Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Nathan Godfried

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Mckillen

Third Committee Member

Liam Riordan

Additional Committee Members

Ngo-Vinh Long

Seth Singleton


Born in Ramallah, Palestine, in 1886 Dr. Khalil Totah belonged to a generation of Syrians who grew up with an appreciation for the “modern” spirit that was sweeping the world.They looked forward to a social order that fostered Arab independence, but were also concerned with universal human problems. Totah’s life coincided with a period of tremendous transformation and change in the Middle East. Some historians, most recently Erez Manela, have argued that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson inspired a rising global consciousness and that his rhetoric fostered the spread of anti-colonial movements across the Middle East. Totah and his fellow intellectuals were not so much inspired by Wilson’s words, but rather they viewed them as support of a pre-existing sentiment. Greater Syrians had been developing ideas of freedom and democracy since their cultural and intellectual renaissance in the mid-19th century. Like many peoples across the globe they were not so much taken by Wilson’s “new” vocabulary as they were validated by it. There were many circumstances which influenced the political and nationalist movements of the Middle East. The story of Dr. Khalil Totah provides one small piece of a larger transformation in Syria. His writings show the evolution of Arab nationalism in Palestine during a transformative era. Totah and his contemporaries had an alternate vision of world order shaped by their own social experiences. This study also shows a clear difference between the interests of the United States political and economic elites, who preached about democracy, and intellectuals in emerging nations who sought independence. An examination of Totah’s views on the challenges facing Palestine during his lifetime offers a way to understand the development of Palestinian national consciousness in the first third of the 20th century.

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