Drawing a Line in the Sand? Another (Hi)Story of Borders

  • Matthieu Rey
Part of the Mobility & Politics book series (MPP)


Scholars have published widely on the geostrategic aspect of the First World War, how the French and the British divided the Arab lands after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. In this context, such studies have identified a process of colonial appropriation, in which borders became the natural outcome of imperial diplomacy. This chapter investigates other temporalities (political, technical and social) through which borders were made. First, when politicians decided in 1920 to separate Cilicia and Syria, they had to agree on the new political lines which would divide the territory. A series of negotiations were launched, and finally, in 1929, an agreement was reached between French and Turkey which clearly established the boundaries. Then, several technologies were used to control this land. In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire started to shape this area of land by deploying several villages, castles, and battalions. The French followed the same strategy by developing cities. Finally, people appropriated the new divisions. The case of the Armenians is particularly interesting as they mainly settled on the borders and constituted the nucleus around which each new border city grew. These new towns interacted with the surrounding rural areas and affected transport and the economic circuit.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthieu Rey
    • 1
  1. 1.IFAS-Recherche (CNRS) / Wits History WorkshopJohannesburgSouth Africa

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