OTAP Archive: Other: Scholarly Resources

Americans Investigating Anatolia by Brian Johnson

KEYWORDS: Turkey, Transcaucasia, Ottoman Empire, Democratic Republic of Armenia, American Committee for Near East Relief, American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Harbord Commission, Emory Niles, Arthur Sutherland, James Barton, World War I

In 1990, Professor Justin McCarthy revealed the existence of a report, which he had discovered in the US National Archives, of a survey of eastern Anatolia in the summer of 1919 by two Americans, Emory Niles and Arthur Sutherland. Their account is one of the first descriptions of this region by outside observers after World War I. However, the document lacks a critical component, Niles and Sutherland's field notes, which the authors emphasized should be read in conjunction with their report. McCarthy assumed that the missing information was lost, perhaps destroyed, but he surmised that if it ever came to light, it would surely enhance our understanding of the period. Niles and Sutherland's field notes have not been destroyed, nor are they lost. Two identical copies exist in the archives of the former American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in Istanbul. This paper describes Niles and Sutherland's mission to eastern Turkey and places it in historical context. It also speculates why the results of their investigation were probably ignored and eventually forgotten. A digital copy of their original field notes is appended. (A print version of this essay, without the notes, was published in The Journal of Turkish Studies, 34/2 (2010), 129–147.)



Brian Johnson earned an MA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (1988) and a PhD in Middle East History (1999) from the University of Washington. From 2001 to 2010, he served as historian/archivist at the American Board Library in Istanbul, Turkey, where he supervised a project to catalogue and digitize the archives of the Western Turkey Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Currently, he is the librarian of the Istanbul branch of the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT).