by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. They contain reports on foreign relations, boundaries and territorial issues including the hostilities between Turkey and Greece in the early 1920s. In the domestic sphere, they also contain detailed information on the financial and economic situation, education, the distribution of population, military and naval affairs and aviation.

Organization and Arrangement

For the present publication, the material has been arranged in four groups, in a roughly chronological sequence. The first group (BIT-1) comprises printed handbooks and intelligence reports now preserved in the departmental library of the Political and Secret Department (L/P&S/20) together with a few relevant items from the library of the India Office Military Department (L/MIL/17). The second group (BIT-2) consists of Foreign Office printed confidential correspondence relating to "Asiatic Turkey" and also preserved in the Political and Secret Departmental library (L/P&S/20). The third and fourth groups comprise Political and Secret Department "Subject Files" and "Collections", for the period c. 1903-1939, broadly subdivided into material relating to the period of Ottoman decline and the First World War (BIT-3) and material relating to the post-war settlement and the creation of the Turkish Republic (BIT-4).

Selected Search Terms

Geographic Areas
Arabian Peninsula--History.
Great Britain--Colonies.
Middle East--History.
Intelligence service--Great Britain
World War, 1914-1918.

Related Material

Researchers should note that an integrated finding aid for the British Intelligence collections is also available:

Provenance and historical background

The India Office Political and Secret Department (and Military Department) archives form part of the Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC) now within the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections at the British Library. The Political and Secret Department papers and printed material have now been catalogued under the OIOC reference L/PS. Military Department papers are located under the reference L/MIL.

From 1902 the most important of the Political and Secret Department’s correspondence and papers accumulated in London were registered, indexed and arranged in files according to subject. From 1902 to 1930 the "Subject Files" are located under the reference L/P&S/10. Around 1930/1931 the department replaced its subject file system with a new series of "Collections", arranged according to geographical area. They are now to be found under the reference L/P&S/12. Material in this IDC Publishers' edition is drawn from Collection 39 ("Turkey").

During the same period, and earlier, the department also maintained its own reference library of confidential handbooks for the restricted use of its own officials, as did the Military and other India Office departments. The departmental reference libraries from which the printed items in the collection are drawn are now classified as L/P&S/20 and L/MIL/17. These archive groups also include the set of Foreign Office printed correspondence on Asiatic Turkey.