AUB  and WWII

This exhibit focuses on AUB during the period of the Second World War, 1939-1945, using a number of archival material from our collections to provide some insights into the changes, transformations and continuities that the University witnessed during this period. The story we tell is not of the war itself, but of AUB, of its communities, and of the people and events related to them during this period. It starts with the Inter-War years, giving a glimpse onto the changes that the region and the institution witnessed during this intermediary period. It then moves on to tell the story of the University during WWII, a period of defining and lasting regional changes, as many Middle Eastern Nation States were about to be delineated, negotiated and declared.

How did AUB position itself vis-a-vis this rapidly and drastically changing reality? How did it respond to the new emerging political and socio-economic regional realities shaped by the war? How did it plan for what it could even then foresee as a new era in the history of the region, with rapid modernization, nascent states, oil power, and national and social movements?

Throughout WWII, like WWI, AUB was directly involved in war relief efforts and in social service: through planning, thinking, and implementation, that had started at the end of WWI, an increasing emphasis on the institution's ability to "prepare men" and now women, too, for the challenges of the mid-twentieth century were under way. What we glimpse through the story told here is an institution which is modernizing, adding professional schools, modern ideas about pedagogy, attempts to integrate social and public service into its curriculum, while emphasizing the role of liberal arts education, all in an attempt to form men and women of the modern age, for the modern age, capable of serving their countries and societies. In short, a regional University was in the make, one that will prove to be of great relevance to and impact on the region.

At the conclusion of WWII, the Arab world was about to explode with Palestine, with the oil boom and the construction that followed throughout newly formed and independent Arab states-- including a nascent Lebanese state-- all in need of staffing their government and institutions, across the various fields, and AUB was there, ready to provide them with the men and women, with the planning and the professional and intellectual work force needed. The next decades of the 50s, 60s and 70s, until the lead to the Lebanese Civil War, would see an ascendant university, a regional institution, graduating top leaders, politicians, intellectuals, teachers, engineers and architects, professionals, doctors, business men and women, who would go on to change the landscape not only of Lebanon, but of the Arab world. AUB graduates will go on to shape regional realities, as well as playing a key role in producing and reinforcing, as well as participaitng in key ideas and movements, that went on to makr the second half of the twentieth century (Arab nationalism, staffing key governmental positions in many Arab countries, helping chart internaitonal mandates, e.g. Human rights, UN Charter, San Francisco Conference in which more than 20 of its graduates participated.). Throughout these turbulent times, AUB always sicceeded in bringing togehter, and nurturing divergent point sof views, and sheltering them all, under the umbrella of a liberal arts instituion and of a top regional academy.

Exhibit Curators: Samar Mikati, Nichola Larkin (student) and Kaoukab Chebaro

Many thanks for research and technical support go to Mervat Kobeissi, Yasmine Younes, Shaden Dada, Sara Jawad and Iman Abdallah.

American University of Beirut / University Libraries / Bliss Street / P.O.Box 11-0236 / Riyad El-Solh, Beirut 11072020 Lebanon / asc@aub.edu.lb