The Great Powers in the Mediterranean


The European Institute launched a three-year project in the fall semester of 2008 on the geopolitical history of the Mediterranean, from Great-Power maneuvering to local and regional responses.

Given that the Mediterranean has been the millennial crossroads of major civilizations, and that there have been so many powerful contenders for influence, this project considered the wide range of forces and resources the Great Powers deployed to establish and sustain their influence. The project was concerned with studying not only major shifts in geopolitical influence and trade patterns, but also the domination pursued through commercial exchange, religious crusades, and the imposition of new developmental and cultural models, as well as the resistance to them. The focus was mainly the 19th and 20th centuries, but also considered the Mediterranean area from the perspective of the longue durée.

Participants included: Engin Deniz Akarli, Tarik Amar, Anatoly Anikeev, Charles Armstrong, Elena Astafieva, Ante Batović, Nora Benkorich, Elisabetta Bini, Jérôme Bocquet, Richard Bulliet, Terry Burke, Jeffrey Byrne, Nathan Citino, Nancy Walbridge Collins, Victoria de Grazia, Eleanor Doumato, Marwa Elshakry, David Engerman, Roberta R. Ervine, Jean-Pierre Filiu, Giuliano Garavini, Irene Gendzier, Joel Gordon Haim Goren, Thomas Hummel, Valentina Izmirlieva, Tvrtko Jakovina, Pavle Jevremović, Ousmane Kane, Rashid Khalidi, Barin Kayaoglu, Yanni Kotsonis, Rinna E. Kullaa, John Lampe, Henry Laurens, Mahmood Mamdani, Konstantina Maragkou, Mark Mazower, James Miller, Tim Mitchell, Issam Nassar, Gaetano de la Nave, Mary Nolan, Neni Panourgia, Vojislav Pavlović, Effie Pedaliu, Christine Philliou, Silvio Pons, Edward L. Queen II, Dominique Reill, Laura Robson, Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, Jane Schneider, Nicolas Sesma-Landrin, Bradley Simpson, Martin Sletzinger, Anders Stephanson, J. Adam Tooze, Massimiliano Trentin, Dominique Trimbur, Chantal Verdeil, Robert Vitalis, Polymeris Voglis, Dean Vuletic, Odd Arne Westad, Richard Wortman, Marilyn Young, David Zierler, and Vladislav Zubok .

The project was made possible by a grant from the Harriman Institute.

The Global Cold War in the Mediterranean Area
February 11–12, 2011

This two-day workshop concluded the European Institute’s three-year study of “Great Powers in the Mediterranean, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War.” The series returned to the Cold War, probing once again the strategies of the Super Powers, addressing the particularly tortured conflicts across the region and, especially, analyzed why this legacy of conflict has been so hard to shake. Once more, we brought together international scholars with the breadth of linguistic, disciplinary, and archival expertise to do justice the region’s complexity and to the difficult questions that arise from its study: How much “hot” was there in the Cold War? Is the Cold War relevant to understanding the the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Did the Mediterranean Sea really become an “American Lake”? What blocked the establishment of alternative political orders in the area, based on non-aligned regimes or European integration? In view of events in Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, etc., some will surely hazard that 2011 marks the start of the post-Cold War in the area.

Video coverage can be found here.

Superpower Rivalry and the Third Way(s) in the Mediterranean
March 24–27, 2010

The Cold War was fought globally on a multitude of regional fronts. In the Mediterranean area it was shaped by the legacies of European colonialism, the competing interests of the superpowers and local conflicts. The premise of this workshop was that the Cold War was especially disruptive in the vast, diverse region encircling the Mediterranean Sea. The onetime European colonial powers withdrew or were expelled from the eastern and southern coasts, reorganizing themselves in the European Community with a northwestern and transatlantic orientation. American analysts remapped the area in terms of “security regions,” and Soviet experts, in terms of the USSR’s quest for strategic partners. The newly emancipated countries stretching across North African and eastern coasts were obstructed from forming cross-Mediterranean solidarities by superpower interference and by local national, religious, and development conflicts aggravated by appealing to outside powers. To understand the Cold War’s impact in the region, we need a substantial effort to bridge areas of study—Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East—that have come to be analyzed separately. The Non-Aligned Movement was established to coordinate cooperation outside of the Cold War blocs. The movement was shaped similarly by the radicalization of politics in the Cold War. From this region’s perspective, the conference reconsidered the meaning of nonalignment, its protagonists, and its ramifications for a “third way” between the blocs.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Syria and the two Germanys from 1963 to 1972: between Cold-War and Modernization, Massimiliano Trentin

