Bulletin of the Near East Society

The Near East Society (NES) was formed in 1948 by the Near East College Association (NECA), on the initiative of Bayard Dodge (1888–1972), an Islamic scholar and then-retired president of the American University of Beirut. Based in New York, the organization had the stated aim of “building mutual understanding between the peoples of America and the Near East.”

The College Association had been founded after WWI and incorporated in 1928, to raise funds for its member institutions (several regional American schools, including AUB and Istanbul’s Robert College and American College for Girls), as well as to promote their interests in the United States. NECA created an endowment of approximately fifteen million dollars for the affiliated institutions within its first decade of operation.

The Near East Society was established as a non-political, non-partisan, and non-sectarian agency to provide the American public with information about the Middle East. Besides a monograph series that included such works as A History of the Arabs, Islamic Sects, and The Significance of the Suez Canal in Current International Affairs, NES issued a periodical, the “American Near East Society Bulletin,” which began publication in May 1948. In September 1949, the serial changed its name to “Bulletin of the Near East Society.” After appearing in eight volumes, it was superseded in January 1956 by “Lands East: The Near and Middle East Magazine,” published by the Middle East Institute, in Washington DC.

The Near East Society’s bulletin was aimed at a general audience, offering a mix of articles on culture, history, and contemporary affairs, richly illustrated with black-and-white photos. The popular appeal is evident in the travel piece “Twenty-four Hours to Istanbul” published in the October 1949 issue. Describing the Turkish liquor industry, the author mentions that Americans often like to sample local products and for “for cocktails or after dinner consumption, some travelers enjoy the ‘screwdriver’ (reputedly a G.I. concoction from the Persian Gulf Command days made of equal parts of vodka and orange juice).”

This excerpt calls into question the common belief that the earliest written reference to the screwdriver appeared in the 24 October 1949 issue of Time, in a piece titled “Turkey: Wild West of the Middle East,” where the author wrote: “In the dimly lighted bar of the sleek Park Hotel, Turkish intelligence agents mingle with American engineers and Balkan refugees, drinking the latest Yankee concoction of vodka and orange juice, called a 'screwdriver'.” Moreover, it challenges the familiar notion that the drink derived its name from American petroleum engineers in the Middle East who secretly added vodka to cans of orange juice and stirred the mixture with their screwdrivers.

The ARIT Istanbul (ARIT-I) Library contains various issues of volumes 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the “Bulletin of the Near East Society,” which offer a fascinating glimpse into mid-twentieth-century American observations of the Middle East. Digital copies are available via the links below.


1. June 1949-Vol.2 No.6
2. Oct. 1949-Vol.2 No.8
3. Nov. 1949-Vol.2 No.9
4. Feb. 1950-Vol.3 No.2
5. Apr. 1950-Vol.3 No.4
6. June 1950-Vol.3 No.6
7. Feb. 1951-Vol.4 No.2
8. Nov. 1951-Vol.4 No.9
9. Jan. 1952-Vol.5 No.1
10. Apr. 1952-Vol.5 No.4
11. May 1952-Vol.5 No.5
12. Apr. 1952-Vol.5 No.6
13. Sept. 1952-Vol.5 No.7
14. Dec. 1952-Vol.5 No.10