Elizabeth Pauline MacCallum was Canada’s leading expert on the Middle East in the first part of the twentieth century. From 1925 to 1935, as a research analyst and author for the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), she gained international recognition for her scholarship on the problems and challenges confronting the Middle East and the British Mandate in Palestine, the central ground of dispute between the Arab and Jewish peoples. MacCallum joined Canada’s Department of External Affairs (DEA) in 1942, not as a regional specialist, but as a wartime clerk. Where there had been previously no
clear official thinking regarding the Middle East, MacCallum, using a combination of expertise and persistence, slowly gained recognition among her peers for her understanding of the region.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine MacCallum’s ideas about the Middle East by investigating the foundation, development, and substance of her ideas about the region. The thesis also identifies the role that she played in the Department of External Affairs and interrogates the manner in which she applied her ideas as a member of the DEA. In particular, this study assesses her part in the making of
Canada’s first policy towards the Middle East, which came together in 1947.
In assessing MacCallum’s ideas and her role as a member of the Department of External Affairs during the period 1942-1947, the thesis contends that she can best be understood as an outsider — a specialist in a department of generalists, a woman in a department of men, and an Arabist in a department dominated by Eurocentric and balance of power thinking. The thesis explores her efforts to put into practice her ideas as a basis for Canada’s approach to the Arab-Zionist dispute. The thesis further demonstrates that
MacCallum made clear the dangers that the problem of Palestine posed to international peace and security, and the likely split that it would cause among the Great Powers over the territory’s fate. She opposed the division of Palestine between its Arab and Jewish peoples in 1947 and predicted the Middle Eastern war soon to come.