The Lausanne Project was conceived in 2017, partly in reaction to the raft of scholarly projects then in preparation for the centenary of the Paris peace conference of 1919. The convenors were struck by the contrast between these initiatives and the dearth of scholarly attention paid to Lausanne outside Turkey. Although diplomatic historians had long recognized Lausanne as exceptional, as “the longest-lasting of the post-war settlements” (Alan Sharp), it continued to figure as an outlier or semi-detached epilogue in accounts focused on the 1919-20 treaties.
Research into the journalist and ideologue Ahmet Ağaoğlu and the diplomat and oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian (both born in 1869) introduced them to networks of intellectual, social and economic exchange that refused to fit neatly into established metanarratives surrounding the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and emergence of a new Middle East.
Study of bank and oil company archives demonstrated how multinational enterprises like Gulbenkian’s Royal Dutch-Shell manipulated “host” states who claimed them as “national champions”, making a mockery of any notion of “energy security”. (Post-)Ottoman actors embraced strands of nationalist and liberal ideas partially as a response to these perceived encroachments and aggression.
Encouraged to find other scholars exploring the role of NGOs, the press, diaspora groups and other non-state actors in reshaping the relationship between “East” and “West” in the interwar period, Ozavci and Conlin organized a workshop on Lausanne, to prepare a co-edited book of centenary essays that will be published by the Gingko Library in 2023. This group of scholars has since been joined by others – all of whom are introduced on the members page of this site.
Other elements of the project include a travelling exhibition built around Guignol à Lausanne (1923), a collection of caricatures by Hungarian Jewish artists Alois Derso and Emery Kelèn, as well as a collaboration with the Musée Historique Lausanne, on a series of exhibitions and outreach events in Lausanne itself.