De Bunsen Committee

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The De Bunsen Committee was the first committee established by the British government to determine its policy toward the Ottoman Empire during and following World War I. The committee was established on 8 April 1915 by British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, and was headed by Maurice de Bunsen. The committee submitted its report on 30 June 1915.[1]

The committee was established in response to a French initiative, to consider the nature of British objectives in Turkey and Asia in the event of a successful conclusion of the war. The committee's report provided the guidelines for negotiations with France, Italy, and Russia regarding the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.[2]


The members of the committee were was follows:[3]

The impact of Mark Sykes,[4] who later negotiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement, on the committee was said to be "profound".[3] He did not sign the final report having been dispatched on instructions of the War Office at the beginning of June to discuss the Committee's findings with the British authorities in the Near and Middle East and at the same time to study the situation on the spot. He went to Athens, Gallipoli, Sofia, Cairo, Aden, Cairo a second time and then to India coming back to Basra in September and a third time to Cairo in November (where he was appraised of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence) before returning home on 8 December and finally delivering his report to the War Committee on 16 December.


The De Bunsen committee considered four possible solutions: (1) partition, leaving only a small Ottoman state in Anatolia; (2) preservation subject to Great Power control zones of political and commercial influence; (3) preservation as an independent state in Asia; (4) creation of a decentralised, federal Ottoman state in Asia.

The Committee's report, titled "Committee of Imperial Defence: Asiatic Turkey, Report of a Committee" was issued on 30 June 1915,[5] and recommended the last option as the best solution for meeting the British Empire's defence needs.[6]

Concerning Palestine it reported that it would be “...idle for His Majesty’s Government to claim the retention of Palestine in their sphere. Palestine must be recognized as a country whose destiny must be the subject of special negotiations, in which both belligerents and neutrals are alike interested”. In case of the partition or zones of influence options then the Committee defined a British sphere of influence that included Palestine while accepting that there were relevant French and Russian, as well as Islamic interests in Jerusalem and the Holy Places.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Britain's War Aims in the Middle East in 1915, Aaron S. Klieman
  2. ^ The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, by J. C. Hurewitz, 1979, Yale University Press; 2 edition, ISBN 0-300-02203-4, page 26
  3. ^ a b In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon-Husayn Correspondence and Its Interpretations 1914-1939, Elie Kedourie
  4. ^ Kedouri, Elie (1970). "Sir Mark Sykes and Palestine 1915-16". Middle Eastern Studies. 6 (3): 340–345. doi:10.1080/00263207008700157. JSTOR 4282341.
  5. ^ National Archives, CAB 42/3/12
  6. ^ "The Sykes-Picot agreement and the roots of imperialist domination of the Middle East". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
  7. ^ Rose, N.A. (2013). The Gentile Zionists: A Study in Anglo-Zionist Diplomacy 1929-1939. Routledge. p. 264. ISBN 9781135158651.
  8. ^ Hurewitz, J.C. (June 1979). The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics:A Documentary Record. British-French supremacy, 1914-1945 Vol.2. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300022032.