August 30, 2023

The Blue Book


The Blue Book, officially titled The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916, was an official report commissioned by the British Parliament and presented in 1916 by Viscount Bryce and Arnold J. Toynbee. The 742-page volume is a compilation of over 100 sources that chronicled the early period of the Armenian genocide and the Assyrian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.


James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, (10 May 1838 – 22 January 1922), was a British academic, jurist, historian, and Liberal politician. According to Keoth Robbins, he was a widely-traveled authority on law, government, and history whose expertise led to high political offices culminating with his successful role as ambassador to the United States, 1907–13. His intellectual influence was greatest in The American Commonwealth (1888), an in-depth study of American politics that shaped the understanding of America in Britain and in the United States as well.

An excerpt from, "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916" by Viscount Bryce: 

In the autumn of 1915 accounts of massacres and deportations of the Christian population of Asiatic Turkey began to reach Western Europe and the United States. Few and imperfect at first — for every effort was made by the Turkish Government to prevent them from passing out of the country — these accounts increased in number and fullness of detail, till in the beginning of 1916 it became possible to obtain a fairly accurate knowledge of what had happened. It then struck me that, in the interest of historic truth, as well as with a view to the questions that must arise when the war ends, it had become necessary to try to complete these accounts, and test them by further evidence, so as to compile a general narrative of the events and estimate their significance. As materials were wanting or scanty in respect of some localities, I wrote to ail the persons I could think of likely to possess or to be able to procure trustworthy data, begging them to favour me with such data. I addressed myself in particular to friends in the United States, a country which has long had intimate relations with the Eastern Christians and to which many of those Christians have in recent years emigrated. Similar requests were made to Switzerland, also a neutral country, many of whose people have taken a hvely interest in the welfare of the Armenians. When the responses from these quarters showed that sufiicient materials for a history — provisional, no doubt, but trustworthy as far as the present data went — could be obtained, I had the good fortune to secure the co-operation of a young historian of high academic distinction, Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee, late Fellow of Balhol College, Oxford. He undertook to examine and put together the pieces of evidence collected, arranging them in order and adding such observations, historical and geographical, as seemed needed to explain them. The materials so arranged by Mr. Toynbee, followed by such observations as aforesaid, I now transmit to you. They are, of course, of unequal value, for while most of them are narratives by eyewitnesses, some few report, at second hand what was told by eye-witnesses. In a short introduction prefixed, I have tried to estimate their value, and so need only say here that nothing has been admitted the substantial truth of which seems open to reasonable doubt. Facts only have been dealt with ; questions of future pohcy have been carefully avoided.

It is evidently desirable not only that ascertained facts should be put on record for the sake of future historians, while the events are still fresh in living memory, but also that the public opinion of the belhgerent nations — and, I may add, of neutral peoples also — should be enabled by a knowledge of what has happened in Asia Minor and Armenia to exercise its judgment on the course proper to be followed when, at the end of the present war, a political re-settlement of the Nearer East has to be undertaken.