The formal historian of a very recent period, however conscientious, must labour under great disadvantages. These concern his materials, still largely unassimilated or unpublished: his own power of perspective, the more liable to distortion as the objects viewed are nearer, or too near: and his own human tendency to prejudice in a field in which he has himself observed, with emotion and doubtless some partiality, the unfolding of the events described. Nor can he, after researches of some years duration, expect as many readers, or the same rewards, as the visiting journalist, political pamphleteer or imaginative gossip-writer. These are highly deterrent considerations and may explain why no reasonably satisfying history of the French Mandate in Syria and the Lebanon seems yet to have been published.
I have been led to undertake the present work partly by personal interest in the territory (to which I paid many and sometimes prolonged visits between 1925 and 1950) and by my acquaintance there with a considerable number of French, Syrian, and Lebanese residents or officials: partly as a devoted admirer (outside the political sphere) of the French genius and achievement, and at the same time a friend of Arabs for more than forty years: and partly because, as an official for some years in another and neighbouring Mandated Territory ('Iraq), I believed that I could appreciate fairly well the difficulties and possibilities of the mandatory relationship. And, apart from the remembered gleanings from innumerable conversations with French and Syrian friends on these and similar problems, a fairly wide range of written sources in French, Arabic, Italian, and English was available.
The episode of the French Mandate ended twelve years ago and, tant bien que mal, can be seen now as a completed whole. As such it seems to offer an interesting and not profitless subject for historical treatment, and one upon which a tentative judgement can be passed. Some at least of current misconceptions can be corrected and a sounder factual basis offered for the use of popular writers, journalists, politicians, and the like than is at present available. This may be the more useful since the annals of the Levant from 1920 to 1945 well illustrate the earlier working of certain persisting forces (notably that of Arab nationalism) in that region, and to some may seem to throw light also on the scarcely less persisting French attitude to their other dependent-- or till recently dependent--Islamic territories. My own conclusion, as will be seen in these pages, has been that the French Mandatory . . .