Researchers come to the Special Collections Research Center looking for items of all kinds, from Aztec manuscripts, to fragments from Walt Whitman, to stereoscopic images of skin diseases, to a picture of former University of Chicago quarterback Milton “Mitt” Romney (cousin and namesake to the former Massachusetts governor and current presidential candidate). Once in a while, a request will direct us to an unexpected gem.
Philip Quincy Wright (1890-1970) joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as a professor of political science in 1923. Among his enduring legacies to the University is the Committee on International Relations, which he founded in 1928. A scholar of international law, politics, and social science, Professor Wright made many trips overseas for his research, and today his vast collection of papers and photographs are held at the Special Collections Research Center. In 1925, he took a trip to Palestine and other areas of the Middle East. This was a particularly potent time for the relationship between the region’s inhabitants and their colonial governors in France and Britain. French troops had shelled Damascus in October of 1925, while the British were negotiating their mandate in Palestine and Trans-Jordan.
With this context in mind, Professor Wright’s photograph is all the more astonishing. Taken in Jerusalem, the print depicts three men, all of whom had a direct hand in shaping the politics of the Middle East in the early twentieth century: General Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, head of the military forces which conquered Palestine and Syria; Lord Arthur James Balfour, former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and author of the Balfour Declaration of 1917; and Sir Herbert Louis Samuel, British High Commissioner of Palestine from 1920 to 1925. The picture was taken in front of the Government House, located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
The Quincy Wright Papers do not yet have an online finding aid, but researchers are welcome to consult our paper guide to the collection in the Special Collections Research Center.