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Woodrow Wilson's colonial emissary: Edward M. House and the origins of the mandate system, 1917–1919

Scot David Bruce, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


After World War I, reallocating the former German and Turkish colonies proved to be one of the more challenging feats of the peace process. After months of negotiation in 1919, first in Paris, then in London, the various national leaders agreed to create the mandate system, which proved to be a compromise between outright colonial expansion and genuine independence, whereby the former German and Turkish colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East were mandated to the conquering nations in trust until the indigenous peoples were deemed ready to administer their own governments and societies. For decades, the mandate system was viewed by scholars as a genuine departure from the traditional forms of European colonialism so prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This study departs from previous interpretations while accounting for the key contributions from past scholars, providing both new direction and new conclusions. The analysis is largely philosophical in nature, tracing the primary American role in developing the mandates, while examining the developmental ideas behind Wilsonian principles such as national self-determination. Moreover, though Wilson himself is crucial to the study, the historical lens is primarily Edward M. House, who was Wilson's most trusted advisor, with a particular aptitude in the realm of foreign affairs. House was instrumental in forming the mandate system from 1917 through 1919.

Subject Area

Biographies|American history|International Relations

Recommended Citation

Bruce, Scot David, "Woodrow Wilson's colonial emissary: Edward M. House and the origins of the mandate system, 1917–1919" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3590305.