Adjunct Scholar, Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.
My project explores the transformation of the Middle East in the Twentieth Century from a region where the United States was at most a bit player to a region where the United States was the dominant strategic and economic external power. It does this by recounting the life of William Alfred Eddy, Princeton '17, PhD '21-war hero, scholar of Jonathan Swift, college president, intelligence agent, raconteur, diplomat, master Arabist and friend and counselor to King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, founder of modern Saudi Arabia.
The results of my research will be published in 2007 as a book tentatively titled "Arabian Knight: Bill Eddy and America in the Middle East."
When Eddy was born in 1896, in what is now Lebanon, most of the Arab world was under Ottoman control; after World War I, it became a French and British sphere of influence. The United States, not yet a fully global power, was not a factor. Only a hanful of Americans, including Eddy's missionary father-also a Princeton graduate-lived and worked in the region.
By the time of Eddy's death in 1962, after the creation of Israel and the Suez War, the United States was the principal outside power in the Arab world, tens of thousands of Americans lived in Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Gulf region, and even Yemen, the most remote and backward of Arab countries, had entered into a treaty relationship with the United States. To trace Bill Eddy's extraordinary career is to understand how that transformation came about.
The most important source of information about Bill Eddy's life and career is the extraordinary collection of his correspondence, essays, manuscripts, memorabilia, military records and related documents in the Mudd Library at Princeton. They reveal a man who was a moralist and patriot, and a lifelong admirer of the Marine Corps, but also a witty and sardonic observer of people, who seems to have known everyone in the Arab world for more than two decades.
The crucial years of this narrative were 1944 to the spring of 1946, when Eddy served as the U.S. minister, or chief diplomatic representative, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In that period Eddy was the catalyst for the famous meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz, the shipboard encounter that sealed a durable alliance between two of the world's least similar countries. The King's admiration for Eddy was a principal reason he remained a steadfast friend of the United States despite what he felt was President Truman's betrayal in the partition of Palestine.
Also in the Mudd Library are papers of other Princeton figures who knew Eddy and exchanged ideas with him, including Harold Dodds and James V. Forrestal.
No account of Eddy's work in Arabia or of his extraordinary success as the OSS chief in North Africa during the early years of World War II can be compiled without the material in the Mudd library. I am grateful to the staff of their library for their unfailing courtesy and helpfulness as I conducted my research, and especially so to the Friends of the Princeton University Library, who so generously supported this work.