The Great Powers in the Holy Land: From Napoleon to the Balfour Declaration
April 3–4, 2009

This workshop brought together American and non-American researchers working on the Great Powers’ presence in the Holy Land and the Levant in the 19th century. On the macro-level, we examined the Western perception of this space and the ideology of expansion, as well as the conflicts between the Great Powers in this area. On the micro-level, we examined the special cases of the relationships between the local – Arab and Jewish – population and the missionaries. We focused particularly on the study of pilgrimages to the Holy Land not only as a phenomenon of the interaction between different religious traditions (notably Christian and Muslim), but also as a political tool of the Great Powers, such as France and the Russian Empire.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
French Schools in Damascus: Missionary Presence, Diplomatic Rivalries and Proselytizing, Jérôme Bocquet
Germany and Germans in Nineteenth-Century Palestine: A Reappraisal, Haim Goren
Biblification in the Service of Colonialism: Jerusalem in Nineteenth-Century Photography, Issam Nassar
Great Powers, Holy Powers, and Good Powers: American Protestants Tour the Holy Land, 1867–1914, Edward L. Queen
Archeology and Mission: The British Presence in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem, Laura C. Robson

The Non-Aligned Movement in the Mediterranean
February 13, 2009

The Non-Aligned Movement was established to coordinate cooperation outside of the Cold War blocs. Born in the Mediterranean in the late 1950s, the movement sought to challenge superpower influence. Its inaugural conference was at Belgrade, and the leading figures, aside from Nehru, were Tito and Nasser. Its development was shaped by the radicalization of politics in the Cold War Mediterranean, the superpower confrontation, decolonization, and the struggles in the Arab world set off by the founding of the State of Israel. Through the perspective of this area, we took a new look at the meaning of non-alignment, its protagonists, notably Yugoslavia, and its ramifications for a “third way” between the blocs. The workshop’s purpose was to bring together scholars with different disciplinary perspectives and expertise with respect to the Non-Aligned Movement in the region.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Non-Alignment as Modernity: U.S.-Egyptian Relations in the Context of Arab Development Debates, Nathan J. Citino
Cultures of Neutrality—Nasserism and its Discontents, Joel Gordon
The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung, Robert Vitalis

Cold War in the Mediterranean: Connecting the Fronts
November 14–15, 2008

The Cold War was especially disruptive in the vast, diverse region encircling the Mediterranean Sea. The one-time European colonial powers withdrew or were expelled from the eastern and southern coasts, reorganizing themselves in the European Community with a northwestern and transatlantic orientation. American analysts remapped the area in terms of “security regions,” and Soviet experts, in terms of the USSR’s quest for strategic partners. The newly emancipated countries stretching across North African and eastern Mediterranean coasts were essentially prevented from forming cross-Mediterranean solidarities by superpower interference and by local national, religious, and development conflicts aggravated by appealing to outside powers. To understand the Cold War’s impact in the region, we needed a substantial effort to bridge areas of study—Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East—that had come to be analyzed separately. The workshop’s main purpose was to explore the imprint left on the region as the two superpowers stepped into European imperial shoes in the course of World War II and struggled to mark out their areas of hegemony thereafter, playing on local national, religious, and political conflicts, mainly in the period from the Greek Civil War and Italian elections of 1948 to the 1970s proxy wars in the Middle East.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Palestine/Israel: The Eastern Front in the Cold War in the Mediterranean, Irene Gendzier
Strategic Imperatives, Democratic Rhetoric: The United States and Turkey, 1945–52, Barin Kayaoglu
Cold Chills Down My History, Neni Panourgia
Anthropology and the Cold War Mediterranean, Jane Schneider

Propaganda Cinema: The Marshall Plan Films and America’s Cold War Image in the Mediterranean
October 30 and November 6, 2008

More than 200 documentary-style films were made about the Marshall Plan, which sent billions of US dollars in economic and technical assistance for recovery and reconstruction in Europe. The Marshall Plan films were a unique facet of U.S. propaganda efforts in post-war Europe. These two evenings of programming—a selection of Marshall Plan films plus major feature films from the late 1940s—showed the contrast between two visions of postwar reconstruction: the picture presented by one aspect of U.S. propaganda, and the vision of Hollywood (and of Anti-Hollywood).

October 30, 2008
Two shorts, Miracle of Cassino and Village without Words, followed by the feature A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Speaker: Victoria De Grazia (Director, European Institute, Columbia University)

November 6, 2008
Two shorts, At the Foot of the Mountains and Marshall Plan at Work in Turkey, followed by the feature Jour de Fête (Jacques Tati, 1949)
Speaker: Silvio Pons (Fellow, Italian Academy)

The European Institute launched a three-year project in the fall semester of 2008 on the geopolitical history of the Mediterranean, from Great-Power maneuvering to local and regional responses.

Given that the Mediterranean has been the millennial crossroads of major civilizations, and that there have been so many powerful contenders for influence, this project considered the wide range of forces and resources the Great Powers deployed to establish and sustain their influence. The project was concerned with studying not only major shifts in geopolitical influence and trade patterns, but also the domination pursued through commercial exchange, religious crusades, and the imposition of new developmental and cultural models, as well as the resistance to them. The focus was mainly the 19th and 20th centuries, but also considered the Mediterranean area from the perspective of the longue durée.

Participants included: Engin Deniz Akarli, Tarik Amar, Anatoly Anikeev, Charles Armstrong, Elena Astafieva, Ante Batović, Nora Benkorich, Elisabetta Bini, Jérôme Bocquet, Richard Bulliet, Terry Burke, Jeffrey Byrne, Nathan Citino, Nancy Walbridge Collins, Victoria de Grazia, Eleanor Doumato, Marwa Elshakry, David Engerman, Roberta R. Ervine, Jean-Pierre Filiu, Giuliano Garavini, Irene Gendzier, Joel Gordon Haim Goren, Thomas Hummel, Valentina Izmirlieva, Tvrtko Jakovina, Pavle Jevremović, Ousmane Kane, Rashid Khalidi, Barin Kayaoglu, Yanni Kotsonis, Rinna E. Kullaa, John Lampe, Henry Laurens, Mahmood Mamdani, Konstantina Maragkou, Mark Mazower, James Miller, Tim Mitchell, Issam Nassar, Gaetano de la Nave, Mary Nolan, Neni Panourgia, Vojislav Pavlović, Effie Pedaliu, Christine Philliou, Silvio Pons, Edward L. Queen II, Dominique Reill, Laura Robson, Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, Jane Schneider, Nicolas Sesma-Landrin, Bradley Simpson, Martin Sletzinger, Anders Stephanson, J. Adam Tooze, Massimiliano Trentin, Dominique Trimbur, Chantal Verdeil, Robert Vitalis, Polymeris Voglis, Dean Vuletic, Odd Arne Westad, Richard Wortman, Marilyn Young, David Zierler, and Vladislav Zubok .

The project was made possible by a grant from the Harriman Institute.

The Global Cold War in the Mediterranean Area
February 11–12, 2011

This two-day workshop concluded the European Institute’s three-year study of “Great Powers in the Mediterranean, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War.” The series returned to the Cold War, probing once again the strategies of the Super Powers, addressing the particularly tortured conflicts across the region and, especially, analyzed why this legacy of conflict has been so hard to shake. Once more, we brought together international scholars with the breadth of linguistic, disciplinary, and archival expertise to do justice the region’s complexity and to the difficult questions that arise from its study: How much “hot” was there in the Cold War? Is the Cold War relevant to understanding the the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Did the Mediterranean Sea really become an “American Lake”? What blocked the establishment of alternative political orders in the area, based on non-aligned regimes or European integration? In view of events in Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, etc., some will surely hazard that 2011 marks the start of the post-Cold War in the area.

Video coverage can be found here.

Superpower Rivalry and the Third Way(s) in the Mediterranean
March 24–27, 2010

The Cold War was fought globally on a multitude of regional fronts. In the Mediterranean area it was shaped by the legacies of European colonialism, the competing interests of the superpowers and local conflicts. The premise of this workshop was that the Cold War was especially disruptive in the vast, diverse region encircling the Mediterranean Sea. The onetime European colonial powers withdrew or were expelled from the eastern and southern coasts, reorganizing themselves in the European Community with a northwestern and transatlantic orientation. American analysts remapped the area in terms of “security regions,” and Soviet experts, in terms of the USSR’s quest for strategic partners. The newly emancipated countries stretching across North African and eastern coasts were obstructed from forming cross-Mediterranean solidarities by superpower interference and by local national, religious, and development conflicts aggravated by appealing to outside powers. To understand the Cold War’s impact in the region, we need a substantial effort to bridge areas of study—Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East—that have come to be analyzed separately. The Non-Aligned Movement was established to coordinate cooperation outside of the Cold War blocs. The movement was shaped similarly by the radicalization of politics in the Cold War. From this region’s perspective, the conference reconsidered the meaning of nonalignment, its protagonists, and its ramifications for a “third way” between the blocs.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Syria and the two Germanys from 1963 to 1972: between Cold-War and Modernization, Massimiliano Trentin

The Great Powers in the Holy Land: From Napoleon to the Balfour Declaration
April 3–4, 2009

