Compelling Interests: Understanding the Balance of Mandatory Autonomy Through Metropolitan Pressures
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Historians have long debated who is more influential in colonial policymaking, the so-called man on the spot or the national government. The fact of the matter is that some representatives overseas have more autonomy than others. While the British were enacting their mandate in Palestine after World War I, High Commissioner Herbert Samuel not only managed to hold his position as High Commissioner from 1920-1925 despite the shifting political moods back home, but he was able to enact most of the policy goals he had desired when he first set out. In contrast, the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon went through five High Commissioners during a similar time period, each with slightly different policies and subject to the whims of politicians back home. The disconnect between the degree of autonomy exercised by the British and the French High Commissioners in Palestine and Syria, respectively, was a direct function of political sensitivity of the issue at home. The British High Commissioner had more freedom to act because the government had only indirect interests in Palestine, and was thus subject to fewer pressures at home, and so policy remained relatively consistent throughout many shifts in government. On the other hand, the French government had much more direct interests in Syria and Lebanon, and so the High Commissioners were forced to adapt to changing political pressures at home.
DescriptionWinner of the 2009 Durden Prize (First/Second Year)
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