This workshop brought together American and non-American researchers working on the Great Powers’ presence in the Holy Land and the Levant in the 19th century. On the macro-level, we examined the Western perception of this space and the ideology of expansion, as well as the conflicts between the Great Powers in this area. On the micro-level, we examined the special cases of the relationships between the local – Arab and Jewish – population and the missionaries. We focused particularly on the study of pilgrimages to the Holy Land not only as a phenomenon of the interaction between different religious traditions (notably Christian and Muslim), but also as a political tool of the Great Powers, such as France and the Russian Empire.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
French Schools in Damascus: Missionary Presence, Diplomatic Rivalries and Proselytizing, Jérôme Bocquet
Germany and Germans in Nineteenth-Century Palestine: A Reappraisal, Haim Goren
Biblification in the Service of Colonialism: Jerusalem in Nineteenth-Century Photography, Issam Nassar
Great Powers, Holy Powers, and Good Powers: American Protestants Tour the Holy Land, 1867–1914, Edward L. Queen
Archeology and Mission: The British Presence in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem, Laura C. Robson

The Non-Aligned Movement in the Mediterranean
February 13, 2009

The Non-Aligned Movement was established to coordinate cooperation outside of the Cold War blocs. Born in the Mediterranean in the late 1950s, the movement sought to challenge superpower influence. Its inaugural conference was at Belgrade, and the leading figures, aside from Nehru, were Tito and Nasser. Its development was shaped by the radicalization of politics in the Cold War Mediterranean, the superpower confrontation, decolonization, and the struggles in the Arab world set off by the founding of the State of Israel. Through the perspective of this area, we took a new look at the meaning of non-alignment, its protagonists, notably Yugoslavia, and its ramifications for a “third way” between the blocs. The workshop’s purpose was to bring together scholars with different disciplinary perspectives and expertise with respect to the Non-Aligned Movement in the region.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Non-Alignment as Modernity: U.S.-Egyptian Relations in the Context of Arab Development Debates, Nathan J. Citino
Cultures of Neutrality—Nasserism and its Discontents, Joel Gordon
The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung, Robert Vitalis

Cold War in the Mediterranean: Connecting the Fronts
November 14–15, 2008

The Cold War was especially disruptive in the vast, diverse region encircling the Mediterranean Sea. The one-time European colonial powers withdrew or were expelled from the eastern and southern coasts, reorganizing themselves in the European Community with a northwestern and transatlantic orientation. American analysts remapped the area in terms of “security regions,” and Soviet experts, in terms of the USSR’s quest for strategic partners. The newly emancipated countries stretching across North African and eastern Mediterranean coasts were essentially prevented from forming cross-Mediterranean solidarities by superpower interference and by local national, religious, and development conflicts aggravated by appealing to outside powers. To understand the Cold War’s impact in the region, we needed a substantial effort to bridge areas of study—Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East—that had come to be analyzed separately. The workshop’s main purpose was to explore the imprint left on the region as the two superpowers stepped into European imperial shoes in the course of World War II and struggled to mark out their areas of hegemony thereafter, playing on local national, religious, and political conflicts, mainly in the period from the Greek Civil War and Italian elections of 1948 to the 1970s proxy wars in the Middle East.

Conference papers available on Columbia Academic Commons:
Palestine/Israel: The Eastern Front in the Cold War in the Mediterranean, Irene Gendzier
Strategic Imperatives, Democratic Rhetoric: The United States and Turkey, 1945–52, Barin Kayaoglu
Cold Chills Down My History, Neni Panourgia
Anthropology and the Cold War Mediterranean, Jane Schneider

Propaganda Cinema: The Marshall Plan Films and America’s Cold War Image in the Mediterranean
October 30 and November 6, 2008

More than 200 documentary-style films were made about the Marshall Plan, which sent billions of US dollars in economic and technical assistance for recovery and reconstruction in Europe. The Marshall Plan films were a unique facet of U.S. propaganda efforts in post-war Europe. These two evenings of programming—a selection of Marshall Plan films plus major feature films from the late 1940s—showed the contrast between two visions of postwar reconstruction: the picture presented by one aspect of U.S. propaganda, and the vision of Hollywood (and of Anti-Hollywood).

October 30, 2008
Two shorts, Miracle of Cassino and Village without Words, followed by the feature A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Speaker: Victoria De Grazia (Director, European Institute, Columbia University)

November 6, 2008
Two shorts, At the Foot of the Mountains and Marshall Plan at Work in Turkey, followed by the feature Jour de Fête (Jacques Tati, 1949)
Speaker: Silvio Pons (Fellow, Italian Academy)